Firstly my friends, Weymouth has the most excellent facilities for sailing, both on and off the water. With ample car parking, loads of space to prepare boats and for trailers to be stored, a very nice clean Marina with efficient and effective craning facilities, the WPNSA (Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy), have it all. So it is an excellent venue to host both the Edinburgh Cup and then the Dragon World Championships later in the year…
Now 0n the water…..Day 1. Race 1, was started before the “natural” sea breeze had fully settled in. This meant there were “holes” in the wind all over the course, which were not easy to see or more importantly avoid. With a nice long starting line and a substantial port bias (although a wind bearing taken by GBR 633 just before the start showed a starboard bias!), it seemed obvious to me that we should start at the PIN end and tack onto port at the first opportunity. This we (USA 310) did along with the current European Champion POR 55 and all looked good for the first few minutes, until boats that were in our mainsail window, suddenly started to move forward on us….
Why? Well in my opinion, there was a difference in both tide and wind pressure as like in any bay, it normally pays to head for the shore. As the “leeward” boats headed upwind with nearly all of the fleet on a port tack, they were rewarded with a slight wind bend and more current. Boats that tacked onto starboard and continued out to sea, were soon falling back from the leaders. GBR 633 Ron James, crewed by his wife Julia and top Tactician Mark Pettitt, were the lead boat after they judge their “layline” approach to perfection coming all the way from the right hand side at the top of the beat.
Mark told me about his wind reading before the start (being a starboard bias), also he had noticed a difference in the tidal flow on the inner part of the bay, also he realised that after rounding the windward mark in 1st place they should gybe immediately to get back towards the shore and “more” pressure. That is why he is a “Top Tactician”… So GBR 633 held their lead until strongly challenge by GBR 758 Klaus Diederichs, crewed by Andy Beadsworth and Jamie Lea, who nailed the final gybe with a superb angle into the gate. This gave Klaus (who won the South Coast Championship) a nice “jump” on the fleet and he continued to lead the fleet to take the winning gun on the next downwind leg. Incidentally although the second beat was shortened, the left hand side paid handsomely as the wind was now more consistent across the bay.
Race 2. Now that the wind had really settled in and a full sea breeze covered the whole bay, it was time for the line bias to determine which end to start and which way to go. By that I mean, take the bias and tack as soon as possible to put what advantage you have in the “bank” and cross the fleet. To that end, GBR 720 Julia Bailey, POR 55 Jose Matoso and USA 310 Ted Sawyer all did exactly that. The three of “us” started well and after four to five minutes of sailing on starboard GBR 720 was able to tack and clear pursuing starboard tack boats. POR 55 had to wait a little longer before tacking then USA 310 followed, these three boats were soon to be established as the race leaders, crossing the whole fleet comfortably.
As the windward mark came clearly into view, the wind lifted slightly on port which gave USA 310 Ted Sawyer and nice boost to his port layline approach. This enabled him to tack below POR 55 and GBR 720 and lead around the top mark. With his 80th Birthday just around the corner next week (July 5th), Edward Sawyer forgot his disgruntled manor after a poor finish in race one, to take on a smile that reached across his face from Weymouth to his home in Florida :-). With tide no longer an issue and equal pressure across the bay there was no need to gybe into the shore, so all three lead boats just set their spinnakers and headed down towards the leeward gate.
On the remaining two upwind legs, USA 310 continued to play the left side of the beat’s and despite a late short tacking duel with GBR 720 Julia Bailey, Ted held his nerve with his “Poker Face” (Dark Glasses and Peaked Hat), to take the winning gun by a whisker…. What a way to celebrate his 80th birthday, sailing at the very top of this competitive game. For me, as his tactician, helper and good friend all I ask is to still be alive at 80 !!
Higher, Faster, Longer………… Stavros. USA 310.