49er Worlds. RSA Wrap-up and Thanks to All Supporters

49er july 2014Graeme Willcox reports

The last day of the worlds served up the best sailing conditions we experienced in the 3 weeks we were there. We had a 15-20 knot NE with sunny skies.

The gold fleet set off first to get their 3 races in before the medal race contenders were decided. We launched for a 12h30 start. We had a great 2-sail reach at full pace all the way out to the starting area where the FX gold fleet were just finishing off the last of their morning races. After a test beat we went on to change a couple of settings on the rig to help de-power us as the wind was getting up a bit, and with extra chop we needed to be able to get the bow down and go fast in these conditions.

The first race was set off with quite a port biassed line, we found a good spot near the pin and a good lane for the long port leg up to the weather mark. This was because there was a fair amount of tide running. We got to the top mark in the mix and set the kite for a wild ride downwind making sure not to trip on any of the steep chop. Unfortunately we stumbled during the gybe and went for a swim. We recovered well and we’re going well on the next lap when we made the same mistake on the gybe and swam just before the finish. We crossed the finish line ahead of some boats, not as good as we could have been.

The second race was postponed while a kiwi boat was untangled from the committee boat anchor line. Once the AP was lowered we got off to a good start at the pin with enough gap to take us ahead of the pack on to the long port leg. Due to a small header up to the weather mark, the boats below us benefited and crossed us into the top mark. We had a straight set and bombed down to the leeward gate. The good news was that we had learned from our mistakes in race 1 and pulled off good gybes for the rest of the day – hence no more swimming. We had a good rounding at the gate and headed off on port to leeward of the pack heading for the short starboard layline. We made some good distance here, but then ended up falling short on the starboard lay and having to double tack, which is normally not a problem except I managed to get the jib sheet wrapped over the tiller extension. No time to clear it we hoisted and headed down the run. Went through the gybe and had to then sort the sheet. Once done we headed down to the finish.

The third race was a similar affair to the previous two, port end start and then drag race to the weather mark. We had under estimated the damage done to the sails in the big blow on the Thursday. And with a stretched kite luff we were very slow downwind, but managed to position ourselves to reduce any losses in positions, but difficult to maintain distances when in clear air. We finished the day with 25,18 & 17 to leave us 52nd overall.

To pick up a race win has been a highlight!

So with 6 days of racing under our belt in varying conditions. We have come away from the event having learnt a lot about rig set-up and general race management during the time we were out in Buenos Aires. It has been a difficult venue which we were prepared for, but nothing like actually getting stuck in to learn the hard lessons.

Most of the time we sailed in very ‘weak’ sea breezes where clear air is hard to find on the crowded race course, but so much more important because the effect of the dirty air is emphasised in the soft sea breeze.

We came to the regatta with the hope of qualifying for Rio 2016 Olympic Games. There were 3 places available and an additional spot became available because Australia and New Zealand had already qualified, so the Oceana spot defaulted to this regatta. By the end of the event the spots went to the teams who finished in 3, 4 & 9th – which means the Poland, Germany and Argentina teams got the slots. The 4th spot went to Croatia who finished just outside of the medal race. If the African slot is not claimed, then this will the go to the next country on the results at this regatta, who is Belgium.

Finally, this campaign would not be possible without the support of our family and loved ones. Tiff and the boys and Lizzie for their unconditional support to pick us up when we are down or to push us to go out in the sub-5 degree Celsius winter days, it just wouldn’t be possible without you. A big thank you has to go to everyone who has supported us along the road and it is very humbling when people put their hands in their pockets and support our dinners or CrowdFunding page. Without all of you it would not be possible.

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