These days, twice Rolex Sailor of the Year and Olympic Gold medalist, Anna Tunnicliffe (USA) alternates between sailing aboard Alinghi in the Extreme Sailing Series, and chasing a serious ranking in the world of CrossFit.
She reports in from Qingdao, China after Day 2 of the Extreme Sailing Series, sailing as tactician aboard Alinghi. In 2008, she won a Gold Medal in the Laser Radial class at the Qingdao Olympics, now she returns.
May 2, 2014, Qingdao, China
Today was a totally opposite day than yesterday weather-wise, but Alinghi still had a good day and we have held our lead on the top of the leaderboard. We only completed three short races today, but scoring a 1,5,1 kept us in the top spot.
After yesterday's light conditions from the south, we woke up to the wind already blowing in the low teens from the north and the forecast for the breeze to build before dropping off a little in the evening. And the forecast was spot on. Around the time of the skippers' briefing at 12:30, the wind hit 35kts on the pier, right about where our start line was to be. The race committee decided to put us on a one hour delay. Although after the hour, the wind didn't really seemed to have dropped, in reality it had lessened a little and we were sent out for racing with a 3pm start. Owing to the direction of the wind, however, and where our racecourse was to be set, the fleet was split into groups so we would have fewer boats on the race course, both for safety and better racing.
The northerly direction of the wind meant that it was blowing off the city, through all the tall buildings. Had the wind been steady, the racing wouldn't have been a problem, but because we would sail through a 3-5kt patch of water into a 20-25kt patch of water, with a 20 degree shift thrown in there, it made for some exciting racing to watch and do.
We all left the dock assigned to a group of four boats, A, B, or C. The format for the first races of the day was two groups race each other, while the other group got a bye race. We were in group A so we sailed first against group B, then group C before sitting out the next race.
In the first race, we had an interesting start, but were able to execute our plan after the gun. We wanted to head to the left side of the course. We started above the line (ie on course side), on purpose, but were a bit slow getting going as the wind deserted us. After we cleared ourselves from our OCS, we ended up ducking the fleet that had tacked on to port at the pin end of the line. But as I said, this was fine because we wanted to head left. We hitched out to the left lay line and came blasting in on a big left shift and rounded the top mark in 2nd.
Downwind was a bit full-on as the fleet was very close together and the puffs were bringing the back of the fleet closer to the front. We held on and rounded the leeward mark in a good 20kt puff. We sailed the shifts up the beat and were in a three way battle for who was going to be first at the top. We ended up ducking both of the other boats on the beat, but rounded first. In a nerve racking downwind leg, we were able to hold off Emirates Team NZL who were bringing down a massive puff, and we took the win for the first race.
In the second race, we had a rough time on the start line. We couldn't get in the tack we wanted right off the line because of a boat OCS above us, but we battled back up the beat and rounded in 3rd. We called for a gybe set, which was the right idea, but then we got a little frantic and put ourselves in the middle of the course where there wasn't any wind rather than just being patient and letting the wind fill in so we could get blasting down the course. We ended up losing two boats on the downwind leg which was a bit frustrating, but we learned a big lesson for the next leg and the subsequent race.
We sat out the next race as our group wasn't racing. And I have to admit, the racing appeared a lot more extreme when we were watching it than when we were actually doing it. I think because there is so much going on when we are racing and we know and trust our own boat handling that we are confident that when the puff hits that we won't capsize. Watching the other teams get hit with puffs, and heel over and blast downwind in the gusts was quite exhilarating to watch, and there was some definite 'ooing' and 'ahhing' going on onboard.
Time was ticking away, so the race committee declared that we were going to do small group races to finish the day. This meant that we would only race against the people in our groups, so it would be a four boat race. Our plan was to be the first boat out to the right hand side of the race course after the start. We set up for a great start and executed the plan. At the top mark, we were in first with the other boats nipping at our heels.
Downwind, we used our lesson-learned from the previous race and gybe set but stayed patient for the puff to come to us. We rounded the bottom mark in first with the other boats about two lengths behind. With the breeze a little more right now, we had to tack slightly shy of lay line because of the sea wall. And I mean just shy. It was one of those lines where in the puff you were making the buoy, but then a little lull would come and you were low of the mark. Then the puff would come and you were up on target again. We decided to not focus on the mark, sail fast and head up the course and hit the next small lefty and use it to get up to lay line. The plan worked out again. We rounded the top mark, once again holding off a charge from Emirates Team NZL and we took the race win.
It was a good day overall, and we are holding our lead on the leader board. Tomorrow's forecast is for a little less breeze from the opposite direction again. We are planning on starting at 2pm again, and probably doing as many races as possible to try and catch up from today.
Latest race updates and news can be found on the Extreme Sailing Series website: www.extremesailingseries.com
4D's: Dream;Desire;Dedication;Determination SM
3P's: Passion...Progression…Perfection SM
You can follow Anna on her blog www.annatunnicliffe.com
by Anna Tunnicliffe - 10:03 PM Fri 2 May 2014 GMT
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