Clear Ahead

race report

Clear Ahead

This morning when I read the article on Sailing Anarchy about China Cup I resolved to not write an article after the after race party – sorry I failed just a short and hectic day later. I was amused that our erstwhile editor entitled my piece ‘China Daze’, yesterday maybe but today definitely not.

The day dawned with 8-10 but forecast to strengthen – NICE. Our inexperienced but learning – and fast – crew headed out to the racecourse and some good racing instead of chasing the committee boat around looking for wind. We decided to stay out of the trouble that was the scrum at the committee boat going instead for clear air and speed at the sacrifice of the few metres we would gain by mixing it.

We started mid-line with another boat just bow forward and to leeward – great start. Imagine our surprise then, when over the VHF our number was one of those OCS – surprise as our bow-person, yes it was a girl, couldn’t see the committee boat for all the sails crowded round it and I (from the helm) could see the pin clearly behind the boat to leeward. However rules is rules!

50 metres to leeward we were still being called OCS so we radio’d the committee boat informing them of a protest and started the race with the next class – fully 5 minutes behind the fleet. To say I was ‘boggled’ is an understatement. We kept our heads up however and eventually finished 24 of 30 which considering the start we gave the rest we were happy.

Race two was pretty uneventful and pretty uninspiring with a 23/30. In race 3 of the day the breeze was up with one of my crew noting one or two boats with number 3 up instead of the number 1. Nah – hell or bust said I – boy it was going to be hard work.

Harder than we thought as we approached the start line in the vanguard position only to see two bargers charging in with no rights at all. With a boat 1 beam to leeward and an inner distance mark maybe half a boat to windward we rightly thought we had nailed the start.

With crew legs dangling over the side and 3.5 tonnes of Beneteau rapidly approaching it was not the most comfortable place to be in, to leeward was a yacht sponsored by Yachtfinders it was rock and a hard place time.

Thankfully the Yachtfinders guys spotted out predicament and allowed us to slip down otherwise there was a real possibility of the sound of splintering fibreglass filling the air. Up went the flag again – twice in one day, a precedent for myself, sure I have been to the room before but a repeat visit on the same day was a bit much.

As soon as we could we flicked over onto port in the growing breeze, now touching 10-12 knots and tried to get out of the way. Hard work as the breeze grew and the white horses started to appear and I had a crew of newbies on board.

Newbies who, although they were not a finely tuned racing machine and needed, at times, lots of shouting at – or at least got lots of shouting whether they needed it or not – performed at a level that surprised even themselves, let alone me. Sure there were mistakes but each manoeuvre was successfully completed, perhaps not at the speed I wanted but for all the shouting their heads never went down and for that I was proud of them.

We finished on the water 24(OCS); 23 (best forget that one) and a 14 in the strong breeze = good on the lads for not giving up and letting their heads go down. So it was that on arriving at the dock protest forms had to be obtained and completed, not for one room appearance but for two.

For what I expected the visits couldn’t be simpler. In P1, a race committee representative agreed there was a an error. Negotiations for redress were then entered into. When I explained the error meant we had to start with the next class the jury quickly offered average points which we were happy to accept as I felt that justice would be best served in this manner.

The second visit to the room was a simple case of barging and the jury had been in a motor boat just 50m away to that one two went our way with very little fuss. I wonder what tomorrow will bring – I don’t entirely know but the forecast does say a hell of a lot of wind – goody! Photos by Carlo Borlenghi.