Tuesday, June 28th
Tuesday morning weather was brilliant for outdoor activities, RC sailing excepted, as there was very no wind in the first half of the day, so the championship waited unti about 11 am when a breeze stablished itself, and it was decided to start racing.
During the late evening of the previous day the organizers put a lot of effort into installing two floating lines, one of them with a net, in order to protect the regatta area from floating weeds, and it looked reasonably effective while the breeze was light.
During the waiting time, I had a chance to speak with quite a few of the top guys in the scoring board, and a summary of what they said about the monday racing and the championship and the ships is below.
By the time the racing actually started, the breeze had picked up nicely and allowed the heats to be fast. Racing started in the more southern course, and required turning around the wall which limits the garden of the Club Naútico, with ships having to claim right to turn away from the obstacle when approaching it, which led to a quite few tactic situations and some protests. The day was also marked by a big number of General Recalls at starts.
The beginning of the racing was with the A fleet that was the last of the Race 5, and had Cédric Carré as winner, with an small advantage over Zvonko Jelacic. Cédric and his brother Alexis should know well the site, as they took 1st and second at last year in the national race at Vitoria, living in Bordeaux that is relatively near Vitoria. Third was Guillermo Beltrí, who become leader of the championship at that point, due to his regularity among the top.
The course was modified at that point, as the wind had turned and was more northern now. As the wind picked up and turned, the streams in the water started to move, and unfortunately weeds started again to reach the racing area. During the heats the organizer’s boat worked hard moving the net so as to keep protecting the area. If the problem reappeared for a few heats, ultimately it was controlled again to a reasonable extent, even if grass cutting had started in a field north of the club, and the issue faded away when time advanced and was probably not as bad as yesterday.
José Valverde won the 4th race, and showed his joy, as he had missed a lot of points at the start of the championship due to protests received, and had to fight his way to the top fleet through the day. Second was Robert Walsh and third Laurent Bourriquel. Beltrí was 19th, but as this was his worst result of the championship, he stays leader of the championship, with Robert Walsh third and Zvonko fourth, with very little difference between them. Regularity is obviously paying off, and the skippers with the best history of racing are rising to the top slowly, even if no one is showing too dominant, with no one having won more than one race so far.
Otherwise the incident of the day was Graham Bantock loosing his bulb and being rescued. Without an spare, Graham needed to borrow one from friends to sort out the situation, but apparently was ready to race when the day races were stopped.
Talking with the best
As said above, I had a few words with some of the skippers on top of the Championship, taking advantage of the calm before the racing started.
I started with Guillermo, which was very satisfied about the situation (at that moment he was second after Ante Kovacevic). He told me about his racing on Monday, and he mentioned overtaking others on downwind runs, “blaming” his new Sedici on being very fast on downwinds. I asked about the new ship, and Guillermo explained that he had spent a few months refining it and was now very satisfied with its behavior, particularly downwind.
I crossed the Alexis Carré, from Bordeaux, who has sailed in Vitoria last year in one of our competitions, and asked about the tight finish against Robert Walsh in their heat of the first race, with both crossing and overtaking three times in the last fifty meters. Alexis was calm and shy as usual, even though we seemed to be a bit unluckier than average with the weeds on Monday.
Then I asked Olivier Cohen about fourth race, as I had seen a very nice fight head to head in the downwind mark with Zvonko, the Croatian changing his sails to starboard to claim priority over Olivier and pushing him out of the mark to win position, and was surprised later to learn that Olivier had to retire, after a protest on touching the buoy on arrival, to limit the damage in the scoring.
Zvonko Jelacic was also satisfied about the performance of his new Kantun 2. He coincidentally also felt that it was very fast downwind, as Guillermo, and explained that it was the second iteration after winning the Italian championship, as he had cut the hull in several parts to modify things he didn’t like, and it was finished just in time for this championship, so he took some risk, but was very satisfied with the result as the ship was easy to handle and generally fast, and he could win one of the four races, but was suffering from well spread “weed disease” in others. After the description of the process of putting parts together I described his hull as a Frankenstein, to which he laughed and agreed. I asked about his new sail shape, that he announced a few weeks ago, and Zvonko explained that the moulds for 2016 (he heat-shapes his one-piece sails in 3D, in case somebody doesn’t know) were a bit more curved than the previous shape, as that was what customers were asking for, and as the result was quite good here, although he personally preferred a shallower shape, maybe his customers were right!
I then reached to Brad Gibson, saying that I was trying to get a few words from the top skippers, to which he answered with a bit of black humor why did I want to talk to him. Brad was one of the first to catch weed, but performed very well on the seeding race and the first and third race, which he won. He was quite satisfied with the speed of his boat, and was looking forward to race in smaller winds, that were expected at that point in the morning, as a mix of conditions would make the championship more interesting. I asked his impressions about the mix of prototypes and hull designs at the top ten, and he remarked that it seemed that other designers were catching up with the performance of the Britpop, which will make life more interesting in the IOM world. When I mentioned that for the time we have quite a mix of race winners, he answered that we will see a lot of different people winning races in this championship. I asked about the risk of bringing new designs to a championship, and he wasn’t particularly keen to go that road. He recalled that in the first championship were he brought the Britpop he did quite well but did not win.
Ante Kovacevic was probably the happiest of the pack, and for a good reason, as he started the day first (although the day was harder for him than the others, and lost a few positions at the end of race 6). He also had caught some weed, but had tried to stay away from trouble, sailing on the left side of the course, and was very satisfied with the result. Having seen his hull during the measuring, and not being particularly impressed I was keen to ask again about its relation to Pikanto. Ante explained again to me ( I am a bit slow I guess) with greater detail that he got a discarded Pikanto Hull from Grubisa out of the trash bin (yes!) to play with. He cut the deck out from the lower part, after thinking hard to find a method to do it cleanly, and forced open the bow, before making some side supplements to the deck, that are very visible. In the stern area, he modified the Pikanto’s chins, on suggestion from Grubisa about the way the affect behavior when heeling. Overall he was not too concerned with the finishing or the weight, but the after sailing it for some years he is very happy with the way it sails. Finally I asked about the keel and rudder, that come from Craig Smith.
I also chatted with Robert Walsh, that has been quite regular on the top in the first three days, and like Beltri has ascended to the first positions by the end of today. He described his experience on the various races, and was complimentary with the venue qualities, and no surprise, caught some weed also on Monday. He kindly spent a few minutes with me, but frankly, I was not smart enough to save the recording, and I have now mixed up so much interesting information in so little time, so I will try to bother him again in the coming days, as he will no doubt give good reasons to interview him again. Sorry, Rob!