22 teams representing 10 countries met up in Porto Cervo at the beautiful Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in what ended up being one of the tightest contests I have ever seen in this class. Boats throughout the field ended each day tied on points or separated by the thinnest of margins, with an incredible 9 different winners in ten races, with only John Killroy’s Samba Pa Ti winning a pair. One Design racing at it’s best.
Our days all started with a similar schedule; an on shore postponement while the RC waited for the breeze to fill. The heat index was up there and most teams could be seen seeking shade around the club or at the café getting another dose of espresso. I’m sure that place made a killing over the week with most teams running up a massive coffee/lunch/gelato tab. After an hour or so the flag was dropped and teams headed out to the course area. Usually there was a secondary postponement awaiting us, as the RC was very patient in waiting for the conditions to improve. Our game plan was fairly simple, get clean starts, sail well and don’t lose the event on the first day. We struggled in the starting department, but escaped fairly easily and were able to sail to a 6th in race 1, so far so good. Race 2 was a similar scenario, another less than stellar start but we were able to get away, keep fighting and work the boat like we know how to. I think we rounded the first pin in the mid teens but sailed back into an 8th place finish. We ended the day with a 3rd so our ultimate goal of not losing the regatta on day 1 was achieved. The points on the day were tight with a 3-way tie for 1st with Bombarda, Opus One and Mascalzone Latino sitting with 15 points and a 2-way tie for 4th place between Fantastica and us just 2 points off the lead.
Day 2: same old same old. Postponement on shore, espresso while we waited then head out to the course. We had hoped to get off the starting line better in order to make it a bit easier on ourselves. We nailed the first start of the day, well that would be a relative term compared to our previous attempts but we sailed a nearly perfect race and straight up stole 2nd place away from Fantastical in the final moments of the race, pushed them back to 4th – and we were sitting alone on top of the leader board. That feeling lasted about as long as the sun block did on my face before it was sweated off in the hot humid temperatures. We followed up that race with a couple of shockers; a 16th where we got deep early and couldn’t really break free through the fleet, and a 9th which may have been our regatta-saving race. We were in the mid teens at the first pin, got rolled by a few on the offset leg but kept chipping away and sailed to a 9th. We weren’t that pleased with the day but it was good enough for Coach and Buzz to give us beers for the ride in, and somehow we managed to move up to 2nd overall. We were still tied with Fantastica, which is odd to be even on points with the same boat 2 days in a row. I think Momo even remarked that we weren’t match racing although it felt like it. We would take it, however and head to the Robertissmo beach party happy to still be in it. Huge party, beautiful view, many many beautiful women and, well; many, many beautiful women.
Day 3, guess what? Yup. Breeze filled and we got back to business again. Race 7 might just have been the worst race of the event for us, although it wasn’t our throw out. We had a decent first beat and a good downwind leg, we were feeling pretty solid sitting in about 8th place, our competition (Mascalzone and Fantastica) were deep, like way deep. Things were coming around for us and we were going to take a huge bite out of the lead. Well, we went around the wrong gate had a heap of dirty air to sail through and lost a few right away on the next cross. Things got worse from there on the downwind when we got jumped by Opus on the gybe out and proceeded to get rolled, wallowed in that for a few while a few more sailed past our line and got around us as well. We lost maybe 6 or 7 boats when it was all said and done and missed a huge opportunity to take control of the event. No time for whining, race 9 was next. We had some more players in the game now too. Torpyone, all of the sudden, was right there and Mamma Aiuto! was coming outta nowhere with a 2,3,9 in the last 3 races. Well, they won race 9 too and showed some real good speed on the first beat. Luckily, Torpyone had a bad one but we were just behind Fantastica and Mascalzone across the line. Again, we were shocked by the results upon our return to the dock, we were still in 2nd and had actually closed the gap on the leaders and stretched out or lead on the guys behind us. Yet again we were fortunate enough to be lurking around in this thing, thanks to incredible competition from top to bottom of the fleet.
Final day and our plan was simple, win the race and let the chips fall where they may. If Mascalzone Latino can finish 2nd we would be boned on the tiebreaker. So we had to go out start well and hope for the best. A longer than usual postponement left us wondering if we were going to get our shot. Then the postponement flag dropped and we were off. No breeze on the water, not looking good, filled a bit, died again, was up past 5 kts, then back down to 4 and shifting around quite a bit. Then we went into sequence just before the time limit was up. A few general recalls and a few near misses for us and we were finally heading into the final race. Cam [Appleton, tactician –ed] had said all afternoon “win the pin and we win the race” well, that’s exactly what we did. We went to the left layline, tacked, and never looked back. Now we just needed some luck. Mascalzone was right on our heels but thankfully Mamma Aiuto! was able to get between us and we had our points. They had a bit of a bad leeward pin rounding and then the Russians on Synergy GT got by them and it was all but done: Finish the race and win the regatta. It felt good to close one out, we have let a few slip through our fingers lately but slammed the door on this one. It was funny to be popping bottles of Veuve on the docks and throwing each other in the water and having nobody really care, no media, no pictures…I guess an American team winning the Melges 32 European Championships wasn’t what they had planned. Whatever, it doesn’t really matter to me what they call it, Audi Event #3 or the Euro Champ [which, as a US team, Argo wasn’t eligible for –ed]. What matters to me was that Argo came out on top!
Vincenzo, Nathan and the boys on Mascalzone Latino sailed really well and it was good to mix it up with old friends and some new ones. Next up, we head to Lake Garda in a couple of weeks then get down and dirty in Newport for the rest of the year with the US Nationals, Argo M32 Training weekend, then the Pre-Worlds and Worlds. A few notes about the Argo Training Weekend, it is going to be a good weekend with no sail declarations, open coaching, and mandatory participation at the parties. Sounds like you all need to be there.