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International 14 Prince of Wales Cup race from the perspective of the uninitiated

by Jock Calvert 27 Aug 2021 05:21 PDT
Jock Calvert and Emily Covell in the I14 Prince of Wales Challenge Cup race © Tim Olin /

Our first POW race proved to be an epic - what an amazing race! In conditions that got pretty fresh to frightening, we saw 14 racing in a whole different light! It all started the night before though...

With a booming forecast for the race time of 1300, the decision was made to bring the race forward to 1100, with the hope of getting some fairer weather. The problem was this, was that it forced everyone to make some tough equipment decisions - do you rig big for the first part of the race, or rig small and come back charging in the later stages?

For Emily and I we got to the club and instinctively (and likely with trepidation in our hearts) rigged our small kit, and raked well back ready for a foam up. However it soon became clear that the rest of the fleet wasn't following suit, and were rigging big. So against our better judgement we did the same, and left the beach feeling very nervous indeed.

For the first lap and half, it seemed to be the right call! But as you may have expected, it quickly became a handful. With winds over 20 knots and massive sea, the sails were inside out most of the time! Every manoeuvre became a safety manoeuvre, and I was regularly calling for Em to overtrim the kite downwind to slow it down as we looked at some massive drops over the waves in front of us.

Somehow, amidst the carnage that some found themselves in, we made it home! To complete just under 2.5 hours of racing in those conditions gave us a huge sense of satisfaction as we crossed the line - we totally understand why people are addicted to this race and what draws them back year after year.

Some interesting perspectives from a pair of newbies: the race really isn't over until it's over. We totally biffed the massive first upwind, but just by keeping our heads down we managed to find the back of the fleet and move through some of them (although without quite the decisive speed of Dan and Alex, whose comeback was exceptional).

It was also apparent how the race is anything but a procession. These boats are too lively for anything to be a sure thing, and there was always a position to defend or a boat in front to attack! We had to be switched on for the entire thing.

Some fun moments from the race: We had the most unusual duel throughout the race with Andy and Rob, who had broken their kite halyard early in the race but were soldiering on. We got past them on the downwind in a fury of rushed comms and white water as they sat on the racks, chilling, likely laughing at our out of control-ness.

They would then proceed to roll us upwind with their hugely superior boat speed, seemingly rolling directly over us just to exert their dominance perhaps. This repeated over about four laps, ending in us finishing less than 30 seconds behind them on the line.

But as a singular race, we've never done anything quite like it. It doesn't compare to anything else, and it's something that will live with both of us. If you haven't done one, then I would dare you to try it out and then say that you don't want another crack - we certainly will be back!

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