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. Links to some Day 1 close up photos are here.
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.