by Graeme Willcox and Andrew Tarboton
After a long winter of boathandling training, we packed the boat and van up and headed south. 2 ferry trips and 1000 miles later we arrived in Palma early on a rainy morning. Once disembarked and heading in the general direction of the yacht club, we got the satnav address entered and got to the venue.
Personally, it has been a while since I have launched off a sandy beach and it brings
back fond memories of sailing in Durban and launching at Vetchies. Once we had off loaded and found a coffee, the registration office opened and we got all the admin done in hope of going for a sail. But we decided against this when we were polishing the bottom of the boat and having to hold onto the boat to make sure she didn’t take off. So once clean and polished, covers on to keep the sand off, tie the boat down and off to find Mark and Robin Saddler’s house. With only one U-turn we found it!
We are very grateful for their hospitality by putting us up for the week while we were in Palma, as well as showing us around the city on the day after the regatta.
The Sunday dawned with the wind lighter, the practice race was run with one start and both 49ers and FX fleets together. It was very light and quite flat, which was nice conditions to sart off with. Most of the fleet carried on after a general recall, we did too, had a good spot above the top French team, which was a good gauge for our speed and height in those conditions.
Monday came round and we were split into the yellow fleet, wind strength was similar to the previous day, but with a change in direction, a large chop and underlying ground swell. This made holding station on the start line tricky, after getting into trouble on the first start, tactics quickly moved to gaining ground back, this worked well and by the second beat we were up in the mid fleet, but a large wind shift on the last run pushed us to the back. It is pretty humbling to start a regatta with a last. On the up side, it can only get better. We going into the second race, all our focus was on getting off the line, it was marginally better than race 1, but still an early exit which lead to having a number of top teams tacking on us as we tried to get to clean air. By the top mark we had got back into the pack and stayed there losing a couple of spot through the race due to small mistakes. It only takes a duffel tack and that is 5 spots, never mind a bad mark rounding. And once you have lost the ground, you can’t make it back, you have to chip away at the teams just ahead and wait for them to make a small mistake. By the end of the day, we were well down the results.
Dispite our focus not being on the results, it is always the measure by which people will rate how your regatta has gone. Waiting for the wind to fill in On the Tuesday, the wind had gone round to the east, and after a wait for it to build it filled in slightly more than Monday, twin wiring this time. But with this direction, the wind is coming right off S’ Arenal, which makes it very switchy. This was a great days racing. With snakes and ladders for all teams during the day. With some better starts, we managed to race in the fleet, with loads of position changes, we had a better day. The last race was the best, with almost half the fleet descending on the finish line and finishing within a few boat lengths.
For Wednesday, the fleet were split into gold, silver and bronze. We were in bronze, and for Wednesday, we were waiting on the beach from 11h00 for a race course to free up, but having watched all the other fleets having a great days sailing, we waited until the AP over A which cancelled racing for the day.
On Thursday, we were up first, with the silver fleet using the 49er course, we were sent out to the Finn course. This was great, except it was blowing 20 knots and enormous waves. Again this reminded me of Durban, and hadn’t thought that they would send us, but off we went. We did our practice beat, and run back, the boat felt great and there were a couple of guys with big smiles on their faces. After a quick unintentional dip in the sea, before the start we got off the line in a great lane and were off. Got to the top mark in the top bunch, bore off, Andrew got the kite up in a flash and then…. It came down again. The halyard cleat had pulled out of the boat. After unsuccessfully trying to tie the halyard around trembling and a number of other ideas, we ended up sailing off wind without a kite and getting a mid fleet result. The second race started in a similar way, but with out the pre-start dip, and again we tried to keep the kite up. This time we managed it and had a great ride down a few waves until we had a spectacular swim down one of the waves. This put us just outside the time limit at the end. With this they sent our fleet home as a dark cloud arrived over the course and the wind built. We got in safely, through the building surf. Once in it was all about watching other teams try make it through.
The FX fleet was not so lucky with 5 boats coming in with broken rigs
and one of the gold fleet 49ers. Once all fleets were ashore, then the racing was cancelled for the day.
Friday arrived, this time the bronze fleet was waiting for a course. At 16h30 we launched, destined for the 470 course. With a slow and light drift out to the course area, we waited for some wind. Then we started in a light westerly and just after the start, the wind went left and the race officer canned it. After another 5 General recalls due to wind changes, and moderate south westerly filled in and we got 3 great races in. With the extra starting practice from the recalls, we had three great starts and in the bunch racing hard. With some time we will sharpen our racing tactics and manoeuvres and keep the positions, but this racing was exciting, close and some of the best I have done. We had three mid fleet results with the last race our best result of the regatta. Nice to end on a high.
We learnt more than we could have imagined in our first World Cup event, and this result pushed us up the world ranking to 121st. A long way to go, but with only two events counted we are positive for the future. This event would not have been possible without the support of our families, our sponsors and all of you who bought a raffle ticket in our fund raiser! Thank you.
Our focus is all on building up towards Santander in September. All our training and events will be stepping stones towards this event. And we will keep you informed along our journey.
Team RSA 49er
Graeme & Andrew
SLAM clothing UK
Elvström Sails UK