Competitors arrived to a sodden YC Carnac, the mornings continental style storm leaving in its wake a UK style summertime vibe, 16 degrees and grey. I therefore expected the brits to be rubbing their hands in expectation but a few days of holiday sunshine and restaurant food had clearly weakened their resolve and softened their minds. The Dutch, by contrast were doing star jumps to the boom box which was pumping out some dubstep, those boys also enjoy the breeze and it was blowing a healthy 25-30 knots at around 9 a.m. but was predicted to soften throughout the day. Marc Dieben did some press-ups, not because he has the physicality of a triathlete and not brought on from smoking something aromatic, it was being videoed to send to the UK Class President, Patrick Burns, their personal battle for supremacy has started before they have hit the water.
There was some frustration as time ticked by, the 11.00 start time delayed but we have raced in stronger breeze than the 25 knots on the course. I believe the postponement was due to the large sea state rather than pressure so we patiently waited, warming our hands and sipping on the perfectly prepared YC Carnac coffee.
Patrick, our PRO finally lowered the AP at approximately 12.45 and a surge of enthusiasm and anticipation swept through the fleet. albeit with a few who were feeling daunted by the still angry sea.
I hopped aboard my media rib, skilfully positioned in the higher tide by my pilot, Mademoiselle Claude who clearly has the necessary PB2 cert and we powered out to the start area.
The windward mark was positioned somewhere around 065, I had failed to make note of the actual real-time compass bearing but later in the day it would be moved counter clockwise to 050 and then 035 so 065 is my guesstimate.
I positioned my rib in the safety triangle just forward of the committee boat, sods law therefore decreed that the pin end would be favoured. The wind strength, 18-22 knots by my estimate and the waves were erratic in direction and height.
Clean start and the fleet are fully powered up, the taller, leaner sailors are enjoying the test but you have to be fit too and at the top it is Tom Gillard, all 5 ft 6 of him who rounds with a slim lead over Menno Huisman and Ian Hopwood with Tim Law, Iain McGregor and Chris Brown completing the top five. The choice of windward/leeward course was slightly disappointing for me as I could have had some epic photos from what would have been an exciting reach and gybe but “Ce la vie”.
At the leeward gate Gillard still led with Law going deeper and claiming second from Huisman, Hopwood and Brown. The flying dutchman improved to first at one point on lap two but Gillard was able to get back through on the last downwind to claim his first bullet of the Championship from Huisman, Law, Hopwood and Brown.
The breeze had dialled down a notch and was now around 18 knots as the fleet set off on race 2.
I positioned myself at the pin end and was rewarded with a great view of the fleet as they lined up for the start and with 10 seconds to go I would have called a general but the PRO called ‘all clear’ which was a relief for the 30 or so who were not, IMO!
You couldn’t get a cigarette paper between Law and Gillard and with the fleet tacking onto port in unison it was all over for those at the Committee boat. Chris Brown, Inland Champion, led into mark 1 with Law and Gillard on his heels, Huisman, Hopwood and Van Horey completed the top five. Brown had reverted to the settings that saw him win the Inlands back in 2021 and it was clearly helping.
Law gained the inside line by the gate and the leading pack headed left as the wind tracked that way too.
The breeze was softer now and keeping the hull powered up through the steep wave patterns while holding a lane was essential. Law took a few small headers and extended by the top of lap two which provided him with much needed breathing space on the final leg. Huisman, Horey, Gillard and Brown completing the top five.
The pin end was busy again and it was no surprise when the general recall rib whizzed off but the main body if miscreants were in fact mid line so, though it is of no consolation, a pat on the back for all those unlucky sailors at the pin end.
The re-start under the black flag was deemed all clear, Ted Bakker nailing it on the pin end as the breeze continued to die. Clearly the left was good as Bakker rounded the top mark first from Paul Bartlett, he of the yellow hulled Winder, Roel Den Herder, the Dutch Solo Chairman, Roger Lumby (who was having a stormer) and Mark Lee. Other guys we do not mention as often included Roger Guess and David Greening so a strong Salcombe presence then.
The run was tedious and fickle with the fleet splitting left and right in an attempt to stay in pressure and out of the wind shadow presented by 60 odd Solo sails.
Bartlett sunk low and gained the lead at the bottom of the leeward gate, I was unable to video so my reporting of who was where is not without error so sorry to those I do not mention. I had been busy holding a large board with the new compass bearing as the wind had tracked left and a temporary buoy had been dropped at 035, the previous position being 050.
We waited patiently for the last Solo to pass through the gate before powering up to windward so I could catch up with the action. My pilot took us so far left I assumed we were at the wing mark of a triangle course, the diminutive milk bottle bopping up and down like an exited child at the circus but it was in fact the new windward mark. I moaned and exhaled, it was going to be one of those races.
The leading pack had gone further right and seeing the fleet beneath them reach into the mark must have made their eyes water and their stomachs lurch. The big winners were Jack Lewis, Alex Butler, Brown and Gillard, names I did not think I would be mentioning in this race report.
Bartlett, Bakker, Van Horey to name but a few were pretty unlucky to be fair, the temporary mark was barely visible and blended in with Carnac town’s backdrop perfectly.
The drama was not over though as the leading three rounded the bottom gate to the finish line. Lewis initially went low, then high to defend against Butler but Gillard, his head in the moment was able to dive under them both, gybe and duck the line like Usain Bolt never had to. So, Gillard, Butler, Lewis. Brown took fourth ahead of Innes Armstrong who will be chuffed with that result in the bag.
The wind died completely and we were sent to shore before later enjoying a BBQ which was obviously lost in translation as it was like a pork and potato stew.
Patrick Burns once again presided over the prize draw with Mark Harper of Rooster assisting and there were some great Rooster prizes, most of which would have gone to the Salcombe fleet but unfortunately they had gone to a venue much more salubrious though we had spotted them hanging around an ice cream vendor earlier this week.
Winners did include Justine Davenport, Annabel Jones-Lawrie, Innes Armstrong, Shaun Welsh, Chris Brown and Tom Gillard who seemed particularly made up as the Rooster water bottle holder fitted perfectly to his scooter.
A big thank you to Rooster for your prizes and super event T-shirts.
While the results posted included a discard, this is a mistake and all the results count until tomorrow so Gillard leads with Brown, Law and Butler tied for second.
The forecast (which, as I write this at the end of day 3, I know to be correct) is forecast to be light so anything can happen!