By Paul Scoffin
After a number of false starts a small group of U.S.Â Â Flying Dutchman sailors finally committed to doing the World Championships in Nelson, New Zealand. The initial indecision centered around only three teams being prepared to make the trip. Once USA 153 (Doug and Michael), USA 36 (Lin and Kim) and NZL 145 (Paul and Brendan) finally committed to shipping their boats, all the necessary arrangements were quickly made. USA 87 (Jim Algert and Bruce Barrett) became a last minute addition.
After a change to the shipping route, the boats were eventually loaded early December at San Diegoâ€™s Mission Bay Yacht Club, a task which proved quite difficult with only a handful of people available. Never the less the boats were duly loaded and arrived in Nelson safe and sound mid-January 2019, ahead of all the other international teams.
First team members to arrive were Bruce (ex pat kiwi) and Caryl from Atlanta via Wellington, where they acquired Bruceâ€™s sisterâ€™s station wagon. This proved invaluable, as with the help of Dave Gibbs (NZFDA) we were able to transfer equipment from Daveâ€™s house to the Yacht club and some to Jim and Bruceâ€™s rental property. The remainder of the team trickled in over the next few days amidst a massive forest fire happening in the Nelson region.
All four teams entered the NZ/pre-world regatta. With all the U.S. teams doing very little previous sailing, it became important to get some race practice in. Brendan and I started day one with a very mediocre first race. We slowly got to grips with our boat handling and the conditions and managed to claw back to an 8th. Lin and Kim did better and finished 5th. In the second race that day Lin, Kim and Brendan and I swapped positions on the course, with an 8thand a 5threspectively. Unfortunately Brendan and I received a UFD. A new rule introduced in 2017 that we were totally unaware of. Having missed the five and four minute signals while changing clew cringles, we sailed around the committee boat to get the one minute signal, knowingly crossing the line in the process but unaware of the consequences. As events transpired, this oversight cost us the regatta.
For the remaining two days the breeze lightened a few knots and this seemed to suit us better, coupled with getting a little more comfortable with the area conditions and boat. Lin damaged his knee during day two and withdrew from the series for medical attention. Doug and Michael soldiered on for a mid fleet finish in the regatta, while Jim and Bruce managed to complete many of the races despite Jimâ€™s health issues.
Two days of measuring followed, with Paul and Heidi Hemker, and Bill Bernard being in the thick of the measurement team. It was great to see familiar faces. Lin and Kim went out training during this period while I had my own trip to a medical center. There had been a problem getting one of the European containers cleared from customs, and one of the Australian containers had evidently been sent to the wrong destination. At the eleventh hour these boats had been cleared and transported to the yacht club. With the measurers in full swing, all boats were ready to face the starter for race one of the world championships.
Race one started out as looking like a light weather affair. By the start we were sailing in 13 â€“ 14 knots and approximately two minutes after the start we were hit by winds gusting 26 knots. Despite being slow to react we managed to arrive at the top mark in the lead group, but not having done any training in this amount of breeze I elected to delay the spinnaker hoist. When we finally hoisted and set the chute we buried the bow and capsized. After recovering we found ourselves well behind the fleet but persevered on for a finish. Not a great start to the regatta! Approximately half the fleet withdrew from this race. The second race was postponed and so we returned to the beach and found that Lin and Kim, Doug and Michael, and Jim and Bruce were among the casualties.
As the regatta progressed it became apparent that the sea breezes were higher than we anticipated. The sailing was fantastic but we had not been sailing in strong sea breezes at all for quite some time and it was telling. We had managed to climb to sixth place overall after day two, and stayed there until the final race when we missed a big left shift not long after the start and finished mid fleet, thereby dropping to seventh overall. Lin and Kim didnâ€™t quite have the regatta they were hoping for but soldiered on for a mid-fleet finish. The conditions were proving tough on Doug and Michael, and Jim and Bruce, so they began an early pack-up.
For those of us that donâ€™t live in Europe, it seems that you always come away from such an event, much wiser. I had sailed at the venue many years ago and was expecting the sea breezes to be three to four knots less than they were for the worlds. The ocean swells coupled with the chop made for some great spinnaker rides but were taxing for us, not having trained for them. Brendan and I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to decide on which genoa to carry, as the morning was always very light, but the inevitable sea-breeze always showed up by race start. Despite this uncertainty, we always made the correct decision. We noticed that Hun-70 would leave the shore with their Med/heavy genoa set, but carried their light weather genoa with them in the tank.
There didnâ€™t appear to be one dominant mast manufacturer. Lin and I used Southern Spars masts. I was happy with itâ€™s behavior. We looked at centerboards and apart from Hideo Tayama, I didnâ€™t see anyone else using a gybing board. Hun 70 was using BM sails throughout the regatta, Ger 88 was using Koenig and Ned- 26 BM. For the worlds I used a BM mainsail, North 2-8 heavy and a Quantum LM1 light, with a BM spinnaker. For the pre-worlds I used a North RX-1 mainsail, a BM AL2 all purpose, a BM-L2 light and a North spinnaker. Didnâ€™t notice much difference only the set we used for the worlds were fresher.
Once again the worlds were won be Hungary-70. Second was Germany- 88 and third Nederlands-26. The last time I sailed against this group was in the 2012 World championships in Santa Cruz. I believe that this group is going faster than ever. Interestingly Hun-70 and Ger-88 are using the newish Planatec hulls from Italy. These appear to have wider transoms than the standard Mader, Lindsay and Pacific FD hulls we are using. Ned-26 is a Bogumil hull while the forth place finisher Ger-98 is a new Mader shaped hull that is also evidently wider at the transom. While these hull shapes appeared to prevail in the conditions encountered, I wouldnâ€™t be surprised if the advantage is reversed in sub 15 knot conditions. Fifth, sixth and seventh placed boats were standard pre 2018 Mader hulls. There were at least two other Planatec hulls in the fleet, so sailing well appears to still be the biggest component to a good placing.