Day 1 - Too much wind! We had the "Levante" wind today blowing 25-30 knots so no racing for Stars. The girls in the Yngling raced though, so the big macho guys from the Star class did not look too flash.
The "Levante" is akin to the Meltemi of Athens. It is a gradient wind created by high pressure to the north and a low over Morocco. This creates an easterly gradient that can be as strong as 50 knots, or light enough to get overpowered by the "sea breeze" which is what happened yesterday.
Day 2 - We got three races in today. The first in 12 knots, the second in 18, and the last in 22 knots. Then after the last race it was a five-mile beat back to the harbor. I think everyone is pretty tired.
We had our heavy air rig and sails on as the forecast was for a moderately strong "Levante" today and it looked pretty good for that this morning. Sailing out to the start it was about 16 knots so that was perfect. Then just at the start the wind dropped to 11-12 knots and stayed that way for the whole race. We weren't setting the world on fire and we didn't sail particularly smart either. We were14th in that one. We are divided into two groups so there at twice as many people getting first, second and third, etc., in each race. Also, you don't race everyone so it is kind of strange.
For the second race the wind was back up to 16 and we had a great start at the windward end. After about eight minutes, Colin Beashel, (AUS) was coming out of the left and was going to cross us by about two lengths. Then he dropped his rig right in front of us. We tacked out of that mess but that was a close call. On the first run, surfing conditions now, the running backstay came out of the cleat. It was only in one, and it came out. The rig was about six feet over the bow, bent in a very ugly way. It should have come down. I headed up quickly into the wind and Phil reset the backstay. WE saved the rig and the worlds right there. We had a few problems with the rig after that but managed to get a fifth out of that mess.
Third race, 22 knots, big waves because the current had now shifted and was going against the wind. We had a bad start because the only guy who was over early was right in front of us. We had to tack out, duck a few people and get a clear lane out to the right. The left had been paying all day and we never seemed to get that through our heads. The course was an old "Gold Cup" course which is a "Triangle-windward-Leward. We got to the first mark about 10th but took the "low road" on the first reach and blew through about five guys to round the reach mark fifth. Same at the bottom mark. Then we passed two guys up the second beat and held third on the run.
All in all we survived more than we raced which is a bad thing for today but the good side is that our speed is pretty good so if we can get our act together we should be in good shape tomorrow.
Day 3 – Two races were scheduled today. We got down to the boat early and changed masts. The one from yesterday is not bent badly, we can straighten it, but I did not want to screw around with that this morning. We also put our light air main on, which is quickly becoming our all-purpose main.
As we had been getting smacked out on the right all day yesterday, we decided to go left in the first race today. It was 8 knots off the line and we were going well with Mark Reynolds who had done well yesterday in the left. About half way up the beat, a big shift with pressure filled in from the right. We rounded the first mark about 40th. Scrambled to find clear air the rest of the race and finished 19th. Bruni (ITA) was third, and Ian Percy (GBR), the current world champion was second.
In the second race we had a good start, went very fast and went left. The breeze was in and this was the condition when the left paid yesterday. We were leading the left, in fact we won the left side but got the windward mark fourth. The leaders came out of the right with more pressure and a 10-degree shift. We passed Percy and another guy on the first run. We had very good speed and round the leeward mark second behind Bromby (BER). Up the second beat, now in 16 knots of wind, we all stayed pretty close but Percy got inside us just at the windward mark. The wind had gone far enough right that it was a gybe set and lay the finish. So we finished third and Percy got by Bromby. All in all, not terrible, but not world championship caliber sailing by us. We are making too many small mistakes and you can’t afford that in this fleet.
Day 4 - One race today that started at 1600. The Tornados were sharing our course today so they got to start at 12:00 and we had to wait until they were done. The wind was 16-18 knots from 125 nice big waves for surfing downwind.
We had a good start near the leeward end and going left. We were close with Percy and Bromby coming out of that but up toward the windward mark, we fell in a bit of a hole and they got lifted and rounded quite a bit ahead. In fact, we lost about seven boats within two minutes of the top mark. Down the first run, those who gybe set had a lot more pressure. We lost 10 boats on that run to round the leeward mark about 20th. Up the second beat we had good speed and the left was good to us. We rounded the top mark 12th and had a fast run to pass five more boats and finish seventh. That moved us up to 10th overall. We are just not consistent enough in both our speed and our tactics. It won't take much improving to make a significant difference. But we have to do it.
Now the fleet will be divided into two groups. We will stay in those groups until the end of the regatta, which is scheduled to be five more races. Percy (GBR) is putting on a clinic, winning again to day. He is very fast in this breeze. In the other fleet Xavier Rohart (FRA) is doing quite well and is just three points behind Percy. Percy won the worlds last year in Marina Del Rey and Rohart was second. Freddy Loof (SWE), the 2001 world champion, is moving up nicely into third overall. Torben Grael who was second at last years worlds and first in Athens this summer, is 15th currently.
Day 5 - Sailing is a beautifully sport some days. Today was one for us. We got out to the course first and sailed quite a bit, got the rig readjusted for light air and at 1630 we had a start in seven knots of wind from 215. We had a nice start and immediately started gaining on those around us. The boat was perfectly set up and in the grove. We wanted to go left as in the tune up, we had seen more pressure on the left, but so had everyone else. So it was a foot race to the left and we were going fast.
Sure enough the left was good and we rounded the top mark sixth. From there we battled the whole day with Bromby. He was ahead of us and kept tacking on us trying to push us back. The wind did not change much and it was a bit of a one-way track with the left side being favored up and down wind.
The wind remained light, 7-8 knots the whole race and on the third beat, Bromby and us both passed the Spanish. Across the line, Bromby was third but we later found out he was OCS so we finished third which moves us into eighth overall. While eighth isn't setting the world on fire, it is a move up and if we are in the top-eight at the world championship we qualify for Operation Gold money from USOC. This can be a big boost to our budget and my sponsor (my wife) would be happy.
In the rest of the fleet, Percy had a bad race, finishing 19th, which put him third over all. Rohart finished second and locked up the series as there can only be one race tomorrow. Loof (SWE) won the race and moved into second. All in all, we have been sailing at the top of the fleet the last two days, which is good in the big picture. Our speed has been good in the variety of conditions and I am very pleased with our new boat.
Day 7 - One race today and we treaded water. Actually we did close in quite a bit on the guys in front of us, finishing four points out of sixth but not enough to pass them. The race got started in seven knots of wind from 290 at 1430. We had a bad start in that a couple of boats just to windward of us were over the top of us. They must have had a better line sight than we did because I was afraid to go with them and be OCS. We battled to get a clear lane out to the left and survived to round the first mark about 18th.
The whole rest of the race we slowly chewed people up and finished 10th. Interestingly, Percy, who was on fire in the 18 knots breeze had trouble again today. He was ahead of us at the first mark but finished 23rd. Both guys who were within a point of us in the standings -- Bruni (ITA) and Tracy (IRL) -- were deep. Bromby (BER) and Neeleman (NED) were also deep and for a while we had the points on them to pass them in the standings. But they were able to pick off some people too and we missed them by two and four points respectively.
In hindsight, where we lost a lot of points was two days ago with an OCS when we finished fifth and a 13th when we had been second all race long. We ate about 17 points that day. This was my second worst finish in nine Star World Championships. My worst was a 10th in 1989. Yet, we are the top Americans again this year. Second American was Mark Reynolds in 18th. Last year we were top Americans, finishing fourth and qualifying the country for the Olympics.
So looking at the big picture, which is getting prepared for the US Olympic Trials next year and then onto a medal in Athens, we have built a good foundation. We have some long-term projects well underway; like me gaining 20 pounds for the weight rule and being happy that we have our new boat sorted out and on its way to Miami. We have to work hard between now and March 18th to keep making gains.
We have already mapped out our training sessions in Miami this winter…about 2 weeks every month. Now I have to plan what to test during the sessions all making sure we don't do too much but that we do try to find some more speed. We can't stand still between now and then. We start in November in Miami.
Our next event is the Star North American Championship in San Francisco from October 17-22. We will charter a boat for that as our boat can't get to SF in time. Finally, but very importantly, I want to wish my crew Phil Trinter and his bride to be, Chrissy, the very best for their upcoming wedding, October 11. Phil and Chrissy will be taking their honeymoon in Napa the week before the Star North American's.