by William Brooks
The Rio del Plata race course was always going to be a big challenge for a young team with very little experience of big fleet racing and dealing with courses with current. Racing has been very tricky with huge emphasis on the starts and positioning for the correct shift on the first beat. The starts have typically involved one or two U flag starts invariably resulting in general recalls then straight into a black flag start and usually another general with multiple OCS’s. The current across the long start line has put massive pressure on the starting strategy. Many of the kids have paid a big price for pushing the limits too hard at the start. The first beat has also proved a massive challenge for our kids. The left seemed to be paying on the first two days whereas on the third day the right seemed to start paying, the effect of variable wind directions and shifting current across the course. Results on the first leg are determined largely by the start coupled with a sailors positioning for the one persistent shift for that leg. This has been a real challenge for the kids.
Three days of fleet racing have now completed the qualifying series dividing the fleet into gold, silver and bronze divisions for the remaining three days of the Championship. Overall positions for our team are Alexander 116th, Arin 154th, Campbell 191st, Jemima 202nd and Elsje 203rd. Alexander will race in the silver fleet for the remainder of the Championship and the rest of the team will compete in the bronze fleet. All these fleets are highly competitive and holding positions in any fleet will be a big challenge.
Forecast for the remaining three days of fleet racing on Tuesday, Wensday and Thursday are looking ok. Good conditions on Wensday may be interesting with stronger wind and heavy rain, this should add a new dimension to the racing.
All opti sailors arrived at this Championship equal, some just a little more equal than others. A few teams like ours are campaigns driven by parents with no major direct involvement by national or class associations and certainly no corporate sponsorship. The other end of the spectrum are teams like Germany, Singapore, Spain and Holland which are essentially professionally managed sponsored campaigns which form the base of the national youth sailing programs in the respective countries. These teams typically arrive at the venue a week early having shipped all their equipment including boats to the host country. These kids are semi professional and travel the world as the national team going to all the major opti regattas. Team management includes coaches, strategists and logistics managers. They have dedicated equipment suppliers who are represented at the regatta to provide any logistical support needed. These are the teams that seem to dominate the leaderboards. Whilst it is unlikely Team SA will be heading in this direction any time soon, it certainly does give one a clear indication of the level the sport is getting to and what we need to consider if we wish to compete at the sharp end. I am sure our brains trust will be thinking about some of these issues after the racing is completed.
The team racing started yesterday and the final rounds will be completed later today. Team SA had a tough draw coming up against Spain and Turkey in the first round. This proved to big a huge challenge and not unexpectantly we ended our team racing campaign early. The positive of this was the team now has time to rest, regroup and energise themselves for the final days of the competition. Today we head off for a visit some of the sights of Buenos Aires and tomorrow the kids have a beach party day with all their new friends from the regatta. All is good in Argentina!
For some excellent media videos and other stuff check out www.optiworlds2014.com