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Winter Vashon Race, 49er, 49er FX and Nacra 17 Worlds, and Ultims

by David Schmidt 10 Dec 2019 08:00 PST December 10, 2019
Maxi Edmond de Rothschild - Brest Atlantiques 2019 © Yann Riou / Polaryse / Gitana SA

There's something about sailing that's downright addictive, even when conditions fall considerably short of the term "Champagne Sailing." Take this past weekend's Winter Vashon Race here on Puget Sound. While Mother Nature was fairly well-mannered in that it only rained for the entire delivery (two hours, maybe a bit more) and for the first hour or two of racing, it's fair to say that she was incredibly stingy in the wind department. Our top speed for the day was around 3.2 knots (despite carrying 44 feet on the waterline, a narrow beam, and full carbon-fiber construction), and that's including the positive water that was flowing up Colvos Passage, slowly sweeping us north towards the shortened-course finishing line.

While this doesn't exactly sound like the most thrilling day of sailing, I'll admit that the adrenaline started flowing when we realized that we were perilously close to over-standing our allotted eight hours to complete the shortened, (ballpark) 12 nautical mile race course.

Despite the inherent challenges of making a performance sailboat move in minuscule airs, our entire crew kept their heads in the game, rapidly shuffling through sails (J1, A1 and a staysail) in a continuous, crew-wide effort to link up the tiny fingers of wind that occasionally touched down on the water.

These efforts proved worthy as we crossed the finishing line in the pitch-black dark a few minutes astern of a TP52, which took line honors. Handshakes, adult beverages, and camaraderie quickly replaced feelings of cold and time-limit concerns, and as the lights of Seattle dominated our horizon, I realized that - aside from sailing in the BVIs or skiing extremely deep powder in Colorado - there's nowhere that I would have rather spent my day.

Despite taking almost eight hours to sail some 12 nautical miles.

Did I mention that sailing is addictive?

Granted, a lot of this addiction involves spending the day with good people in a beautiful environment, but a lot also hinges on mindset and attitude, the latter two attributes being tools that Pacific Northwest sailors tend to have in ample supply given our abundance of "liquid sunshine" (rain) and light airs. Call it a strange place to sail, but in my not-so-humble opinion, one has to travel long and far to find a heartier group of keelboat sailors than those who hail from the upper left-hand corner of the USA or the southwest corner of Canada.

Fortunately, sailors competing at the 2019 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 World Championships (December 3-8), which were hosted by the Royal Akarana Yacht Club, and which unfurled on the waters off of Auckland, New Zealand, saw considerably better winds.

While domestic and international fans were thrilled to watch superstars Peter Burling and Blair Tuke win their fifth 49er World Championship title, the news was far less grand for U.S. 49er sailors, who failed to qualify the USA for a country berth to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. This means that unless a country that has previously qualified for a 49er berth at next summer's Games declines their spot on the starting line, American 49er sailors will be watching from the sidelines.

American 49er sailors Nevin Snow and Dane Wilson finished in 13th place, while fellow countrymen Ian Barrows and Mitchell Kiss finished in 15th place. Additionally, Andrew Mollerus and Ian MacDiarmid finished their regatta in 32nd place, while Judge Ryan and Hans Henken ended up in 41st place; Harry Melges IV and Finn Rowe finished in 43rd place.

Canadian sailors Alexander Heinzemann and Justin Barnes finished in 60th place, followed by teammates William Jones and Evan DePaul who finished in 61st place out of 86 boats.

Things were more positive for the USA in the 49er FX class, where Paris Henken and Anna Tobias finished in ninth place. Americans Steph Roble and Maggie Shea ended up in 13th place, while Kate Shaner and Kathleen Love finished in 52nd place. Canadians Alexandra Ten Hove and Mariah Millen finished in 36th place.

Meanwhile, in the mixed-sex Nacra 17 class, Riley Gibbs and Anna Weis finished in 14th place, while Sarah Newberry and David Liebenberg finished in 23rd place. Canadian sailors Allison Surrette and Max Flinn finished in 39th place.

While these results are not exactly where either country wants to be with just over eight months to go before the start of the next Olympic regatta, things are considerably worse today for Russian sailors, who now find themselves - along with all other Russian athletes - banned from international sports for the next four years due to doping violations. This ban includes next summer's Games, but considering that Russia enjoyed even worse results in all classes than the USA, it's fair to say that these sailors weren't exactly medal contenders.

Finally, jumping from Olympic class dinghies to globe-girdling maxi trimarans, co-skippers Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier, along with media pro Yann Riou, sailing aboard Maxi Edmond de Rothschild won the Brest Atlantiques, which is a 14,000 nautical mile showdown involving doublehanded Ultim trimarans racing in a massive figure-eight course on the North and South Atlantic Oceans.

The fight for second and third place proved incredibly tight, with co-skippers Yves Le Blevec and Alex Pella, along with media pro Ronan Gladu, sailing aboard Actual Leader, crossing the finishing line a mere nine minutes ahead of co-skippers Francois Gabart and Gwenole Gahinet, plus media pro Jeremie Eloy, sailing aboard Trimaran Macif.

While it's fair to say that these trimarans all enjoyed significantly faster speeds than we saw on last weekend's Winter Vashon Race, it's downright mind-boggling to think of two boats finishing with less than a ten-minute delta after racing some 14,000 nautical miles. After all, our finishing line delta astern of the winning TP52 was roughly half this time, and this was over a run of just 12 nautical miles.

Have I mentioned that sailing is addictive?

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt North American Editor

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