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Italian Ice Served to Melges 32 Fleet »

September 27, 2010

With a bit of redemption on their minds from the 2009 Melges 32 World Championships which took place in Puerto Cervo, Italy with an winner from the USA, the all Italian on B-Lin sailing made sure they would represent the European Melges 32 fleet well and bring the World title back to Italy. It was not easy however, and with a strong push from 2 American teams on the final day, B-Lin found their 2 pt lead they had with 2 races remaining disappear, and they were now on the outside looking in with 1 race remaining.

In the first race of the final day, the team on Rougarou continued their dark-horse march, won the race handily and waited anxiously to see where the 2 boats ahead of them on Full Throttle and B Lin would finish.  FT would sail well to pass boats in a very shifty race for a 4th place, and the boys on  BLin would recover from a tough first beat and take a 9th place, hardly the finish they would have liked to secure the championship.  With a 2:30 pm limit on the Race Committee to get in a final race for the regatta, they did their best to get the fleet organized, and a race course laid for the new westerly breeze that was settling in from the Golden Gate bridge. With 1 race remaining, the world title boiled down to the following boats –

1). Full Throttle – 42 pts

2). Rougarou – 43 pts

3). B-Lin Sailing – 45 pts.

With time ticking, at 2:18 the RC fired a warning signal and hoisted a Z flag (20% penalty of over early) in an effort to ensure the fleet would get off cleanly and allow for a final race.  This time of day was also when the Ebb tide would be the strongest, not helping to keep the fleet behind the line, and as the starting gun went, it was followed by a General Recall flag.  As the fleet headed back to the starting area, everyone waited quietly to hear the boats that were visible to the RC.  Even though a start is a general recall, if it is under a Z flag, or a black flag, the boats visible will be penalized even if they get off cleanly on the next start.  If you are poked out, or near the pin or boat end, chances are you will get nailed while the boats who are over early buy not visible, do not get penalized.  The PRO came over the radio and announced the numbers of the boats who would carry the 20% penalty into the next start…”The following boats were OCS…Bow 77 (Roxanne)…Bow 49 (Full Throttle)”

2 Boats? That’s it?  You call a general recall and can only get 2 boats out of 32, one if which is currently leading the regatta?  With time ticking down even further, the RC scrambled to get the boats back to the starting area in time for the 2:30 deadline. One more general recall, and a race could not be started and Full Throttle could forget about the Z flag and be crowned World Champs.  At 2:28, the RC fired the warning signal for the final race with a Black flag (DSQ for being over early) hoisted instead of a Z flag.

3, 2, 1, Gun.   The fleet made its way upwind and waited for a call from the RC… “All, clear.” Full Throttle would now need to add 6 pts to their finishing score.  All 3 contenders made a break for the left side with Rougarou and Full Throttle going deep into the left, and B Lin eventually getting to the top right.  The left side looked decent before the start, but as the race progressed, the left did not pay and Rougarou and FT would struggle to be in the top 10 at the top mark while B Lin made out big on the top right side of the course and would sail away to a 3rd place finish in the race.  FT battled hard to take 11th (17th with ZFP penalty), and with a final reminder of how hard this fleet is, Rougarou ended the regatta with a 31st.

When the final gun sounded, B Lin crossed the finish line shortly after and from our position mid-fleet, we could see the celebrations beginning to take place with the sails on the Italian boat fully luffing as they exchanged high fives and hugs in front of a mass of photo boats.  What a feeling.  Quiet, silent envy on our boat. Complete, delirious satisfaction on their boat.

I would have liked to have been typing this blog with the Samba being one of the main characters, but it was not meant to be.  With more questions at the end of the event than we ever could have imagined, it is time to re-tool, re-group, learn from this event and move forward to the next one.  There is no doubt it takes a massive effort to win a world championship, and that is one thing we were not lacking on the Samba.  From the shore team, to the sailors, full effort was made by everyone for an entire year to give ourselves the best shot to win.  That is why a World Championship is so special…you can do everything it takes to win, and still end up mid fleet.

Stay tuned for some media from the Worlds.  There are some awesome video and photos of the great racing, and of same big collisions.


September 24, 2010

With high hopes of ridding ourselves of terrible finishes on Days 1 and 2, we entered Day 3 on the Samba feeling good about our ability to have a good day and have a respectable finish to an otherwise frustrating regatta.  Up to this point throughout the season, we have always had above average speed both upwind and downwind and when it came to have inches you need to cross a boat, or being bow out at a mark rounding, it has never been a problem. Either everyone in the fleet has become a lot faster in the last 3 weeks, or we have slowed, but whatever the answer, we do not have our normal wheels that we are accustomed to on the Samba, and it has made for a very frustrating, difficult week of racing.

In an effort to get an edge on the rest of the fleet in Race 7, we were especially aggressive on the starting line and found ourselves punched in front of the fleet by a 1/2 a boatlength and charging up the beat.  The only problem was that we were over early, and with a “General Recall” occurring in the previous start with a “Z” Flag hoisted, not only would we need to clear ourselves from being OCS (On Course Side, prior to the starting signal), but we would also suffer a Z Flag Penalty (ZFP) which meant that in addition to being in dead last after restarting, that we would also incur a 20% penalty of the total fleet added onto our score for being over early after a general recall. We managed to sail a good race and get back to the high teens, but with an additional 6 points added to our score, it was not pretty, nor encouraging where we were at after the first race on day 3.

The second race of the day would provide another opportunity for us to return to our usual form that we have raced at many times this year, but as we rounded the first mark in 4th place with plenty of room around us, it is just plain and clear that we do not have the speed we are used to.  And when you are racing against some of the best sailors in the world, you better have speed because calling tacks in this fleet is not easy.  After rounding in 4th, we slowly declined both upwind and downwind to finish an frustrating 9th place and another mediocre finish to another day at the worlds.

The head scratching continues on our boat and the questions get bigger as to why we have been one of the fastest boats all season, and with the flick of a switch, we are all of the sudden below average when it comes to speed.  Yes, there is no doubt that the fleet has become faster and better, but at the very least we should be just as fast as the rest of the group.  I am out on answers, and I am now left with more questions about our upwind and downwind speed than I ever could have imagined.

The good news is that being a competitor in this fleet is that we get an up close view of what is happening at the front of the fleet.  With only 2 races remaining, the World title will come down to who beats who with B Lin and Full Throttle.  With good friends on each boat, it will be great to see this battle unfold on the water, but I cannot help give the nod to my midwestern, American friends on the FT who have been sailing great, loose and fast to secure the title.

As for the Samba, we are already looking forward to improving for the 2011, 32 Worlds in Palma, Spain and hoping that the full moon this week is the answer to our poor performance. Melges32.com for full results.  Off to the Horseshoe…maybe being a bit dusty tomorrow will help our performance.

UP NEXT – Melges 32 Pre-Worlds and World Championships »

September 14, 2010

After a quick 36 hr stint at home and a few loads of laundry to wash away the remnants of the E Scow Nationals, the bags were repacked and it is off to San Francisco for the beginning of what will be a long 2 weeks in preparation for the Melges 32 World Championships.   The 32 Worlds will mark the end of a very busy 2010 season, and will also be the final regatta in the 2010 circuit for the Samba Pa Ti Melges 32 team that has been working hard for over a year to make a run at the 2010 World title.  With a quick look at the crew list for the Pre-Worlds and Worlds, it is very apparent that winning will not be an easy task and whichever team walks away with the title on Sept 25th will not only have had to sail extremely well, but will have to have some good luck on their side.

During a World Championship regardless of the class of boat, there is always a heightened sense of anticipation and excitement as the regattas and days tick down to the actual event.  Rumors swirl about what is fast, who is sailing on which boat, and who has the latest boathandling technique that make doing a gybe-set in 25 kts a cinch.  It is very easy to get caught up in all of the hype and the biggest challenge it remain focused on your boat, team and what it will take to sail well individually.  Not only is there good natured excitement on the dock, but there will no doubt be some very negative aspects that emerge from this World Championship.  There will be some measurement infractions, redress hearings and some hotly contested protests that emerge from the water as was seen during the 2009 Worlds when eventual Champions Bliksem won a hard fought protest with then 2nd place boat, Team 93.  Bliksem would go onto win the worlds, but had the protest been decided differently, they would have had a hard time taking the title.

But all of the above is what separates a World title from a National or big name event.  The Worlds is the ultimate pinnacle of the racing season which relegates even the best and most competitive regattas leading up to the event as simply “training”.  I have been asked by several of my non-sailing friends what it means to win a world championship.  My response is it elevates you to a level amongst sailors that is achieved by very few, much like winning a Super Bowl, World Series or Stanley Cup.  Sailing of course presents a different challenge since you are not competing against one playoff team at a time, but in the case of the 2010 worlds, 33 teams all at once loaded with the worlds best sailors.  The scary thing about this event is that if you find yourself in the back of the fleet, it will be just as challenging as the front of the fleet.

As for the Samba, we are feeling as good as we reasonably can with our settings and preparation, and the only thing left to do is…execute. Sailing clean tactically and boathandling wise will be a huge key to success and if we can manage to stay out of the fray on the starting line, near marks, and avoid any “majors”, we should be able to put ourselves in a good position headed into the last day.  Upon arrival later today (Tuesday) in SF, we will take care of weigh in and head out for a brief shakedown sail in preparation for the Pre-Worlds/Rolex Big Boat Series which begins on Thursday. Just like the Cal Cup a few weeks ago, teams will be pushing hard to sail well in this preliminary event, but will be careful not to tip their “hand” and give away any of their speed or boathandling techniques.

Stay tuned to 42marine.com for the inside scoop from racing at the Melges 32 Pre-Worlds and Worlds. The Pre-Worlds take place Sept. 16-19, with the World Championships Sept. 22-25.

Event info can be found here.  Event preview from UK based OffShore Rules here.