Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Swedish Report on French J/80 Nationals

J/80s sailing off France on Bay of Biscay(Marstrand, Sweden)- The forecast before departure from Sweden did say the weather was going to be quite challenging- wave height of 5 meters and winds from the west over 17-20 m/s. It was admittedly a little nervous situation, we would drive 250 miles just to sit on the bridge and look out on a raging sea?  But it is an outdoor sport and weather is beyond our control.  If no sailing, we know the oysters will be excellent and we could get in a bit of sightseeing in the worst case.

J/80s sailing under spinnaker off FranceOur team has not sailed together before, but we have sailed against each other many times across the race track.  This is a bit unusual for me, but it will be fun to do something else (tactics) while Lasse steers, Gitte trims and Pelle does strategy.

Douarnenez in Brittany is probably the nicest place we have sailed in, says everyone when we all arrive. After a great dinner, we look forward to the first race, but it does seem a bit windy.

At dawn on Thursday it was blowing about 15 kts, but gusting much higher, perhaps 30 kts.  It was even windier in the villages, it was raining too, so today's race is canceled. The French sailors are very unhappy, of course, even though the organizers say they must prioritize safety. A sensible decision, we think, although we would happily had sailed out of the protected harbor and into the Atlantic to give it a test.

J/80s sailing off French coastlineOn Friday, the wind has died down somewhat, so we get out and practice a little before the first start. After the start, we get going good. Up at the first rounding we're 7th with 73 boats behind.  Fun! But, the wind changes 30 degrees and those located on the other side get level or ahead of us while we get into the basement of the fleet! Ugh! But when you go planing along at 15.6 knots, it's hard to not smile!  So, for the next start, we are greatly stoked!

However, it was a tight start and when we dodge a boat before the start we collide with another boat!  Ouch! At the same time we smoke our forestay- gone!  So, when the wind is more than 10 m/s in the Atlantic we can't sail. I jump up and sit forward in the bow, holding the forestay while I get soaked to the skin-- ultimately we get towed into the harbor.

The rest of the day, evening and following morning are devoted to locate spare parts. The French are incredibly friendly and very helpful.  About 7 different sailors from other boats stay around and help us.  Finally, we find what we need in a small village about 1 hour away. By early morning the next day, everything is repaired-- thanks to our dear French friends.

J/80s sailing around windward mark off FranceNext race, we are well placed for the first beat, but a big left shift sends us down into the basement again. I have not seen such big wind shifts in the Atlantic before. And 20-30 degree shifts seem to be common here.  This place is worse than Ram in Sweden, but with fast-moving 3 meter waves!  We have some other top boats around us, there are several who have missed the big shift.  But soon, we draw level with the top boats and get a good race finish-- so it's still smiles all the way to the finish.

Today's last race would also be the last of the regatta.  On Sunday it "blew dogs off chains" and then some, so there was no sailing at all.

It is incredibly fun to sail in large fields and, although we were unlucky with the collision and weather, it is still worth the effort to get here and sail. It extends our short season and get a great sailing experience to think back to the dark winter months. The cost is not particularly high, rental boat € 1800, entry fee € 250, accommodation sleeps 4 (with breakfast) € 600 + travel. That is, about 8,000 SKR-- not bad for the experience, really!  Plus, the food and drink and friends were fantastic-- the best!  Until next time, friends!  Sailing photo credits- Jacques Vapillon