Day 3 of the Alex Caviglia Bluewater Classic brought challenging conditions to the 30+ formula sailors lining up for the final races of the 2009 North American Championship.
thanks to Miami windsurfing for the photos
With a 10:00 am first possible start I left the dock at 9:30 with plenty of time to spare. I did my usual pre-race warm up, checking both sides of the course, the starting line and any weather patterns moving in. So far, it all looked tame with a 8-12k breeze from the SW. Port tack was favored but I got buried as I ducked a few starboard tackers and was in the lee of Gonzolo up the first beat. I tried to sail to the right side of the course, sparing with Fernando Martinez 42 and Steve Sylvester S3. It seemed whomever got further right and to the inside, got lifted and had the advantage among us as we advanced up the first beat. Sherman, Gonzo and Diaz rounded well ahead with Fernando on the F2 Z following. I knew I had an advantage downwind with the 12.0 as we lined up before the races and I was deeper and faster than Fernando on his 11.0. Slowly I reduced the distance between us and at the bottom gate split tacks with Fernando to go back to the right side up wind. Unfortunately there were plety of holes and Sylvester caught up with Fernando digging for gold in the opposite corner. Sylvester and I battled it out but I let him take advantageous of the inside lift and he got ahead as I had to double tack the top marc. Off the wind, there wasn't enough time to catch up but made sure I covered 42 and finished 5th.
Missing from the action was nearly half the fleet as they left the dock late but amazingly got redress at the end of the day as the dock master stated the AP flag would be up until they arrived but somehow the race started on time without them. Technicalities are always part of the game and not to be taken lightly!
Thanks to the Shakealeg flicker feed!
Race 2 heated up with more wind on the water but the 11.8 north was still the call as the holes were still big enough to need plenty of power. I got off the line well on starboard fighting with Sylvester the whole race just edging him and Kern out on the last leg. Again it was the pros in the top 3 conditions with lots of separation between them and the rest of the fleet.
Finally by the time race 3 got around the wind had increased to 18-22k but was gusting up to 28k. Gonzo was the only one able to sail in and rig down while the rest of the fleet was stuck on the 11,0 and 12.0 rigs. I thought this was never going to work as I struggled with the sail and control of the board. During the countdown, nearly half the fleet was knocked down, trying up uphaul their sails in the pre-start moments. Somhow we managed to start on port with a group of 10 sailors making their way up the first beat. Suddenly, I heard my harness lines stretch and then snap... I was in the water looking down at a broken harness line! Game over.
Well at least it was the last race but I was pretty frustrated knowing that these were the conditions that favored me so much. I hastily made my way back upwind with out a port harness line back to the harbor. (That's the last time I never sail with out spare line in my harness!)
Without a doubt, this was a great regatta that let me realize my light air skills that Ive developed all season racing in Europe had finally made some difference.
I also got the chance to see and tune some of the new gear for 2009. Despite not being able to race with either the Maui Sails or the new North 2009 sails, I was impressed by both during the sessions I took before the regatta as well as seeing them and speaking with the sailors on them. The big changes in then north program include a shorter boom and higher aspect rig- giving a good advantage upwind. The draft is a bit further back and might be a more technical sail than previous years but still plenty of potential once powered. The Maui Sails have jut the opposite feeling with a softer feel and longer boom length. They power up quickly and provide more low end grunt. I think both sails will require plenty of rider input to make them go fast.
Also new in my program was the gaastra vapor board- an all around comfortable design making it easy to sail both upwind and downwind. There were no marketing gimmicks such as removable plates or air tubes to complicate the design- just plane and simple fast! I was equally impressed by the guys who had the Mikes Lab L8- a much improved well rounded version of the 2007 L7. You wont hear anybody complaining about this board and its a shame more people dont take advantage of the wonderful design and craftsmanship Mike Z provides.
Finally, there was the fins. Some of the top sailors are using more powerful 78 cut down fins to provide more lift while others rely on 72 cut down fins for better balance of speed. With the wider tails on the boards, its becoming evident a bigger fin is needed for lighter conditions to keep the board powered. Kashy is still the fin of choice for most but the Ifju fins show some real potential with a few of the sailors going very impressive on Peters design.
Thanks again to the organization as well as the rest of the Formula sailors...without you, it would just be a reach back and forth. Thanks for the challenges- especially from the strong Miami fleet of Formula sailors who have been pushing hard all winter long!