Day 2 of the Allianz Dragon Grand Prix saw all the 65 competing boats slip quietly out of the old harbour in Cannes at around 11.00am yesterday morning. After making the two mile trek over to the bay of Golfe Juan, sailors were delighted to find some unpredicted wind, as the forecast was for hardly anything all day…  Local specialist from the Cannes Fleet, FRA 342 Gerard Blanc called it a “Bonus” wind as all the competitors made their rig & sail adjustments to suit the ever changing conditions as they prepared for the start of the first race of the day…..  After the usual general recall with nearly half the fleet over the line! the first race got away under a Black Flag just before 12.30. In fact when I say “got underway” many of the boats in the middle of the fleet struggled to cross the line on starboard as a left handed shift bought a huge bias to a port tack. This enabled boats at the unfavoured committee boat end to tack immediately and sail parallel to the Island straight up the race course…  whilst others had to hold their poor starboard tack going “nowhere” for some time……..

The three boats who made the most of this quite major wind shift were RUS 35, SUI 297 and GBR 716. As they sailed high on port tack away from the fleet to the right of the course they then must have thought all their dreams had come true as a right hand shift then “banged in” from the sea…………. This allowed Victor Fogelson to helm is “Sunflower” RUS 35 around the windward mark in first place and hoist his yellow and grey spinnaker on the dog leg before some boats had realised the starting gun had gone!!! Victor was closely followed by Norbet Stadler SUI 297 and Gavia Wilkinson-Cox GBR 716..

Because of the right hand shift at the top of the beat, the first run then became a reach. So the race tends to turn into a procession as it limits overtaking opportunities and indeed this was the case as these three leading boats sailed the rest of the course to finish in that same order…..   So the course for race two was soon adjusted and a start given at around 2.45pm in which the fleet was recalled again! So out came the “Flag Noir” and the Race Officer crossed his fingers and hoped for a clean start, but No! ANOTHER general recall..  Now the problem then is all the boats that are seen as OCS have to be disqualified… Not only from that race, but subsequent re-starts of that race (should it be called off).        

Many sailors feel this is simply WRONG, because not only have competitors paid a great deal of money and given up a lot of time to be there, but they are all there for the “Racing” and being sent from the race course like some naughty school child, whilst the rest of the fleet enjoy a beautiful race, sucks!  It is far far fairer for the Race Officer to “AP” the start at about 15 seconds to go. (if he see’s a load of boats going over), and then re-adjust his line. But, this did not happen and so 14 boats were sent back to the marina to ponder over their mistake and wish for another chance……….   Rough justice……..

Anyway back to the racing, the second race did eventually get underway sometime after 3.00pm and both sides of the first beat seem to be paying.  It was really on the first run that the leading pack made a jump and that quite simply came from an early gybe onto port, as the wind seem to come from the Island side of the course as the boats made their way down to the leeward gate.  RUS 34 this time helmed by Vassily (without the Blonde wig), led at the gate closely followed by 2001 World Champion Malte Phillip MON 9 (who won a testing Worlds in Hornback), so is used to difficult, shifting winds. Then right behind was Gavia GBR 716 having the day of her life in another 3rd position………..

At the top of the second beat in a dying wind the course was sensibly shortened and despite a late surge by Ivan Bradbury GBR 375 and Mick Cotter IRL 213 the top three boats held onto their places………. This gave Gavia the overall lead after a superb two 3rd places in her “Brand New” out of the wrapper Petticrow… The event is a long way from being over with 4 more races still scheduled, but Gavia will have dinned out on her success yesterday, and quite rightly so, two top three places in consecutive races in a 65 boat fleet of this standard, is no mean achievement…  Congratulations to her and crew…..

Higher, Faster, Longer……………..  Stavros.  (GBR 375).