EPIC WEEKEND SAILING
Report by Martin Dent
What to do on a mid October weekend? You could stay in and take your pick of the opening weekend of European Rugby or England’s one-day cricket international. However twenty-five J/70 teams chose otherwise and were justly rewarded with epic full on speed sailing conditions, served up by an excellent Race Committee. Just when you thought we’d already had a fantastic season’s J/70 sailing, we were gifted this ripper of a weekend. Saturday delivered 15 to 22 knots of warm Southern air blasting across flat water, and Sunday gave the polar opposite in direction and temperature but with the added benefit of a bit more intensity and even flatter water.
The Championship got off to a good start on Friday night with the Race Committee announcing a 1 hour postponement to the Saturday start, to assess the conditions. Excellent: we got an extra hour in bed, and then to drink coffee whilst they headed out to the race track to check that the threatened 40 knot warnings were false alarms. When they were confident that the conditions were suitable they whistled for us, and we came.
Their second decision to abandon Race 1 was also excellent. I’m not exactly sure the reason, perhaps the multiple top marks or the absence of leeward gate, but it was the right thing to do, especially for those who’d over boned their rigs since it wasn’t actually that windy! They followed up this practice lap, with 3 back to back superb races, set great courses and square lines, ok they indulged themselves with a bit of pin bias to give the dogs something to fight over.
Saturday’s warm Sahara winds were always enough to make it pay to put the bow up downwind, but it was often a mode choice between full ripping and lazy plane; mode decisions being one of the great joys of J/70 sailing. The pressure was from the right and this revealed itself spectacularly in Race 1 where, at the windward mark, the leaders straight set and went the conventional shore route downwind seeking the double combo of extra pressure and tide relief only to be properly rinsed by the early gybers who sailed into the heaven of a 25 degree right shifted blast. Those that went straight suffered the added insult of finding their port gybe downwind leg became upwind for the last quarter to the gate and had to drop kites to complete the leg. Amongst all this, Paul Ward, managed to position himself in the right spots and took the bullet. He lived up to his boat name with a “Repeat” of his bullet in Race 2.
During Race 2 the JElvis team had front row seats to witness the broach of the Championship, performed by Doug Struth and DSP. We had tussled with them for the entire race and they sailed superbly all the way and pulled off a great final leg to overtake us into the finish, until …. just a few boat lengths from the finish line they spectacularly wiped out after the final gybe, rounded up and sailed the wrong side of the finish mark. We enjoyed this performance, and gratefully accepted the now vacant 3rd place whilst they dropped their kite and sailed back into our place of 4 th ! Nice.
Sunday, the fleet returned to race, extra feisty and extra keen at the starts. Was it the great Saturday sailing still buzzing for everyone, or did the colder wind plus rain mean that everyone just wanted to get on with it? The Race Committee calmly deployed the more painful flags, but remained benevolent; even when they’d eventually brought out the Black Flag and the whole fleet was still over the line early, they kindly chose to abandon the race rather than to give us all BFD’s.
Even though the Northerly was pumping, it still provided the usual shift features off the mainland shore to make the top of upwind legs interesting, but each of the downwind legs were just a question of putting the bow up and going as fast as you could. Magical J/70 sailing and I have no doubt that we were having more fun than anyone else out there.