Hosted by Cercle Nautique Caledonien (the CNC yacht club)
The RPAYC team of Juliet Costanzo (Skipper), Alistair Read (Mainsheet), India Howard (Trim) and Antony Hawke (Bow), accompanied by Angus Gordon as stand-in coach for Tommy Spithill (overseas at a different regatta) arrived in Noumea on Monday the 13th after the usual delayed flight and settled into their billets on yachts at the marina. While all 4 of the team are accomplished sailors they are a young group representing the future potential for RPAYC Youth Development. This is their first overseas match racing regatta and it was also the first time they had all sailed together. The other competitors range from about the same age as the RPAYC crew up to seasoned veterans of 40 years +. It is an open regatta with a youth component but all ages are in together, so there are some very tough competitors.
Tuesday was practice day and the team was fortunate to get both a morning and an afternoon session, which allowed them to practice in both of the potential course areas. There were some “interesting” tacks and gybes, not to mention quite a bit of discussion but their skills developed at warp speed during the day. Kite launching and recovery technique was “exciting” with coach Angus wondering just exactly what was going to happen next. The Elliot 6s are more tender than the Club’s 7s and the kite work is very different making it hard for crews not used to the 6s, particularly in stronger winds.
Wednesday was the first day of the regatta with the 12 teams sailing in 2 sessions using the 6 Elliot 6s owned by CNC. The breeze was 8 kts early on, building to 12 kts by the end of the day with a progressively building choppy seaway (racing was on the open ocean course). The team ended the day with a credible 3 wins and 4 losses however the result could have been very different.
In the first race they dominated the pre-start and looked like getting a brilliant start, but unfortunately they crossed the start a mere 2 seconds ahead of the gun only to have to return and re-start while their competition smoked off into the distance. They recovered to sail an excellent race finishing a boat length behind their competition having progressively hauled them back.
In the second race their start was much better and they were clearly in the lead when their traveller control rope broke and they were not able to maintain height upwind. Excellent downwind control meant they caught up and finished overlapped but unfortunately behind.
The third race was well put together and they had their first win.
The fourth race was again close but, having lead to the first mark the spinnaker launching and gybing downwind, on the first downwind leg, let them down, and they finished on the heals of their competitor.
The fifth race was the real disaster. Having established a lead, well ahead of their competitor they wrapped the kite so badly that it took all of the downwind leg, to sort out. Not only the kite was wrapped but also the kite sheets had tied up the bundle! This was their biggest loss and disappointment having had the race “in the bag”.
But, being the excellent competitors they are they were not phased so put together two very controlled wins in races 6 and 7.
Hence, while they finished with 3 wins out of 7 races, it was very close to being a very different story. The team really showed their potential and their maturity by recovering from some potentially very demoralizing situations. They ended the day in great spirits fully realizing just how close they had come to a very different outcome, and how much they had learned.
The day started out relatively light at 6 to 8 kts but built to 15+ during the day with a steep chop in the late afternoon. Again racing was on the open ocean course.
The RPAYC team was in the first flight of the day and then had a rest till afternoon.
In the first race of the day the team had an excellent pre-start and ended up forcing their competitor over early at the start so developed an early break while their competitor returned to the start. First work was well controlled and they rounded clear ahead by 10 boat lengths…then it happened!! Their nemesis (the kite set) took over and they wrapped up the forestay like a Christmas gift. Needless to say the competition sailed past with their kite drawing beautifully. The second work was good and they picked up well only to round the top mark and “wine glass” the kite. By the time they had that sorted the competition was well ahead and crossed the line about 12 boat lengths ahead….A bit of a chat ensued when the crew handed over the boat and returned to the changeover boat to await their next race several hours later.
By their second race the wind was already a gusty 12 to 15 kts with a nasty chop. They were up against a good competitor who trapped them at the pin end and put a penalty on the RPAYC boat. However they recovered to actually start well (good pre-start technique and calm heads) so rounded the top mark in clear first place. They surprised everyone, including themselves with a good kite launch and set (had worked things through during the break on the changeover boat. Unfortunately they sailed high angles down the run and allowed the competitor to just break through. Having rounded the bottom mark they quickly hauled in the competitor who had to tack away……and then broke their boom. So the RPAYC steamed off into the distance, exonerated their penalty and recorded a win.
Their third race again saw a penalty scored against them by an aggressive competitor. It was really just a short loss of concentration by the RPAYC team because generally their pre-start was good and the penalty was a very close call. For the first time they were slow upwind (this got sorted out in the debriefing by the coach and team after racing was finished for the day and was mainly due to how they were driving through the chop). Rounded about 8 boat lengths behind but had an excellent kite set (problem fixed by the crew sorting things out), and a good fast run to close the gap. Although covered upwind by their competitor they actually closed up further and had a brilliant kite set, and downwind run, to steam right up to the competitor on the finish line but unfortunately they still had the penalty turn to do and they were not overlapped so couldn’t force the competitor off enough before the competitor crossed the line.
The third race for the RPAYC crew was the last for the day. They came into there own to show what they were capable of against a good competitor. RPAYC gained a penalty against the other competitor in the pre-start and won the start. Although conditions were “testing” they covered well upwind, although a bit slow again due to difficulties handling the short chop. Still they rounded the top mark first and produced their best kite set of the series and “romped” downwind till near the bottom mark when their last gybe nearly resulted in a full laydown. But they recovered in time to round ahead and again showed their skill on the next work to round well ahead. Again an excellent kite set and several well managed gybes saw them cross the finish line clear ahead of their competitor, to “notch-up” their best win of the series so far.
So, at the end of the round-robin RPAYC had 5 wins (and several near wins!). All very happy, learning a lot, very relaxed, and some very complementary comments from seasoned match racing competitors.
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