Was it worth it? A typical question after a mediocre performance. In my case the answer is an emphatic yes, not only because it was such a beautiful venue but also lessons learned. Catching up with old friends and acquaintances was also a big highlight.
Pavel and I arrived had no preconceived idea how we would perform, as we had not sailed together for over a year before the Nationals. We had decided to refurbish US-1453, a 1984 Lindsay, with the latest ideas that included new spars and foils. What we found at this years worlds, was that we were lacking in most departments including equipment, large fleet experience,against teams that I firmly believe have improved since we last sailed against them. Therefore, Lin and Richard’s placings are probably more indicative of the state of the US FD standard than ours.
I won’t go too much into the starting issues as Lin has already commented elsewhere, but I will add that there seems to be different standards between regattas as to what the RC will tolerate. I agree with Torban Graels recent comments and feel that a crackdown on starting at this level would make racing fairer. His comment on bringing out the black flag for the first start, certainly at this level, and perhaps making it for the formed triangle only, combined with a consistent tough stance by the RC’s, could cut out the nonsense that currently persists.
The regatta got more difficult for us after race six, when the fleet was split into gold and silver. Being in the gold fleet, we found that being grouped with the top sixty-five boats meant even more aggressive starting techniques and less clear lanes and gaps to maneuver in. This meant that it became even easier to have poor results if you made even the slightest of mistakes. The decision to run three gold/silver fleet races on the final day and with the morning race being abandoned after the second windward leg, effectively made it a four race day. This took its toll, and left me both physically and mentally exhausted. A lesson here is to get fitter.
The basis for attending the Worlds on Lake Garda was to gain a realistic perspective of where we are at present and use this as a platform to build toward getting internationally competitive for next years worlds in Santa Cruz. In our case, some of the system changes we made saw knock-on effects that caused handling difficulties. These probably wouldn’t have been so obvious if we hadn’t been competing at this level. The aim now is to finesse these improvements as well as spend some time on the water together. There is a steep mountain to climb and the journey for us begins today.
On Friday our container with all our boats and equipment left Genoa for the return trip to the US. On board was an additional boat belonging to Javier Valdes from Mexico, who plans on moving it out to Santa Cruz to participate in preparations for the 2012 Worlds.
The arrangements for all this can be difficult for the uninitiated, but Kurt Hemmingsen and his team from Agility Logistics is making it all happen without skipping a beat. Kurt, an FD sailor with the NorCal fleet, filled us in with some perspectives on shipping boats around the world.
How is shipping sailboats and working with sailors different from your usual projects?
Kurt: Shipping someone’s personal items is always nerve wrecking because I know how much the owners care for their FD boats and gear, and I know that the FD boats travel on a schedule to make it to the sailing events in time. Commercial customers apply a fair amount of rationale and have greater tolerance for unforeseen delay and schedule interruption. I am happy to say that I never had to tell a sailor that they couldn’t sail an event because their boat was left behind or delayed on schedule.
It is very typical that loading of boats into containers commence shortly after a regatta. We all want to use our FD boats longest possible and while they are on the water we have no use of them, so we try to plan it so FD boats are available for use as long as possible and on arrival as early as possible. This makes for a tight shipping window. I am fortunate that I work for a very large logistics company, Agility Logistics, with a global network which comprise of more than 550 offices. I have colleagues in every corner of the world to step in and help if containers are not moving as planned. We have Customs experts in proximity of all major sea ports. Because this is important to FD sailors, it is equally important to our team to make sure that their expectations are met.
After all the stories and images before coming to Garda, I’d have to say in this case the anticipation could and did not exceed the reality. As all those attending know, we sailed in one of the World’s most beautiful places.
Racing could be a very one sided affair tactically, although in some races the unapparent side held advantage. I was struck by the emergence of more teams sailing at very high levels, with no one equipment approach holding dominate. In the end it was the best prepared packages and tactical decisions on a difficult race track that carried the day.
One note about the starts, I would like to see going forward a tougher stance by race commitees on using and enforcing the black flag. There were too many premature starters that went undetected. Enforced black flag starts keep starts legal and save time in the end.
Richard and I did not achieve our goals, but the process was challenging and we did have some results we were happy with considering the limited time we had to sail together. Now it’s back to the gym and refocus on Santa Cruz.
Great scenery, people and racing during a work week, that’s a really fine way to go!
The early 09:00 start did not work out as the morning northerly continued to slowly die out and the race was first race was abandoned. The fleet went ashore with racing postponed. Then return to the course at noon, but no racing started untill 14:00 at which point 3 races were run for both fleets, making for a very long day, but the scheduled 9 races were run.
There was a lot going on and we should be getting more descriptions, photos and wrap ups from contestants. Check back with us over the next few days and we should have more details.
Thursday was to be the first day of the final Gold/Silver fleet series but the wind was no where to be seen. Even such famous sailing venues as Garda can have their off days, it seems. And yet while we are here for racing, there is something very satisfying about looking up at the mountains surrounding the lake. The fleet floated around for a couple hours but racing was finally called off. In an attempt to finish the racing on Friday without the use of a reserve day on Saturday, racing was scheduled to begin at 09:00 on Friday with the potential for 3 races. We shall see how that works out.
A better day for the US team. Paul and Pavel led at the first mark on the 1st race; got passed by Hungarians in the 2nd reach. Stayed in touch and 4th in that race, 2 boat lengths behind 2nd place. Pretty exciting stuff. Staying on top requires not only good starts in such a large fleet, but also consistency in boatandling that minimizes mistakes. HUN 70 has been sailing together as a team for many years and in addition to being great sailors, their teamwork is really something to see…if you get close enough to watch!
The wind was stronger as the fleet left the club, so much that pretty much everyone had preset on second grommet. However it backed off a bit and back down to 1st the fleet went. The lighter – although still full trapezing breeze meant back to close left shore hugging as the center lake pressure got noticably soft.
In the 2nd race Lin and Richard were 2nd at the top mark and held on to finish with a great 3rd placing. The wind had kicked back up, going to to near 2nd grommet conditions. Here, the left was still favored but a transitional band developed between shore and center breezes that could be quite gusty and a helming challenge.
Paul and Pavel were 12 th until last beat and then broke their boom and had to retire. The gooseneck insert fitting separated from the boom section. Serge and Tim had their own damage issues. As they avoided a particularly ugly gybe mark rounding mashup of 5 other boats, an AUT boat came flying into the fray and hit 251’s hind starboard side, taking out a chunk of rail. Yes, a protest was called. AUT acknowledged.
After Race 6 the fleet was reassigned to a Gold and Silver fleet for the final 3 races, based on standing. Current results here. Lin and Paul attained Gold status while Jonathan/Nigel, Paul/Peter and Serge/Tim decided Silver was more to their liking. 3 races left. Interestingly, the reserve day was scheduled for the last day, which means WC 2011 could be over Friday.
Garda revealed more patterns on Day 2 as more wind filled in, particularly for the second race of the day. With more pressure, winds were more even over the course allowing for more open lanes to develop. As on previous days, most of the fleet went left toward the shore but rather than short tacks up the side, ventured out toward the center. A number of boats went right. Because sections of the course there were lifted and with fewer boats to maneuver around, they did reasonably well.
Serge and Tim planned to go right on race 1. But after a reasonable start, could not find a lane to go right and when they did, fouled a boat when attempting to duck. After a 720 they were well out of the pack and off pace. On the second reach the spinnaker pole launch line broke. So they decided to take a DNF and headed back to shore for a quick repair in order to be ready for the second race.
Coming in at the same time was FD builder Dirk Bogumil (GER 199) with a foot long gash in the side of his brand new boat. Ouch! The rear of the boat had plenty of water. Dirk was out for the day, but after a quick patch appeared ready for Day 3.
Lin and Richard in USA 36 had reasonable two races, though not as good as the previous day. Taking advantage of the time between races, Lin came back in for a quick fix on some headsail issue. Paul and Pavel had a much better pair of races, finding stride and no major issues.
Jonathan and Nigel struggled some along with others and had some issues as the wind piped up in the second race. Almost the entire fleet was on the second grommet. One of the interesting features of the left side during this second race was that it was possible to go too far into the bank. While some found better lift, it was at the price of more turbulent breezes that began to wrap round points along the shore. Again, more lessons to put into the lexicon of Garda breezes.
After racing a dinner with music was provided at the sailing club. Anna Gorbold had organized a trip to Venice for the day and could not be there. (We expect a full report!) Tim and Vicki took their entourage to dinner in the town and enjoyed more of the shops and sounds.
The opening races for 2011 WC were both exhilarating and sobering for many. After two races HUN 70 is on top, closely followed by DEN 21 and NED 25. Lin and Richard in USA 36 had 12th and 16th place finishes. The rankings are based on scores across the 4 groups, so standings are somewhat tenuous, particularly at this early stage.
Race 1 was similar to the practice race, with mostly trapezing conditions and most of the fleet heading left to the shore to work up to the weather mark along the bank. No boats in the center and only a handful on the right side. The concentration of all boats up the shore makes for difficult sailing as everyone is constantly fighting for clear air with many boats in close proximity. One is tempted to go just a little farther to the center for a bit of relief from the congestion but the drop off of wind pressure is quite noticable, so back into the fray you go! Once the port layline is reached everyone heads out to the top mark, only to head back to the shore for the reaching leg, again giving no relief to the clear air problem. Even on the downwind leg, heading to the shore breeze was the only option to find pressure and speed.
Race two was a bit different. The big story here was that on USA 251, Serge recognized a very big 20 degree left shift just before the start which, along with the breeze the had gone up to perhaps 15 kts called for going right. So in this case 251 headed right soon after the start. Strangely, few in the fleet recognized this shift. Tim and Serge were 2nd around the top mark and kept this strategy for the second upwind. In spite of a detached spinnaker sheet the team held onto a leading position until after rounding the final mark, when having caught up to the end of the other fleet, was forced to perform a crash tack when a boat just to leeward tacked onto starboard. 251 capsized and ultimately finished a disappointing 45th.
Back on shore after the race, Paul Scoffin in NZL 145 compared notes with Tim. On the second upwind leg they had also gone right but in spite of blistering speed, failed to realize the same gains 251 had the first beat. Early in the leg the wind was down about 10 degrees, but did come back up. It could be that the wind had filled in much more close to the left bank with largely the same angle and minimized the advantage. The advantage 251 found going right in the first beat may have just been a one time occurrence. More likely in the next days, the common strategy will be to slug it out with the fleet, crawling up the left bank.
In other news, ROU 100 was apparently looking elsewhere when coming upon NED 31. See full size on the FD Forum.
The Sailing Instructions were revised following concerns raised by competitors regarding the fleet size the course layout, plus other time limit issues. Peter Hinrichsen, acting as Championship Commodore for this event, announced the changes at the Competitors Meeting on Sunday. The new SIs call for the fleet to be split into four groups – red, green, blue and yellow – that will sail in rotating pairs for the first 6 races. (In other words there are two starts per race sequence.) For the remaining three races competitors will be assigned to a Gold and Silver fleet, based on overall scoring in the first set of races. Groups are designated by 3 foot ribbons attached to the mainsail’s top batten.
The course has been set to the standard Olympic Gold course, with a triangle, windward-leeward legs and windward finish. Course length will be approximately 7 miles. Time limits have been set to 90 minutes for the full race, 30 minutes to the first mark and boats finishing over 30 minutes after the first boat will be marked DNF.
Groups have been assigned. The method for assignment is not known at this time, although the groupings appear to be fairly random. Otherwise, normal rules apply for the most part- 5 minute starts, etc. Perhaps the new SIs will be posted online. The club withheld an electronic version of the original to post here, apparently realizing a change was happening.
The Practice Race held on Sunday include one start for the entire fleet as the new Sailing Instructions were not yet available. The warning was to be at 13:00 but was moved to 15:30. An initial start that included over 100 boats was abandoned as it was not apparent where the start line was. A local police RIB launch was there with a mark on board but seemed an unlikely mark and about a third of the fleet moved up to what was a wing mark. Realizing the mistake at about 1 minute, all the boats started to drive down onto the start line with resulting pandemonium.
A second start allowed the fleet to head off upwind. Most of the fleet headed left, then proceeded to the shore where they commenced to short tack up the side. Sometimes the tacks would take boats 3 or 4 boat lengths off the bank. Then only going out a few minutes before tacking back into the side. What was going on was solid pressure that clung to the side. Sailing back toward the center for a short distance you could feel the pressure drop out, a sign to head back to the shore.
The wind pressure in the center of the lake was quite weak and virtually no one sailed there. Some boats went right, seeing higher pressure. However the wind angle was perhaps 20 degrees lower than the left, so in spite of better speed, the left had significant advantage. The entire dynamic played out the entire race and most learned to stay to the left, hugging the shore. Downwind was the same. Even on the running leg, boats went straight for the shore for the pressure.
In fact few if any boats actually finished the practice race as the wind was dying, it was close to 17:00 and, well, it was just for practice. However, the lesson was learned: consistent short-tacking skills would likely pay off this week. While locals say the wind patterns change all the time during the afternoon, this is something we will need to be used to.
Tomorrow the WC begins. Off to town we to where we all walked through town in a parade by country to the town green were we were fete with local cuisine, wines and beers. Quite an official opening. An interesting side note, Jonathan McKee was in town sailing a Melges 20 regatta and spoke briefly from the podium, recalling his Gold Medal at Los Angeles.