The first day at the Worlds at WPNSA was, to say the least, challenging. We all knew the racing was not going to happen in the morning as the day dawned hot and sunny. And windless. The PRO, David Campbell-James, broke the news to everyone at the daily 9:30 breifing that there would probably be at least a 2 hr postponement. Everyone then set about sitting about. Chatting about settings, looking at stuff in the popup shop and drinking coffee. The sun was hot and the academy, being concreat and hardstanding became rather warm. Many joked that maybe they had been misled by British weather reports and Sherlock Holmes movies that depicted constant rain and fog. Maybe it was a myth, then it happened. The whole place was suddenly enveloped in a Haar, or Sea Fog blown in from the West. This had been forecast, but was still a suprise when it actually happened. Visibility was thus reduced to some 200m at times. It also had the effect of killing any real prospect of a sea breeze now developing, something we had all be hoping would happen. So the wait continued.
But then movement was seen amongst the race officers, imperceptable at first, but movement nevertheless. Encouraging signs continued as the mark layer boats scudded out of the marina festooned with the distinctive Forward WIP buoys with their inflatable 'horns', giving the usually serious mark layers a rather comical look. Then the big committee boat chugged out. Finally an announcement was made and the postponement flag was dropped as the Haar had lifted enough and the breeze deemed sufficient to get a race in.
The format was to be one race for the Open fleet, one, but possibly two for the classics who were due to sail second. The Open fleet left the launchway and set off across Portland harbour to the far side and clustered around the committee boat, the Classics being kept in the boat park to await their launch signal after the Open fleet got going. The wind was a reasonably steady 6-7 knots from West as boats made their way Eastwards. Some managed to get foiling in the conditions which encoraged the rest onwards. Eventually, the fleet lined up for the start and bang!, A whole bunch of boats at the pin end were over the line so a General Recall was issued and the Black Flag flown. And it all started again. This time all was OK and the fleet set off into the teeth of the 6 knot wind searching for pressure, or anything capable of propelling them upwards. This sailing 'Join The Dots' game continued until the top mark. The leading pack had a few of the usual suspects, but the conditions also favoured one or two sailors who were, to be honest, surprised to find themselves right up there, beating the usual favourites. Nils Palmieri and Paul Larsen were more than happy to be with the lead bunch, as was the newly crowned GBR Champ Oscar Lindley-Smith. As they rounded, several actually managed to get up on their foils. However, this was to prove their undoing. As they attempted to stay up, they needed to chase the pressure, so many were often led into a wind cul-de sac whereby they were then dumped in an area where there were few options to get back out other than in Low Mode, but then found they were way off the desired course back and with increased distance need to to do so.
It was found that, for some, the right side of the course showed a few gains, other just hunted about in the centre, minimising any chance of being left out on a fatal limb. A few boats seccumbed to the almost magnetic effect of mark rounding and touched. The eagle eyed judges, who spotted this added insult to injury and penalty imposed point additions to those who failed to reround - lessons learned guys! The boats eventually finished this race which will probably haunt many for years to come, causing them to awake at 4am due to the trauma. The boats eased over the line in a class minimum of a 5 knot wind. Tymuk Bendyk POL 15 proved to be the Light Wind Meister. This Sopot based sailing ace has proved he can do the super light stuff as well as he can do the top end and was impressive. Next was Nils Palmieri SUI 87. The Swiss sailor is used to light wind Swiss lakes, so probably a walk in the park for him. Juan Luis Paez ESP 19 came in third. This Spaniard beat all his fellow countrymen by 11 places. Forth was James Wierzbowski AUS 1035. The SailGP wing trimmer showed he can sail at speeds other than 40+ knots and in fifth was a very happy Paul Larsen AUS 51, again showing he is at home in the light stuff as well as doing 65.45 knots on Sailrocket.
Then it was the Classics go. These were proper Classic boat conditions now. No Hot-Rodding about, just pure gentle and suptle movements and sail trim. The race was rather similar to the Open fleets one, holes and pressure needed to be sought. The result was a little more going to form, with the favourites pretty much at the top. However, offasionally something happens and comes right out of left field. GBR sailor Hugh MacGregor, sailing with a new untried mast after snapping his two weeks earlier, and having never entered an 'A' Cat race in anger before, got the bullet! A superb and impressive result! His compatriot fellow Scot and mentor, Micky Todd, ESP 7 finished in second. In third, the son finally beats the father with Andy Landenberger AUS 300 finished ahead of the favourite Andrew Landenberger AUS 308. Another former Olympian and World Champ Scott Anderson came in fifth.
Races like this are the sailing equivilent of a wet race in F1. This was proper head-out-of-the boat stuff. A proper mental workout. It can massively shake up the field, dumping some big names in places they may well find impossible to recover from. Currently there are many hot havourites before the start who are languishing a long way down the table. Stevie Brewin AUS 4, is 13th, Manuel Calavia ESP 11, is 26th, Bruce Mahone USA 311 is 36th and Mischa Heemskerk is 60th! These guys will have tyo do something special to prove their worth this year, and with Tymuk with the bullet, it could be a big ask. However, the one who wins must have to prove he is the best 'A' Cat sailor on the planet, and these condition test sailors probably far more mentally. Most can sail in the fruity stuff, but in these winds, well, they need to have something special. It is early day, but we may well be seeing a new name on that Open trophy.
On a personal note, My partner, Nicola and I would like to express our thanks to all those who helped and offered their support after my old motorhome was wrecked after the fridge caught fire. Nic was inside it as it happend, but emerged shocked but unscathed while I was out on the water, six minutes before the first start. Particular thanks go to Sylvain for Forward WIP, who in a former life was a French Pompier and managed to put it out thus saving the important bits such as my hard drives ect.! But in the end, it is just stuff. We both owe you all one. Thanks Gordon.
Photos - Paula Kopylowicz