The course is 107 NM of open sea racing and is laid in such a way that you are more or less guaranteed all angles of sailing regardless of wind direction: upwind, reaching and downwind. Nice!
Despite the nice course, and although the time of the year is super nice, only twelve boats had signed up which is close to nothing compared to Midsummer Solo Challenge and Bohusracet that both have 100+ boats despite being longer races and despite being solo or shorthanded. This is a more formal race than other races, with Cat3 requirements etc, and maybe that is what scares people away?
The start was at 10:00 in the morning and the wind was around 23-26 knots. We chose to start with a full main and the small jib. We knew it might be a bit too much power for the first 9 NM upwind leg, but we wanted to make sure we had full power when reaching from the first rounding to Hätteberget and we expected the seastate to be too confused to safely walk up to the mast and remove a reef.
We didn’t perform very well on the first upwind leg. At times we struggled with being over powered and we had difficulties finding a good trim and a flow. At the first rounding we were 9 minutes behind Farrgo (Farr 30) and 4 minutes behind La Primera (SunFast 3600) on scratch.
Once past the first rounding we had the ride of our life!!! The wind was still around 25 knots with occasional gusts of 30 knots, the TWA was 90 – 110 degrees, the waves were big and rather confused, and we were hitting 16 knots every now and then. The foils did their magic allowing us to surf in full control at all times, it never got scary – just exciting – and both of us screamed from pure joy! The boat felt just as safe as I had hoped when I did my analysis that led to the purchase. It was a very wet ride though, the bow was never close to diving but the spray from the waves at times litterally felt like sitting in front of a fire hose 🙂
Unfortunately the conditions were too hectic to bring up the GoPro camera, it would have been epic footage, but I had forgotten to bring it up before the rounding. Lesson learnt, next time…
As we were getting closer to the next rounding, Hätteberget, the wind started to drop and we eventually put up the Code0. In hindsight we should have put it up earlier, but since the boat is new to me I tend to always play things super safe. I hope I’ll be able to make more aggressive sail decisions once I’m more familiar with the limitations and possibilities of the Figaro 3.
The rounding at Hätteberget went super smooth and we were now two minutes behind Farrgo and nine minutes ahead of La Primera on scratch, for a gain of 7 minutes and 13 minutes respectively on the leg. Considering that a large portion of this leg truly was Figaro 3 conditions I would have expected greater gains for us, next time we’ll have to be more aggressive in our sail selection and make the call to change sail earlier.
After rounding Hätteberget we immediately tacked south with the hope of finding more wind and so did the rest of the field. According to the forecast there would be a calm stretching from Hätteberget to Skagen and the area north of the rhumbline.
After a while the wind changed direction and we would almost reach Skagen if we tacked, so we tacked in order to play a conservative strategy. Trying to hit layline 20 NM before the mark seems like risky business, then there will be no wiggle room to play the shifts and currents. We were the first boat in the field to tack and as soon as the wind shifted back again we tacked and could profit massively from that lift. That decision is what put us ahead of Farrgo.
The rest of the way to Skagen we kept playing the windshifts and we were super active on the trim, finding good boat speed most of the time. The whole leg the wind was ranging from 10 to 15 knots.
At the rounding in Skagen we were now five minutes ahead of Farrgo (for a total gain of 7 minutes on that leg) and eleven minutes ahead of La Primera (for a total gain of two minutes on that leg), all scratch times without consideration of handicap. Both Farrgo and La Primera were fullcrew boats, and Farrgo is extremely well sailed (they just won Bohusracet) and La Primera has a considerably longer waterline, so we are super pleased with our performance on that leg!
Between Skagen and Läsö we started off we a really stupid decision at the rounding. We set the Code0 instead of the A2, and only God knows why we did such a stupid thing. Before the rounding it was obvious that we could set the A2, the TWA would be around 130 degrees, but we never really thought about it. Sure the wind was shifting back and forth in direction, so it was not sure that we could have used it all the way to the mark, but we should definately have given it a try from the start. This is the single worst decision that we made during the race, we were too passive and didn’t think properly ahead before the rounding at Skagen. That annoys me tremedously! I have no problems with bad outcomes as long as the decision was correct when it was made considering the information you had at hand, but a bad outcome due to lack of thinking ahead is just plain unforgivable. But it was mostly my responsibility to make the call, so I’m only mad at myself 🙂
On top of that we were also too slow to realize our mistake, and once we hade realized it and made the sail change Farrgo was ahead of us by quite some margin.
Later the wind changed direction and dropped, in a few minutes it went from A2 to jib conditions. Down with the A2 and up with the jib! A bit later the wind picked up a little and changed direction slightly, the TWA was now around 70-80 degrees so we decided to put up the Code0. Finally a good call! Farrgo was using the jib and we were closing in on them again, and by the time of the rounding at Läsö we were roughly 5 minutes ahead of Farrgo (no gain on the leg) and 15 minutes ahead of La Primera (a gain of 4 minutes on the leg), all scratch times.
On handicap we were now leading with 25 minutes versus Farrgo and 17 minutes versus La Primera.
At the Läsö rounding we put up the A2 and went a bit south before gybing. That was a mistake, we should have gybed immediately to cover our position. We eventuelly gybed and ended up on a collision course with Farrgo. Since it was a thick cloud cover it was a very dark night, and it was hard to determine wether we’d be able to safely pass ahead of them or if we should pass behind them. In the end we chose “better-safe-than-sorry” and gybed away from them for a short while.
When we gybed back we had the major clusterfuck of the race. We somehow managed to get the A2 to wind up incredibly hard around itself. We tried everything: pull the leach down hard, release the halyard a bit, gybe back… nothing worked! In the end we had to take down the A2 and run with the jib for a while until we got the A4 up.
Running the A4, a sail designed for downwind reaching in 20+ knots, on a VMG downwind in 7-9 knots of wind is not fast… that’s for sure. And we were too tired to be able to sort out the mess with the A2 even though it was in the boat, we tried but no success.
I would not go so far as saying that this fuckup cost us the race, we most likely would have lost it to Farrgo anyway since they sailed incredably well this final leg. Super impressed by their performance! But without the fuckup we could at least have given them a bit of a run for the money. In the end they beat us with almost 16 minutes on corrected time, which means a net loss for us of roughly 41 minutes (corrected) on the final leg. Versus La Primera we lost 13 minutes on corrected time on the final leg.
In the end we got 2nd place, beaten by Farrgo with 15 minutes and 43 seconds on corrected time.
What we did well
– We felt safe and truly enjoyed the mayhem ride around Vinga
– The upwind leg from Hätteberget to Skagen was very well executed, both in terms of strategy and in sheer VMG speed. Super active trimming and decisions the whole way.
– We were quite active the whole race, never entered “cruise-along” mode
What we could or need to be improve
– More aggressive decisions regarding sail changes, don’t play too safe and don’t wait too long
– Learn how to peel between sails safely. Going directly from Code0 to A2 without hoisting the jib in between would speed things up and save energy.
– Find a way to trust the autopilot in borderline conditions (like very tight reaching). Two pair of hands during sail changes will speed things up considerably.
– Master gybing to avoid fuckups. Now the fuckup frequency was close to 50% when counting both sail twists and winch overrides 🙁
– When a sail twist fuckup occurs in a gybe, gybe back directly to avoid non-reversible twists.
– We must hit the gym to build strength and stamina, sail changes currently consumes too much energy from us.
– Have the GoPro prepared so no epic reaching is missed again 🙂
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