AIRCALIN Match Racing Regatta in Noumea
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 August, 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 line 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, and convincing wins in races 6 and 7.
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 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.