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420 Nationals - France- Grey skies, Grey warships, Black Flags....

by Rob Burn on 16 Jul 2014
Emma and Britt prestart - 420 Nationals - France Rob Burn
The two NZL 420 crews in Ouistreham, Normandy, have one of those days that is best forgotten.

The day started very cloudy and not that warm for Summer, the small French Warship was pretty impressive as it navigated the Harbour locks as the 420 fleet was about to launch but on the course, the two races that were held for each flight were marred by many Black Flag Disqualifications.

Wind Guru hadn't promised much and the AP went up on the Committee boat as the scheduled Start time came and went. It is quite a way from the large slipway to the sailing area of the beach, straight out from one of the Team houses and in a light breeze, hard to make it on time.

Both NZL teams, Taylor and Taylor, Brittany and Emma, were reseeded into 'Sans Flame' group, the second start today.
The first start got away cleanly on the P Flag, in a light 6-7 knot breeze and plenty of current.

The trouble began with the second flight starting, the breeze was increasing but shifting increasingly to the Right. The P Flag start was a General recall, the next Start on a Black Flag, the start coincided with a major windshift, Taylor and Taylor were but one of many crews caught in the melee and over the line in the last minute before the Start, also ending in a General Recall.

After checking the numbers written up on the Committee boat blackboard, they had to retire to watch from the coachboat. The next Start, same race, under a Black Flag resulted in more disqualifications but Brittany and Emma were in the clear and sailed a great race to round the top mark in fifth and eventually finishing in sixth, a very good keeper.

The Race Committee struggled with the shifting wind and time slipped away. Some sailors made life difficult by pushing the line too much and dragging others over with them, the AP flown to try and allow conditions to settle, but as always in sailing regattas, the job of a Race Officer is a thankless task ...damned if you do, damned if you don't.....

The 'Avec Flame' group got away with only one Black Flag Start, the second flight with the two Kiwi crews lined up and waited and waited.....finally getting away with several more Black flag disqualifications, the girls crew, Brittany and Emma included. Their turn to watch the race from the coachboat while their 420 was tethered to a mooring, looking forlorn with mainsail down.

Taylor and Taylor had a great start in the 8 knot but dropping breeze. fifth around the Top mark in the flight of 44 but a decision to go up what turned out to be not the favoured side on the next upwind ..... from fifth to 15th very quickly.

It was a very long day for only two races and the weather forecast doesn't look much better for tomorrow. To cap the day off, Taylor and Taylor were protested for reasons unclear to most. This National Championships is a Selection regatta for the French Teams so there are very high stakes for some.

On the bright side, a pod of dolphins played near the Committee boat for quite awhile, we think this is normal in New Zealand but was a big deal here...and great to see. The skipper of the Race Committee boat was banging on the side of the boat to attract them closer, another crew member said to him ' Parlez Dolphin?' ...something that needed no explanation to a non French speaker and had us all laughing.

The Taylors won their protest, the sun came out and it was a warm and beautiful evening. Even though the Protest was late, we had a fab dinner at 'Chateau Stenhouse', we didn't have to cook so life turned out not so bad after all.

Emma and Brittany are now 22nd, Taylor and Taylor are 24th after five races. The Fleet is divided into Gold and Silver tomorrow, the top 44 go through to Gold Fleet so our crews are inside. The NZL team is a happy one and realise that now is the time for mistakes and learning from them before they get to the Worlds, it is still Taylor and Taylor's first real regatta together and they have come along way.

A huge Thank you to all our sponsors and supporters, the New Zealand International Yachting Trust, The Interislander, Port Marlborough, Queen Charlotte Yacht Club, Pelorus Boating Club, Spring Creek Lions and the Rotary Clubs among many others, Taylor Balogh is this years sailing Rotary Scholarship recipient. These supporters help our sailors to achieve their goals and go further.

Two more days of racing to go, good breeze forecast for Thursday

Happy sailing
Rob and the Team

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