class in session
Class 40s are designed for the classic short handed Transat races- their coming out party was
the 2006 edition of the Route du Rhum- so when I heard that the Worlds was going to be in a
coastal region known for as a wind hole, my heart sank. Doing short course racing on a boat
designed for solo offshore is a little like asking an elephant to do ballet… even if you manage do
it it’ll never be pretty! And so dancing without wind turned out to be.
Despite being born in France, the class has become solidly international with boats from the UK,
Germany, Netherlands, Italy and Spain being represented in the fleet of fifteen. Many newly
launched boats from Groupe Finot, Owen and Clarke, Sam Manuard and Lombard were keen test
their mettle against the all conquering Verdier design that has won most of the Class events in
the hands of Giovanni Soldini and Thomas Ruyant.
Day one saw the morning’s racing delayed by the AP flag, and it was early afternoon before we
got a start off in a light synoptic, twisted by the sea breeze, of about 6 knots. After a short beat
we turned for a 21 mile drag race down the coast under spinnakers to a buoy moored off a
picturesque town that spilled down from the hills in a cascade of terracotta tile. The return leg
was on the wind out of the bay, freeing to allow zeros, gennakers and finally spinnakers on the
approach to Gijón.
42 miles down and a return to port after 8pm. Unfortunately, 4 boats were OCS and hadn’t
repaired. Protest room wrangling finally led to a frankly indefensible 30 second penalty,
insignificant after 40 miles at sea, and a ruling that would skew the results of the whole regatta.
The fleet protested the jury but it was thrown out. Long live the tyrannical PRO.
Day two saw a reemergence of the AP but we ended up with a decent thermal breeze that allowed
for two twice-around windward leewards and a short coastal race. While waiting for the breeze to
fill in we had front row seats on an air show that had brought in jet aerobatic teams, fly overs and
displays by military fighters, lone acrobats tumbling in smoke and a Canadair fire fighting plane
that repeatedly doused the beach with tons of seawater. When racing started, the jets made
things difficult by doing their turns over the fleet before strafing the beach. Crew communication
becomes difficult when thousands of gallons of Jet A-1 is being poured into a hole in the sky just
above your head!
On the short courses it clearly paid to have have modded the boat for inshore racing by taking
the spinnakers out of their offshore socks, some boats even building a new inshore inventory with
take-down lines. In comparison with IRC, running a powered up 40 footer with 6 crew, the limit,
is already considered short-handed but one boat, us, went with 4 and suffered as a result.
Day three saw the well-exercised AP out again, with the powerful offshore machines sitting idly
for hours. A sea breeze eventually filled in with 5 to 6 knots and a short windward leeward was
laid, with most of the fleet setting zeros for the beat. After one and a half laps we were finished
at the windward mark and the farce was over.
Prize giving was held at a local cider plantation, everyone breathing a sigh of relief that despite
the inappropriate location and poor committee work, they could at least organize a piss up in a
brewery! Sadly, the podium contained two of the boats that were OCS on the first day.
Now its time for the Class to return to its roots and prepare for the legendary Route du Rhum,
less than a hundred days away. Starting on the 31st of October in St Malo we should have a
wintery send off down the Channel, a starting spectacle with over a million spectators and rum
punch at the finish. That’s sailing! – Conrad Coleman