Wind speed: 28 knots true gusting 35 knots.Sea State:
Big Ocean swells with 5 knots of adverse tide producing waves ‘like a French and Dutch 'NO’ vote.Race area:
Beat up mile-wide, deep fjord-like trench with nasty rocky shoreline each side followed by bare away into open water with wind changing in speed and direction as being deflected by massive cliffs.
The crew meeting at the dock of the bay will be a silent affair, silent that is from the point of view of that the crew will not be chatting to each other over the whistling wind and the constant fast-tempo of the flapping coming from the sponsor's flag.
And this will be just the marina! The conditions in the bay will be far worse and in the downwind leg the wind speed could be even greater out from the shelter of the bay and at the mercy of the wind being funnelled over the cliffs; this days racing will be on the edge of being called off but no news from the Race Committee so out they go!
The initial warning signals will be replaced by denial, so yeah this one will be on the edge of being called off. Some of the yachts will be keen to get going though and will start performing windward and leewards in front of the committee boat. A nutter of a bowman will climb the rig of another boat wearing a sponsors flag like a superhero’s cape and will performs a dazzling display of jumping around the rigging, including a fantastic trapeze-like loop the loop around the forestay, the others will be barely able to watch him without wincing.
And all the time the wind will be howling, it's warm, which will be a great blessing but it will come as some surprise when the 10 minute gun goes off, with all the antics on the yachts perhaps they will want to get it going before ‘Mr Incredible’ (Chirac) up the rigging does himself in.
The start, well, it will be a real ball buster, they will be pretty close to the line with height and speed in clearish air but will be getting biffed around on the rail like a kangaroo shagging a space hopper. They will all see it coming on the Port and will assume that it must of seen them, the 25 footer on port tack is cutting through the waves like a chainsaw through Camembert, it will have seen them all right but the guy on the main will just freeze. The helmsman will be grabbing at shitloads of wheel trying to alter course and screaming his lungs out but the main will still be barred up and the big bow will be heading straight for them. At the last second the helmsman will span the wheel the other way and crash tacking the boat into the wind to avoid the collision which would have smashed the boat into matchwood.
After four of five tacks with the wind speed whipping up over the 30 mark and with wet decks and spray everywhere, the grinders will be bleeding through their eyes and mercifully they will see the weather mark up ahead. The foredeck guys will get off the rail to prepare for the kite hoist they will be sliding all over the place and getting a right old hosing.
"Standard bare-away set in the breeze". They better make this a good hoist. The bow crew will indicate that the set is good and will wait for the helm to call the hoist.
“HOIST!!” will come the Shriek from the helm, a real urgency in his voice, if they are late on this they would lose, big time. The rest of the crew will have the usual wrestling contest to get off the rail and into position. Just as the mast man will start to haul on the halyard they will hit the big wave knocking him off balance and the yacht will put a good 10 degrees back towards the wind, she will be well and truly loaded up now and the kite will be beginning to fill only half way up.
“SHIT!”, will say the helm, bit by bit his head will tilt upwards as he finishes the sentence….”He’ll… never…. get it…. up now”. With his final words the kite will hit the top of the rig and the burly mast man sat down by the mast. “No dramas” the giant of a man clasping his massive hands together, he will nonchalantly reached for a Perrier
water and his Gaulloises
. The tactician and helmsman will allow themselves a quick chuckle before the sheet and the guy will come on, launching the boat downhill.
One of the competition will hoist them and will in close quarters but another will elect to round the mark with their headsail still aloft, “yellow bellies”, they will think as they catch the first wave and scream down it, the rig rattling as they come to the bottom, white foam all over the place but then it will become clear what the "yellow bellies" were up to.
The 25 footer, that had nearly cut them in two was dead last on handicap but was rounding shortly after them and had hoisted its massive 500 sq metre kite. The smaller yacht will hop on its quarter wave and hitch a ride and will be coming up fast. There will be little they can do to halt their progress they had been concentrating on their own yacht handling in the difficult conditions. Within minutes they will be through them and gone.
Still, they have another yacht for company (after all this is just a tidying up exercise) and they will match each other for speed down the run, the mast man will now be pumping the kite from the primary and two grinders will be pumping the main by hauling on the sheet at the top of each wave. The wind speed will be a constant 35 knots gusting 40 and a mile or so from the end of the downwind leg will be a huge gap in the cliffs, they will literally see the wind screaming out from the hole, it would be a 50 knot gust, easy.
The navigator will come up from below and announce that the course had been shortened this will be the leg to the finish. The tactician will then announce that they would be dropping the kite before the monster gust. He hopefully will be right, 100 metres ahead of them the 25 footer with its piggy-back companions will been hit by a gust like a haymaker and the parasite clinging onto her will sail straight into her kite, her spreaders ripping it to shreds.
“Get ready to drop!” the helm will say. The foredeck crew will get into position to retrieve and the mast man will gently haul the headsail into position.
“LOSE THE SHOOT!” Will scream the driver.
Off will come the sheet and guy and the halyard will smoke through the jammer but only for a second or two as the halyard casing will bunch up in the jammer, she will stick fast, with lightening quick reactions the middle of the boat will put on both sheets to control the kite, the kite will only dropped down a few feet, there will be no way of getting it down without losing the halyard.
“GET A KNIFE, NOW!!” the tactician will scream.
The pitman will produce the panic button from the hatchway and without hesitation nick the 3bn worth of line, you wouldn’t see it exit the jammer it will be travelling that fast, all you will hear is the “CRACK!” As the halyard hits the base of the carbon mast like a perfect wet towel flick and shot skyward.
The bow crew will have a bit on now, the kite will fall towards the waves, if they went over the kite they would be up shit creek without a paddle, in an instance most of the kite will be down the fore hatch and with the help of the mast man the head of the kite will be hauled out of the water.
They will reach through the line to take the gun and they will all breathed a sigh of relief. The last drop will be something of a mongrel, but they will have sailed the perfect race, do they want the same tomorrow?Do you find bear shit in the woods.