1/9/10 Two races were scheduled today for us. The gold fleet started racing first, then the silver fleet had its two races and then the top 10 boats from the gold fleet raced in the medal race. The forecast was for 20+ knots and rain. It was a cold, windy and rainy morning of racing. We watched some of the gold fleet racing with apprehension because when there are capsizes in the fleet of top 25 teams in the world, conditions on the water are probably challenging. We went out into pretty windy conditions, but it was manageable. There were lulls and gusts as the clouds moved over us. The rain felt like needles in the face at times and it was bitter cold in the wind. We avoided capsize before the first start. We started from the second line, rounded the top mark pretty deep, but by the time we sailed the second upwind leg, we were looking quite good as we managed to stay out of trouble and sail quick. Petr did a superb job during avoiding maneuvers with the kite up. We definitely improved in that respect here. Unfortunately, we capsized in the third lap during a jibe. We were jibing around a boat that was going upwind as strong gust was coming to us from behind. You just don’t get a choice in these four lap races. The boat ended up with the bow pointed downwind, so it took some time for it to turn around. It was not fun to watch countless boats sail by. The wind decreased instead of picking up for the second race. I was more aggressive on the starting line this time, but there was an even more aggressive boat just above. They pulled the trigger sooner than us and ended up sailing over us. We sailed over the two boats below us that were at the pin. In hindsight I should have pulled the trigger two seconds sooner as I could hear the boat above us, but that is so easy to say in the comfort of a heated room. There was a black flag up and if the boat accelerated just a bit too soon, we would have been in trouble. We went left, the wind went marginally right and I also lost us some ground after tacking to port by ducking some boats far too wide. Again, I drilled into myself overnight that keeping clear of trouble would give us good result, but that was based on 20+ knot forecast, not the actual lighter air that we sailed in (still strong, but workable). Regardless, we fought back. Two boats picked us up on jibe set in the last lap and I thought that we got them back at the finish, but after checking the results, I could see that they were scored ahead of us. The boat behind jibed on the boat ahead, but they were above the layline, so both boats sailed slow. We picked a good lane, flew in and jibed on them. It was a photo finish. So it is done. We dropped one place today and finished 27th in the silver fleet, 52nd overall. I would have taken this result before the regatta, but it is inevitable that I am now going over all the mistakes through the week and I can see how we could have finished far better. We certainly know what we need to work on if we decide to keep going and we have seen how it is done by the best. I hope that everybody had fun following the event. The boat is on the trailer, I am packing and I am actually looking forward to a coffee at 7 a.m. on Monday morning in my office. We should be sailing again next weekend in Miami in the 49er North American Championship.
1/8/10 Finally! 8-12 knots from the sea with two foot chop under sunny skies. We had two races in the morning and two races in the afternoon. The wind direction allowed for longer courses and we had three laps per race. We could actually sail and not worry about avoiding people all the time. We were doing quite well in the first race but we lost some places in leeward mark roundings. We did not have a good start for the second race, but we picked up some boats and finished reasonably well. The wind appeared to die out a bit, so I de-tuned the rig for lighter air in the afternoon. That was not a good move, because we actually had a bit more wind than in the morning. We were doing quite well in the third race until we jibed in front of a MEX (Mexico) boat and fouled them. This was really bad because we were both doing well and they capsized during a crash jibe. We had plenty of space to jibe away in front of them, but we somehow completely stopped. We took the chute down, did a tack and put the kite back up in a jibe set. It was actually pretty efficient. Unfortunately this put us between two packs of boats and one of them just sailed over us on the layline to the gate. We did not finish well in this race. We did not pick the shifts well on the first beat in the last race, but we fought back pretty well and finished OK. This was a fun day. We are still sitting in 26th place of the silver fleet. We should have our last two races tomorrow in very windy conditions.
1/7/10 The forecast was for light air and I was looking forward to that. The gold fleet got three races in. We went out, sailed around in dying and shifty wind for a while until there were just patches. To make this short, we did not get to race today. The bright point of the day was kayaking with Natalie, going over the reef and seeing barracudas. The forecast for tomorrow is 10-15 from the south west, which means waves and probably steadier wind. It could also mean longer course. I really hope for one day of less than 15 knots of wind because I am sick and tired of whitecaps and wipeouts and I want to try actually racing for a change. Saturday is supposed to be ridiculously windy again, so tomorrow is our last chance unless the forecast is wrong.
1/6/10 We are now sailing under USA 81, because we are using a training sail of our friends USA 817. The AUS (Australia) guys bought this sail for us so that we could sail in the regatta with a decent main and not with a taped up Frankensail. I probably could have insisted on getting a new sail, which would force the AUS guys to deal with insurance, but then I would be profiting from a bad situation. I put myself in their shoes and I would not have liked if somebody did that to me. The AUS team did the right thing.
We were in the green fleet again and the red fleet sailed first. The forecast was about 20 mph wind, dying to 16 mph. The red fleet went out in something resembling the forecast, but the wind built instead. We watched some of the racing for the red fleet and I timed downwind runs of some mid-fleeters. Because I can't see exactly when the boats round, I timed from the time that the chute started going up to the time that it completely disappeared. The shortest time was 1 minute 31 seconds and the longest was 2 minutes 3 seconds. You can add 7 seconds or so on each end if you wish, but it does not change the bizarre fact that we set, gybe once or twice, go through a fleet of thirty boats and douse in about two minutes. When measured in time, Wednesday night races at CYC are longer than that. We actually cover good distance (from the beach to the reef), but time-wise it is more like playing a fast paced videogame; except mistakes here have very real consequences. Anyway, the wind was building until I considered not going, but decided to go anyway. We pulled the chute up and down quickly near the beach to make sure that it is set up properly and drifted slowly while waiting for the red fleeter to finish. The whitecaps were rolling at us and the shifts were stupendous. The objective was to save energy and avoid unnecessary swim before the start. I think that it took two tries for each start today. We made a very careful approach to the line and started right behind the Spanish Olympic champions at the boat. It was actually a very nice start and we were going nicely for a while. We ended up swimming twice in the race, both times trying to avoid somebody. It felt like complete survival to me, but it was actually the best race of the day for us. The second race was similar except that we got hit twice, once pretty hard on the starting line by a DEN (Denmark) boat that was trying to cross behind the starting line on port. The wind and shifts were a bit much to handle for the DEN team and we ended up with a dent on the wing. The skipper was apologizing profusely as we disentangled. The other collision was actually far scarier, even though the contact was light. A boat with a red spinnaker was sailing at full speed downwind while we were going upwind on the same tack. The skipper did not see us or was not able to avoid us and I thought at that moment that Petr is going to die. Seriously, the pole was about two boatlengths away and going right for him. There was absolutely nothing I could do at that point. The skipper of the other boat put the tiller down and the boat spun into the wind with the chute up. We touched, disentangled and all I remember was that that I was sailing out of there as quickly as I could. The other boat must have capsized, but I just don't have a clear recollection. We had the worst finish in this race - but we finished. The wind eased a bit in the third race and we were actually picking some shifts in the last two laps. We traded places with our CAN (Canada) friends. They beat us across the finish line, but we picked an ARG (Argentina) boat that capsized on the last downwind. We sailed back happy to have lived through the day and to have finished all races without major damage. Our problem is very clear. We can actually handle the boat even in this wind, but we can't deal with boats around us yet. Sailing in straight line is no problem. We handle all of the set pieces of tacking, jibing and mark roundings as practiced, but as soon as some avoiding maneuver is forced on us, or we have to crash jibe/tack, we have problems. We are definitely getting our fill of practice here with these four lap races. The fleet splits today into gold and silver. There are many extremely good sailors who gave up a lot to get good, but still did not make the top 25. Anyway, we get to sail with even more boats on the short course tomorrow.
1/5/10 The forecast did not change and it proved to be correct. We are in the green fleet and we go first. There are whitecaps rolling and the wind is 20 knots solid. We swim three times before the start, but we start OK. We have a decent beat, round the top mark ahead of several boats. We jibe fine at the right moment and go straight to the gate for a port rounding. There is an AUS boat ahead that has to jibe to make the gate so we start taking down earlier to let them go ahead. They end up losing control, we manage to avoid their boat, but the top of their mast swings into our sail and our main is ripped. We round the bottom mark, look up and see that one half of our panel is essentially gone and the sail hangs on to the leech tape. We sail straight home. To make the story short, we win the protest and get redress. We spent all afternoon prior to the hearing fixing the shredded panel. We have done a lot of taping, but the hardest job of re-sewing the leech was still ahead. We handed the sail to the AUS skipper, who re-taped it with presumably better tape, but it was not sewn. The bottom line is that we will be sailing with a different main tomorrow because we are not sailing with an un-sewn leech. I have seen that kind of repair come apart before and I am not taking this chance at the worlds if I don’t have to. Had we lost the protest, I would have sat all evening and some of the night sewing. It is too bad for both us and the AUS guys that we have to go through this. The course is so short that some collisions appear inevitable. The horror story of today is IRL boat that hit the reef some 10 m from the starting line and ripped their boat. We hope for a better day tomorrow.
1/4/10 Three races for the green fleet which started second. The wind is pretty strong 15-20 (at the bottom of the course) when we start racing and it dies through the day. Some twenty seconds after the start, FRA boat goes on port, does not see us, so my choice is to cut them in half or crash tack. I chose the second and we end up swimming because there was a contact and we could not keep the boat upright through it. It does not help us that the other boat spins. We go on and end up swimming once more while avoiding a boat going upwind while we are sailing with a spinnaker. There is so little room here, that we sail four laps from the reef to the beach and it takes just under 30 minutes. It is quite windy at the bottom of the course and pretty light and shifty at the top, because the top mark sits almost on the beach. The bottom line is that it is extremely crowded here. We are the last boat to finish. The only way to get worse is to join the DNF boat.
We get a good start for the second race and we actually sail with the good guys for much of the beat. After tacking to port just below the layline, the wind goes from strong to nothing and it lasts just long enough that we capsize to windward. Of course, the wind is back up as we are righting the boat. There are lots of four letter words going through my head at that point. I make one more big mistake on a jibe somewhere in the four laps that sends us swimming. We fight back and beat some boats anyway. We actually sail OK when we are not swimming.
The wind came down for the last race to some 12-15 knots at the bottom and less for the final lap. We don’t swim race all four laps and finish fine.
I am not sure if I should be happy about the day or not. We are definitely engaging in some hand to hand combat, which is what we came for, but we also swam four times. Having thirty boats around us on a tight course clearly put pressure on us. The weather forecast for Tuesday is 20-30 knots. Not my cup of tea.
1/3/10 (continued) Checked the boat and found out that the wing slides were coming apart. Two were fixable and I had one spare to replace the really bad one. There was an inside slide completely coming apart and I did not have a spare. Carl and Pete from the US saved us with a spare part. I checked these before practice in Miami, so it took two weeks of sailing there and one week of sailing here to crack four slides. Everybody spent the early afternoon putting stickers on. Each boat got a big sticker with its county’s flag and smaller ones with sail numbers. The trick is to stretch the sail so it is flat and you don’t get bubbles below. Petr decided that it may be a good idea to do a modification on our vang lever. There is a modification with a stainless steel fitting allowed because the aluminum alloy levers tend to break without it. I bought the fitting a week ago and suggested the repair. Now we are doing it one day before the regatta. I am not happy because we are changing my fundamental rule of not doing anything new just before a regatta. Regardless, we are ready to go. Practice race in the afternoon. The wind was very light and there was no finish. We go left, the wind goes right, otherwise it is OK. Skipper’s meeting in the afternoon was dominated by questions about avoiding reefs. Essentially, we sail at our own risk. There are some small marks saying where the reef may be, but they are transparent, drifting and not binding in any way. If you think that you are coming to a reef, you can ask for room or for a tack. If the other boat does not think that there is a reef, keeps going for a while, does not hit anything, they can protest. The bottom line is that it is pretty hard to avoid an undefined obstruction. You could have a good case when coming close to the line of marks, but even then you have to think if it is high tide when you can actually go over the reef.
1/3/10 Stickers today, practice race and the opening ceremony. More later...
1/2/10 I got up late at 8:30, but felt well. My body is an amazingly resilient instrument. We finished work on the boat, rigged it up in the morning and went sailing in the afternoon. The breeze was fresh, over the land and cold (relatively speaking). There were only a few 49ers out. Nobody wants to break gear this close to the race. The wind was gusty and shifty. Gusts were pretty solid twenty knots if not more. We actually don’t have big problems sailing in these conditions, but we were going low and slow again compared to the other boats. These were good teams, but that is no excuse. We are either too light or our settings are not right. Probably a little bit of both. We also need more time in heavy air. Regardless, we can sail in heavy air as long as the water is flat. What we really need is practice in waves. We went in early to make sure that we didn’t break anything just because we are tired. What a change! Nothing hurts in the evening and I am going for a run, because my body is picking up some fat from two days of not being pushed hard. Also, the class officials handed us a brand new spinnaker to use for the regatta. It has a Seiko logo on it and I had to sign that we would sail in Seiko rash guards and send a letter of appreciation. I knew that Seiko was giving chutes to selected teams and inquired about this about two months ago. It is good to be one of the chosen teams. Thank you Seiko!
1/1/10 We woke up late and the wind was pretty good. It was supposed to shift right over the land and increase. We planned to sail early in the afternoon, but then Petr re-checked the weather forecast and it was supposed to blow 30 knots in the afternoon. We decided to immediately rig up, skip lunch and go out. The wind was definitely picking up. Boats started to come off the water and the MEX guys told us that they thought it was blowing about 20 knots. It looked like 15 knots to me from the beach, but it was hard to tell as the chop was pretty tall. I made the call to go, because these are exactly the conditions that we need to practice in, but as we were going through the boat park to change, I noticed that almost nobody was getting ready to go out. I only saw two British and one Australian team getting ready to go. Two of the three skippers were 49er world champions, so I decided that it may be smarter not to join this party. Good call as the wind was solidly over twenty knots within thirty minutes with the wind direction still from the unprotected water bringing good chop in. The bottom line is that we did not sail on a perfect sailing day. At least we measured in late in the afternoon. The front rolled through with buckets of water falling for about twenty minutes. We measured in over the class minimum of 94 kg after the downpour. It was quite interesting to see that the measurer went ahead even though the boat was clearly wet. We did our best to wipe it off, but you can only do so much. Some French boats and the current world champion from Australia measured in with us and they were much closer to the 94 kg minimum. I hope that they re-weigh before the regatta. My nose was running in the evening and I was not feeling well. Getting well quickly became my top priority.
12/31/09 We went out earlier in the morning and again, the other teams were not that quick in getting out. Wind was about 8 knots and dying. We did some practice starts and Rory took video of us and our sails. This was helpful and Rory had some good tips for us. It is interesting what you can see from outside while you can barely feel it on the boat. Only one MEX boat showed up, so we had some match racing going on. In the afternoon, we joined the other teams in light air with about 6 knots of wind. Starts were brutal. We could almost hold our own, but almost is not good enough in this business. We had decent speed and we were actually racing. We reviewed video with Rory in the evening. A big thank you Rory and the 49er class for the two days of practice.
I have been planning to go out sailing over midnight, so that I would sail into the New Year, but there were no takers for the crew job. Quite honestly, I did not want to take silly chances before a big race. But the conditions were perfect with a full moon as promised and light air from the sea. There was enough light that you could see the various colors of turquoise in the water, even from a distance. We got to bring in the New Year with fireworks instead of on a sailbo
12/30 Petr finally got his luggage! Practice day with Rory Fitzpatrick from IRL (Ireland). We had a brief meeting and went out for practice late in the morning in 10-15 knots of wind. There were supposed to be four teams, but the ARG (Argentina) team had gear failure and the MEX (Mexico) teams were slower in getting on the water, so we had some private time and lots of time to practice starts. We did OK by ourselves and when the two MEX teams showed up, but we knew quite well that this would not be the same as what we should expect during the regatta. One of the MEX teams wiped out badly and broke their rail right in front of the wing. We saw it later on the video and I am amazed that the guys did not end up in a hospital. After lunch, we sailed on a bigger course with other boats. With wind from the south, the waves picked up and we had some problems in stronger wind. We could sail around the marks with the back of the fleet, but we did not really compete. We went lower and slower. The starting line was very short, which means that getting off the line clean was pretty much impossible. When racing was over, we practiced maneuvers. Either we were tired or we really need much more practice in waves because it did not go too well. Rory took some good video throughout the day and it was good to go over it in the evening
12/29 Good day. Practice in the morning and in the afternoon. After warming up, we sailed around a course with mainly DEN (Denmark) teams. We are still getting lessons on the starting line, but sailing is fine. There were seven or eight boats and we generally finished in the second half although we were second one time. One scary moment came when we were rounding the top mark behind the EST (Estonia) boat. We were matching the jibe set of the EST boat. I was sort of watching the boat in front of us, but I did not see that one of the sailors fell out. I spotted him less than a boat length in front of us, which is not enough time to even think about what I should do at our speed. Fortunately nothing happened to him.
There were about fifteen boats on a longer course in the afternoon. We did very well in one race and decent in all of the others. We are actually racing the boat in 10-15 knots, which is good. The wind was shifty all day, which we are good at tactically, but we don’t switch gears as well as the other guys through the changes. The starting line was way too short, so getting front line start was difficult. In one particular race, we managed to hold our own, but the boat below us was the current world champion, so you can guess who had better acceleration from the starting line. So it went all afternoon on the starting line. We really need to work on that. Tacks and jibes were quite good and we did not capsize or hit anybody. No damage. The next two days is official practice for the “new to 49er” teams and is focused on starting. We qualify for that and it is exactly what the doctor ordered. Getting off the line is our greatest weakness at this point, followed by leeward mark roundings.
12/28 Still no bags for Petr. The wind is missing, so Peter goes to town for
some gear. I sand on the centerboard and take a break. The stress is wearing on
me. Petr is back with essentially no gear. You can't even buy sailing shoes on
this island. This is paradise, but not a good location for the Worlds - no way
to get anything, if you sail for out for more than ten minutes you may hit the
reef, if you capsize, your mast goes on a hard bottom, if the wind direction
says anything about south, you are launching into decent waves. I wonder if
anybody tried sailing 49ers here before arranging for the regatta. Wind picks
up before noon, we go for an early lunch and then we go for practice. The MEX
(Mexico) guys loan Petr shoes, probably returning the favor for our spare trapeze
wires that they are using. He uses one of those big flat life jackets from the
resort's kayak gear. I need mine, because if a different life jacket caused me
to clip in twice in a gybe, we would be swimming for sure in anything over 15
knots. The wind is 12-20 knots, shifty and gusty. Pretty much Fort Loudon
conditions when it blows. We capsize four times, but we are not alone swimming
on occasion, so it does not feel too bad. There is not enough space between the
reef and the beach for the teams to set up different marks, so everybody ends
up sailing around the same marks. Good practice, we are tired. Still no bags or
even information on them for Petr. The NZL (New Zealand) team has been sitting
on shore for four days now as the customs people did not clear their containers
before being gone for the holidays. We should be glad for sailing with borrowed
shoes and the wrong type of life jacket. No damage, and although Natalie thinks
it is cold when she needs a long sleeve shirt in the evening, it is warm here.
Life could be worse.
air in the morning. We warm up with some tack and jibes and then we get
schooled by DEN (Denmark) sailors in start practice. I thought that I was
reasonably aggressive on the starting line, but I was very wrong. The game is
actually quite different with boats tacking on the starting line with the boat
being turned by sail in both directions. It is a new dance for us, but we pick
up some of the steps by the time the DEN sailors head home. Petr switches with
Natalie who is kayaking and I take her past the reef through all the colors of
blue that the water can turn. The wind quits and we actually capsize with Petr
on the way back as there are gusts above the water from random direction.
Before afternoon practice, Natalie talks me into fifteen minutes of snorkeling.
She talked about seeing some fish, but I did not imagine that it would be like
swimming in an aquarium. We practice some more starts and then as the wind
picks up, we end up in an informal jibing session going west (where we should
not hit the reef). Long story short, we hit something, other boats don't, even
though the POR (Portugal) boat had been right in front of us just before we hit.
Damage to the centerboard is significant, but we did not damage the boat. Now
it is about how much practice time we loose. I immediately go around the park
in search of help and run into Dave MacKey (who built about half of these
49ers) and he generously helps us out. I have fixed gear like this before, but
I have learned good deal by watching and helping him. Nicest guy ever. The
fiberglass is yet to dry, but it looks good and I know that we will be able to
sail tomorrow. That is important, because the forecast is for 15-18 knots and
we need to sail in these conditions. Natalie goes to the disco alone because
her husband is trying to keep his eyes on the target. Still no luggage for
Petr. This is getting ridiculous. Between Al Italia, American Airlines and
local officials, I don't know which is the least helpful.
12/26 We set up the boat early in the morning.
Still no luggage for Petr, so none of his sailing gear is here. We borrow
harness from Trevor from Canada and go sailing. I go without shoes and life
jacket, but my shoes are too small for Petr after half an hour of sailing, so I
get my shoes back. Lightish air from the shore. We are rusty so it is good to
have some time in light air to warm up.
Natalie went to the trapeze school, dance lessons, snorkeling and
12/25 The boat made it here, but it was
very dirty. I spend most of Christmas Day scrubbing the non-skid surface of the
boat and setting up the mast. We are not ready to sail tomorrow, but we will be
set in the morning. The Estonian (EST) guys went sailing and broke their spinnaker
pole while launching. The wind was 12-15 knots from the south and the waves
were probably 2 ft on average. This is going to be rough. Petr made it, but his
luggage has not. Natalie is enjoying herself here.
Scrubbing the boat clean...
12/24 We made it to the Bahamas. We were sleep
deprived and had a minor mechanical problem with one of our flights, but we are
here. The boat made it to the resort which was a huge weight off my shoulders.