Friday, 22 April 2011

Grand Prix Italy

I felt well prepared and excited for the Grand Prix Italy, it was great to get some training in with Graeme Spense my co-skipper prior to the race. We worked well together, combining his match racing background and my offshore experience. We had good meteo and routing prepared so we were all set. Two of the big guns from the Atlantic circuit had rocked up so we knew our competition.

Race day started off with a very confusing Italian, translated to French briefing, my French isn’t great at the best of times but mix it up with an Italian slant and I had no chance.

We had some problems as soon as we left the marina, the mainsheet traveller system exploded, but we lashed a new system quickly that worked well. Then we were straight into the pre-start, but one thing I had missed in the briefing was that they had changed the radio frequency from the 74 in the sailing instructions to 72, this resulted in us being in the wrong place at the wrong time and having a less the ideal start.

We did the short up wind leg and found a good lane and rounding the windward buoy to head for Capri. After the bad start we were down mid fleet and spent the first few hours breaking through the slower boats, this gave the big guns a chance to break away. Damn it. A lot of the fleet soaked dead down wind but we sailed hotter angles to cover the faster boats, placing us 3rd. As night fell a large front came in over Capri pinning the lead boats and meaning we had to sail upwind around the island, so the guys that soaked early had a much better angle.

We rounded Capri 2 sail power reaching in 20 knots, Graeme’s first experience of what the minis all about, I came up from napping down below and asked if he was okay, I got a huge smiling, soaking wet Aussie staring back at me say “I love it”. As the night passed the breeze clocked we had some time with the code 5 and then to the big spi.

Day 2 was great fun, perfect mini conditions 25 knots, big spi, surfing downwind, neither of us slept much as we were having so much fun. We cover around 200Nm and arrived at the bottom mark off Sardinia around mid night. Rounding the mark we worked out we were 3rd still due to radio check in schedules.

The 3rd day was on the wind crossing east back to the Italian coast and the Island of Ginnutri that I race around a couple of weeks ago. We had some good tactical decisions and lifted to the mark perfectly from below the rum line. Then began the long upwind slog back to Genova passing to the east of Elba.

It was painfully light and dead upwind, we had large patches of no breeze at all just work to get every little big of apparent wind and in the sail to keep moving, this really takes it out of you, even more than big breeze physical conditions. We both got very tired but covered each other well and fought through to the final day.

This ended up being the most testing of all the days we only had around 50 miles to go and we did the last 10 miles at 1 mile an hour average, we could see the finish line for 6 hours and just couldn’t make it. Boats started to appear on the horizon but were never a real threat, as they had to cross what we had just done, but it still plays tricks with your mind.

We finished 3, never clawing back the bad start from the 2 guns. We were in many hours before the next boats got in. So generally very happy, a great result in a big important race. I am keen to do some post race analysis of the tracker to work out where we went wrong with the system on the first night, but tactically we sailed a strong race.

Currently I am writing this from in the lorry with the French truckers heading back to Pornichet for next weeks race.

I got a small amount of video footage but unfortunately my gopro ran out of battery early on and so the quality isn’t great and I couldn't use my non waterproof camera on the big breeze day, Will is kindly going to work on something again when I get all the files to him. I will post when done

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