It was always our expectation that we'd be better at the end of the week than at the start, and yesterday was another step in that direction. We were on the Slalom Course - three laps of a beat followed by four reaches, set at 120deg TWA but obviously susceptible to windshifts.
The breeze was strong enough - 8 to 20kn - but the direction was EVERYWHERE!
Race 5: We came off the pin in fine shape and the breeze went left pretty much immediately which enabled us to flip and cross the pack and lead into the top mark. But the breeze just kept going left and the next thing was that RO blew it up, sending a RIB up the beat with the ‘N’ flag.
The breeze proceeded to be ridiculous for about 20 minutes, but then settled down with a bit of a clearance, and we re-shimmed for the stronger offshore pressure in flat water. Again we came off the pin in good shape above Tonnerre and held our lane well, and as the breeze moved into a gentle left phase we tacked about two-thirds of the way up and crossed nicely to follow Tonnerre into the top mark. The photo (above) is us crossing Antix on that beat. At the top mark we set to the A1 as it was not too heavy, and from then on the race was a series of gybes, peels, and hard hiking but nothing major in terms of windshifts or incidents, and eventually we came home with a nice second on the water and on corrected. Very encouraging. We should of course be in the hunt when the downwind is reaches, but it wasn't exactly windy and at least four of the reaches were runs when the breeze swung left, so we were happy.
Race 6: The start presented the kind of opportunity you wait a long time for: pin bias but light and left at that end with visibly better pressure out the right. Sure we were looking at the pin with everybody else, but at about 90 seconds decided we had to go for the pressure so simply tacked and sailed down the line on port heading for the Committee Boat, and when the gun went we were flying and just rounded up to close-hauled on port at pace. About three minutes later we hit the new pressure, it went 30 right, and we tacked and crossed everybody by miles. Massive!
From then on it was shifty and weird for the entire race, and we executed three kite changes, four gybe peels, and one inline peel to maximise our pace on the legs - which were only about four minutes long each, so by the time we got to the end the crew were fried. Tactically we were unlucky in the timing of one left-hander on the second beat which only came in when we were pretty much at the top of the beat, but which enabled the chasing pack to sail a shorter distance to the top mark, and we could have held a bigger kite on the very last reach as the breeze lifted and went light, but all told we did well and came in third behind Tonnerre and Toko.
Obviously Tonnerre is in a class of her own here - she's bigger and faster than all the other boats, and in these conditions she is flying and has total tactical freedom. They are a class act. We are now into third overall, but anything from second to sixth is possible over the last three races. The weather is absolutely miserable today, with driving rain and insanely variable winds forecast. Crikey!
by Jamie McWilliam
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12:20 AM Fri 13 Jul 2012GMT
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