May 9, 2013
After a 3 week break, the Melges 32 fleet is back in action for the 2nd stop on the European circuit in Porto Ercole, Italy, a 2 hour drive north of Rome. Between now and the Worlds in September, the fleet will only get bigger and tougher and as more teams pour in from the US, Japan and other parts of Europe. 21 boats will be lined up for this event, and with talented teams like Inga and Yasha Samurai joining the mix with the already tough group, we are going to have our hands full improving on our result from the first event.
The good news is that our team on Celeritas has made steady upward progress during our time together thus far, and if we can get off the starting line and sail clean, we should be able to put together a respectable finish. Owner Malcolm Gefter has done a great job of making the commitment with time to get to the events early, put in 3 solid days of practice and do what it takes to ensure the team is competitive with our equipment and resources. Our spinnaker trimmer from the first event, Dave Doucett, broke his clavicle a few weeks ago in a kite boarding accident, and filling in for him will be former Melges 32 Worlds Champ and experienced trimmer, Willem Van Waay who should be able to lend some good knowledge for our downwind speed.
The sailing in Porto Ercole is very similar to that of Gaeta with a mountain jutting into the ocean on a point of land that has a huge effect on the breeze. With a light seabreeze that tends to fill in the afternoon, but does not get high enough to go over the mountain, our racing area is subject to winds that wrap around either side of the hill, and leaves patchy, changeable winds in the middle of the course, and stronger breeze on the edges. Depending on where the RC sets our course, we will have to get a bearing on the effect the hill will have the breeze and how to best take advantage.
As for the town, Ercole is a major upgrade from the blue collar town of Gaeta at our previous stop. The people are nicer, the town is quaint and much cleaner, and when we head back into the harbor after sailing, the small hills that slope into the bay are covered with colorful buildings flanked by fishing boats that provide an idyllic Med setting. Just off the dock are a line of cafe’s that provide a nice lounge for all the sailors to imbide in cappucinos prior to leaving the dock, and cold beers upon return.
Our team house is set up on the hill amongst vineyards and olive tree orchards, and despite a great set-up, getting adjusted to the time change and solid sleep has been harder than preferred. It is not outwardly obvious there are farm animals on any of these neighboring properties, but while lying awake from midnight to 5am a chorus of cow moo’s and eh-awws from donkeys can be heard as if they are in the next room. At anytime, one cow will get the party started and the other animals join in, and as quickly as they start, it suddenly comes to a stop. I’m not sure what triggers the activity at such random hours, but I am looking forward to the night the donkeys are in the background of my dreams, instead of keeping me awake.
Racing starts on Friday. Results and photos can be found at Melges 32.com, and for those who prefers Apps on their phones or tablets, the Audi Sailing Series has created an app (search Melges 32, or Audi Sailing Series) with photos, video, team photos and a bunch of other great stuff…worth a download.