Our great adventure in La Rochelle began with a nice practice sail in sunny 12 to 18 knots on Friday ( the day before the start of the Worlds).
Upon arrival from ORF, NY, Paris then La Rochelle, Barb, Keaton & I were a bit jet-lagged, however the beautiful regatta setting made it easy to stay up without sleep.
I had a work commitment so Dustin had arrived a few days earlier to get the boat through the measurement and weigh-in process.
I rigged a bare hull Rondar last winter from scratch and added about 6 lbs of lead to get up to minimum weight. It was a bit tense not knowing if our scale was accurate with the one used by the Worlds officials; to our delight we were within two pounds!
Things were looking good for team USA as Howie & Andy won the Pre-Worlds and many other US teams had strong finishes.
So Worlds race day one arrived with another sunny day, however, as with many days to follow, the breeze did not fill in until late in the day. The regatta took on a Cali type feel as most days were under postponement (onshore) which allowed for a leisurely approach to the day.
Tyler and Howie had the bulk of the USA boats camped at the container together along with a few Ozy’s for flavor. The camp was within a two minute walk to the local restaurants and grocery outlets and most important “The Wine & Cheese store”. This also allowed for an easy trip to buy beer for the week, each morning.
The first day had two races in a moderate sea breeze. The starting area was a bit hectic with 185 boats and another 50+ support boats. A lot of teams spent the mornings cleaning their sail windows for better vision (especially on PORT Tack).
As the week went on our results improved almost every day. Getting a lane at the start was paramount. If you could sail for three minutes in clear air, you had a chance to round in the upper third. If you got flushed you could easily end up rounding in the lower third (125th!!! or worse). Climbing back through 125 boats was almost impossible. However, if we got the first beat halfway right we would round in the thirties which would allow us to move up before we ran out of runway.
Our best race was heat #5 in a shifty 15kt offshore breeze. We gated early just above Tyler & Big Geoff. Two minutes after the start we got a nice left shift that held long enough to cross the fleet on port before it went back right. It was an awesome sight to see the whole fleet in the main window four minutes after the start! I think Team Hampton both rounded the windward mark in the top 5! Sailing down the first run we were concerned about a crack that had developed in our boom near the goose-neck (cracked booms only seam happen when you’re having your best day). Dustin did a good job jury rigging a Rope collar around the boom to keep it from splitting completely. We held to a conservative game plan trying not to tack or jibe too much and went on to get 9th! Tyler & Geoff made a gutsy call to go deeper into the right corner on the first run and move up to get 4th!
So here comes the great part: on the way in Holger spotted our boom and offered to sell us an unrigged one from his stock. However, instead of working day and night to rig a new boom, a nice gent from Hampton named Tyler Moore walked up and handed us his (fully rigged!) spare boom. That was very generous of Tyler as the regatta was only half over! The boom fit our rig perfectly and allowed us to focus on vacation instead of rigging.
So after three days of racing we felt good about our boat speed. In fact all of the US teams where sailing fast in the sea breeze conditions . Unfortunately the breeze began to fade as the week wore on. Large fleet management in light air is tricky. We felt a bit off the pace against many of the smaller teams. We could beat most of the fly-weights to the weather mark however, off the wind they were quick.
We will be hoping for a bit more breeze at the next one in Barbados!
On the social side it was great to spend some time with our international friends, many of whom have unique qualities. We learned once again to not try to hang with the Ozy’s (late night) as they are professionals in the Pub. Also, if they offer to buy you a balloon animal from a passing clown, just say no.
Andy did manage to win the USA vs AUS YC swim off, although the club manager gave them low marks for their lack of clothing.
The Brits have a unique after dinner practice of buying Rum shots for their nearest international competitors and then disappearing as the drinks arrive for the balance of the evening.
The Germans and the French still love to argue with each other on the water - mostly in two different languages!
The class camaraderie was up there with a nice boat parade to the race course on the last day honoring long time British sailor and 79 year old Jim Berry who plans to retire. Our title sponsor SAP would have none of it and promptly bought Jim and his wife an all-expenses paid trip to the 2013 Worlds in Barbados.
The French were great hosts on and off of the water.
The PRO made some great calls to postpone "onshore" when there scout boats confirmed that the conditions were too soft to start a race. This allowed us to relax out of the hot sun in the awesome SAP tent with full access to the net and espresso. Many thanks are due to Tyler for organizing the East Coast container and for providing the new Boom.
We had a blast and will forever have fond memories of 185 5o5 kite’s spread out over two legs of the course off that sea side port of La Rochelle.
Team Benchmark USA 9041