Day 4: A Close Finish

published 10/06/2013

Friday’s racing was cancelled – the cliche ‘dogs off chains’ would have been no exaggeration with reported gusts of plus 30 knots ripping through the Gulf of St Tropez accompanied by some of nature’s best with a fantastic lightning display and a torrential downpour – all fleets remained securely tied to the dock and all crews enjoying a second ‘lay day’.

Saturday dawned fairly bright and clear, as the boats left the dock it wasn’t 100 percent sure that they would even get a race in, the front had left a ‘hole’ and it was hard to predict when the breeze would fill in. The forecast for today was not entirely as predicted, it was meant to swing to the west, and ended up coming out of the south – a much more preferable wind angle, with around 15 knots.

Sea state was choppy and confused, this added to the challenge for the J’s today as the big sea way completely changes the ball game and makes even the basic sail changes challenging. There may have been more than a couple of green faces as the Race Committee held off the start of the race to wait for the wind to settle in, “it just wasn’t that comfortable out there” remarked one crew member.

Tensions were high for the last and final race of this 2013 season – with Velsheda and Hanuman on equal points, this regatta could have gone either way; a no race scenario today would have meant a win for Velsheda on count back.

The competition today got under way at 1.40pm and was an approximately 24 nm two lapped triangle course, with a start off Pampelonne beach with the last leg finishing the fleet in front of the city walls.

Up on the start line all 4 J’s vied for position and crossed the line in the clear, the tussle was mainly between Hanuman who managed to roll Velsheda making her ‘the meat in the sandwich’ with Lionheart who had the best start as she was left to sail free.

The first windward leg towards the lighthouse was taken by Lionheart who had chosen to go right and inland, the two battling Js headed left with Hanuman covering Velsheda tack for tack up to the first mark.

Hanuman led Velsheda on the first mark rounding and looked set to extend their dominance on the next reaching leg, “The race was going exactly to plan until literally things started to fall out of the sky,” stated Hanuman’s helmsman Kenny Read when asked to describe their change in fortunes, “Our A2 split, then the lock broke on the Code Zero, and whilst we gathered back the sails on the decks we went from having a one minute advantage to two minutes behind – with Velsheda sailing so well at the moment it basically cost us the race and the regatta.”

Hanuman got back into it after the initial knock back, but without a Code Zero on the reaching legs meant she was at a disadvantage. Lionheart had a fantastic sail and took line honours, “it was definitely our day, it was an easy win as Velsheda and Hanuman were match racing each other, but still well deserved” said one of the race crew.

Shamrock V has been having a fantastic regatta, “it’s been great fun” stated Captain Nick Ryan, “We didn’t have the best day today, we blew the A2 – there was a serious amount of choppy water which kept landing in the skirt of the sail dragging it down and it finally popped – with no replacement we were forced to retire.” Like many, Nick is thrilled with the recent resurgence of interest in the J Class and the growing fleet. “A few new sails and we can easily start sailing more competitively and back on our rating. We have loved sailing here and have had an awesome week albeit with a slightly different set up to the other J’s as we are on charter.”

The day finished with a prize giving ceremony aboard Velsheda. The Owner thanked and congratulated all the J’s – Owners and Crew – in their participation in what has been a highly competitive 2013 season; from St Barths through to St Tropez racing has been hugely exciting with all of the J’s taking turns at leading the pack.

The race schedule continues in the Mediterranean next year.