Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Off to Oman

I can hardly believe it - I will be driving to Oman in a few days with a colleague, towing 3 Lasers to the Masters Worlds.

Then out on the water in the wake of Robert Scheidt and so many super sailors from the Worlds and on the water with many world class Masters. I am amazed that I will be there.  A few years ago I would never have dreamed I would be doing this.   It has been through sheer luck - my age and sailing as part of the UAE - that I am able to go, but I will take it.

I will be in the Great Grand Masters class - the only category with no upper age limit, or as a friend puts it, the coffin class !

Hopefully all the storms are out of the system and Oman will return to the type of sea breezes that we experience in the UAE.

I have never participated in a national or international regatta other than those in the UAE and I will be absolutely thrilled to experience what a big regatta like this is all about.

Am I intimidated? Anxious?  Of course I am.  Improper Course blogger Doug who has been posting all week from Oman just posted that as Masters started to arrive early "7 of the first 9 to arrive were current or former world champions who have collectively won close to 40 world championships".  Wow, this is some serious business.  I will be seeing a lot of sterns. In the distance. 

And the physicality of it will be a real challenge for someone like me who is in decent shape but not in serious training. Six race days with 2 races each day of at least an hour each.  That is enough to tax anyone, let alone those in the Great Grand Master class. So, I will pace myself.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Current Trumps Again

I have written several times about the importance of current trumping wind and  how important that is to keep in mind.

In a recent race in a different area, I decided to do something contrary to the usual logic of always choosing the route to minimise adverse current.  We had to beat toward a headland on the right side against incoming tide, and then round the headland.  I intentionally chose to beat against the current in deeper water on the right, away from shore, because the shallow water on the left next to shore was clearly in the shore's wind shadow and the wind away from shore in the deeper water was much better.

And for awhile it seemed to be working. I was making big gains on the other boats and, to that extent, the strategy worked.  I was becoming almost smug. But since we all had to go around the headland on the right side of the beat my smugness soon evaporated.  As the shallow water boats (who were behind me) finally came across the deeper water to go around the headland they had a much better angle and did so on one tack, whereas I was on the right side and had to tack a couple of times right in the worst part of the current.  So, in the end I rounded the headland several boat lengths behind.  I was correct in thinking I would make better VMG with the better wind for most of the beat, but I had not factored in the difficulties in rounding the headland on the right side.

So, from now on I will always take the lesser current unless I am 110% convinced there is a good reason not to.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Mini Australienne

The French are fanatics for solo offshore racing and nothing embodies this more than the Mini Transat, which is very little known outside France.  It is a solo, transatlantic race in a boat 6.5 meters long.  There are two classes - Série which is several one design classes and Proto which has very few rules other than length (6.5m) and width (3m).

The Mini hull is a mini version of the Open 60 (the boat used in the Vendée Globe) and many new ideas eventually used on the Open 60s started on a Mini where it is obviously less expensive to experiment.

To qualify one must have completed at least 1000 miles on various Mini race courses, including one solo, plus a 1000 mile non-stop race -  and there is always a long waiting list of entrants.  Only about half of the applicants were accepted in the 84 places that started.

Through friends in France I met a spunky young Australian entrant, Katrina Ham.

She arrived in France without knowing how to speak French and with no real contacts, but she was determined to enter the Mini.  After qualifying and scraping everywhere to find the contacts and funds necessary she succeeded and now, finally, is off racing. And a large dose of help came from my friends Amanda Grey translation and English language teachers and Eric Lanoe, the owner of Le Borgne Chantier  - an excellent shipyard where I keep my "yacht".

I was in France for the start scheduled on 13 October and through Amanda I had finagled a spot on the Leborgne sponsor boat for a closeup view.  I was really looking forward to seeing it all - but a series of depressions in the Bay of Biscay kept rolling in and the race committee delayed the start until 29 October - and after the race was underway then added a stop in Sada, Spain to avoid another depression.  Even this modified first leg was then cancelled before it was over with the Race Committee instructing everyone to proceed to Gijon, an intermediate Spanish port to avoid more unexpected bad weather. They are still there waiting expectantly for news of the next start.  Katrina says it was the "Most difficult sail I have ever done".

The photo above is Katrina shortly after the (first) start with all boats having at least one reef. Another shot of her in the gusty conditions.

  Pictured below is her boat in the Le Borgne shipyard in the early stages of renovation/preparation.

During the first leg, Katrina was near the back of the fleet but there is a lot of racing ahead.  To learn more about her you can visit her website and Facebook page.

She is generally taciturn, until the subject is sailing and then she lights up.  I still remember a great story she told me. I was telling her about getting to see the Volvo Ocean race in both Abu Dhabi and in France and she told me that she and some of her Mini buddies saw the Volvo race ending with Franck Cammas and his French team victorious.  But, as they watched the victors come in, they simply commented - "Too many crew, too little sail".

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