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Shifty winds keep Nations Trophy crews and race officials on their toes

by Nautor's Swan 15 Sep 20:22 PDT 14-18 September 2021

Constantly changing winds made a headache of race management on the first day of the Nautor's Swan Nations Trophy in Palma. Officials scrambled to respond as the light southwesterly sea breeze veered and backed under each passing cloud.

The 29-strong fleet of ClubSwan 36, ClubSwan 42 and ClubSwan 50 boats had their eyes fixed on the committee boat, waiting for the sign that racing was due to commence. The AP flag for postponement came down several times, but after more than three hours had passed, the A flag was raised beneath AP, to signal that there would be no racing today.

It was not wasted time, however, as owners were quick to explain once they got back to the dock. "You get used to the waiting," says Pedro Vaquer Comas, the local owner of the CS42 Nadir. "We practised a lot today. You can put plates underneath the mast and turns on the stay to get the rig working better in the light winds."

ClubSwan 36 newcomer Mehmet Taki of Bracing Breeze also took a fatalistic view of the day. "I'm used to it," he says with a shrug. "I know this from ORC racing at the Copa del Rey and from sailing at home in Turkey." It hasn't bluntened his enthusiasm for Swan racing, however. "I like fast boats, and these ClubSwan are so sporty. The big difference is that for the first time I am helming - normally I prefer the lazy positions!"

In the CS50 class, Hatari and Earlybird have been swapping podium positions throughout the season. Earlybird owner Henrik Brandis gave an insight into keeping his crew sharp on the water. "It can change pretty quickly out there," he says. "Once things start to move, we have to be quick. We practice hoists every 20 minutes or so. Otherwise people are discussing, laughing together or taking a nap below."

Everyone except for Brandis himself, that is. "I'm actually working out there," he says with a mock grimace. "It's like half a day in the office!" He agrees that the race committee was right to postpone, though. "We should stay with fair conditions, and a 50- to 60-degree wind shift to the right would mean the righthand boats caught out. It's not true sailing. The wind always shifts, but it should be in a dimension you can deal with."

Principal race officer Ariane Mainemare confirms that this was the problem today. "With wind shifts of 50 or 60 degrees it is basically impossible to set a race course, and even if we do set it, it turns into an unfair one, because positions change too much."

Cloud cover over the Bay of Palma played a particular important role today. "The major problem was the squalls coming from the south," continues Mainemare. "Normally when this happens and you don't have a strong gradient wind, the rain interrupts the wind. Each time a big cloud came through, there was a bit more wind, then the cloud would pass and the wind went down again."

Luckily, the forecast is looking slightly more settled for tomorrow, and there are high hopes that racing will get under way as planned around midday. "If the skies are a bit clearer over the bay, conditions will be more stable," finishes Mainemare.

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