The final RYA National Ranking Series greeted us with bright blue skys and 12 knots of breeze, typical glam Weymouth Bay. After the gear issues we had two weeks ago, we decided to spend last weekend totally sorting the boat. After checking absolutely everything over the weekend, we where confident that the boat was in top condition. However, due to the boat prep time spent, we hadn’t sailed since the last series so we felt a little rusty.
Once in the pre-start sequence, we dropped into our tried and tested routine. Several practice tacks, noting wind shifts and pressure gradients, followed by a kite hoist and practice jibes to warm up. Whilst in our sequence, the breeze began to die down to under ten knots which for a 49er is still twin wiring, yet without any kicker, and then half wiring down wind with the kite up. The issue for us in 10 knots is the fact that there are many boats who are fairly new to the class that can keep the boat going in the lighter stuff, as boat handling isn’t as important, and may make some good tactical decisions and be very competitive. When the breeze peaks above 14 knots we begin to gain an advantage as the less experienced crews can’t handle the boat. Sub 10 knot breeze gives the fleet a very level playing field, making the tactics even more vital.
With the watch counting down to less then a 2 minutes to go, we double tacked into a gap mid line, looking for a nice conservative start. After a few double tacks to hold our position under the weather boat, and with half a minute left, a boat tacked right underneath us. Unfortunatley, in the 49er fleet there are a few sailors who sail overly aggressive, and this was one of them. He managed to sail straight up to our port bow, making contact before triggering for the start. After tacking off and ducking the fleet, we managed to sail back into 9th place.
The next 2 races stuck to a similiar pattern, with start line issues forcing us out of our lane, so that we had to tack off earlier than we are used to. Going in to the last race, the wind had risen to over 12 knots. Fantastic, some decent wind to carve out a result. Lining up for the last start of the day, we concentrated on keeping 360 degree vision, which allowed us to avoid boats attacking us as we lined up. With 30 seconds to go, we double tacked up to the boat to windward of us, and preset the kicker. I checked the transits with 20 seconds left. 2 boat lengths to the line. 10 seconds, pulls the bow off the wind and we both hit the wire as the main comes in. Fantastic start, bang on the line with both of us fully wiring, planing upwind. After rolling the boat below us, we began to get headed. As the wind knocked us ten degrees, we checked for breeze towards the right and tacked off. It was now silent on the boat, as we concentrated on boat speed. After a few minutes of boat speed sailing, we tacked back on the next header, hitting the right-hand layline with 300 metres left to the mark in around 15knots of breeze. With the wind shifting right, we dropped to the knots and fully powered up to reach the mark first, calling for the gybe hoist if we rounded first. Rounding the mark, we rolled the leader and hoisted in front of him. After out pacing him over the first 50 metres, we gybed in front, under the layline for the leward gate. With such a big windshift, and totally overpowered, we had a crazy reach with the kite up towards the gate mark. We both dropped as low as we could, and folded the kite for as long as possible, praying the mast would take the huge pressure. A few boats managed to gybe inside us, and rolled over the top on a better angle, so we gybe dropped around the right hand mark and rounded 3rd. With a huge gap between the top three boats and the chasers, we covered the fleet to finish 3rd.
Day two started in sub-10 knots, and with 2 races to complete, looked like a quiet day. We had one good race and one bad race, leaving us 8th overall. This was possibly 1 or two places below where we should be, but we finished the weekend happy. Our boat handling was far better, and we had fully blown away the cobwebs from our long summer of training. When we sail well we can beat most of the fleet, we just need to cut out the bad results…
Next blog: Training 27th and 28th
Next event: Inland Championships on the 3rd and 4th of November