Brits Continue to Dominate International 14 Worlds
Published on August 28th, 2016
Carnac, France (August 28, 2016) – The Carnac Yacht Club was filled with a sense of purpose this morning. Boats were quickly rigged, and rigorously checked for any signs of wear which could lead to a breakage. Whilst all this was going on, whitecaps were beginning to develop across the bay, and the conditions were shaping up for what would later be referred to by Andrew Perry as a “big boys day”.
The only people not caught up in this air of nervous excitement, were the American possy, who were up to their usual antics and cracking jokes; these guys are good under pressure.
The launch was uneventful, and the fleet were able to reach out to the course, where 18 knots of wind was blowing from a south westerly direction. The boats flew around pre-start, testing out the conditions, which were tricky to say the least. The windward shore was far enough away to allow for a substantial fetch, meaning that there was big chop rolling around the bottom of the course, where the 14s were trying to start.
However, the 14’s showed their sailing pedigree as the fleet came together at the gun, and struck out left across the course. Big gusts, combined with the sea state made for a gruelling physical upwind leg, and the crews took it in turns to go swimming.
As the boats began to close in on the windward mark, it became immediately obvious that the big breeze had bought with it changes in the leading packs. First round the windward mark were Neale Jones and Ed Fitzgerald, closely followed by Roger Gilbert and Ben McGrane, Archie Massey and Harvey Hillary; notably Glen Truswell and Sam Pascoe were missing from their usual spot.
Throughout the first beat the breeze had been slowly picking up, and boats were exposed to gusts of 20 knots and above from the top mark. As the overpowered skiffs careered downwind through the steep troughs and over the crests, crews and helms did everything they could to remain attached to their boats, and to keep the mast pointing the right way up.
Once at the bottom mark, there was still no let up from the risk of capsize, as the boats fought their way back upwind. Changing direction was risky business, and few escaped the frisky waters as dinghies came off the plane and ventured to tack through the wind. At this point, not only were the boats having to dodge the numerous buoys around the course which Lindsay Irwin insisted had “some sort of magnetism to boats,” but they were also having to avoid upside-down 14s, and sailors-come open water swimmers.
Half way through the race, Massey and Hillary pinched the lead from Jones and Fitzgerald who dramatically stacked it through a tack on the second beat. This put Jones and Fitzgerald in third, and back in amongst the pack of Aussies and Brits chasing the leaders. However, the young duo weren’t hanging round, and were back off within a shot. Whilst the drama was unfolding out on the race course, a steady stream of boats were being stretchered off the course due to breakages, capsizes and injuries. The fact that over 25 boats didn’t finish the race was testament to the extreme conditions out on the course.
Jones and Fitzgerald showed their true colours in the second half of the race, and won back their lead to take a hard earned, well deserved first as they crossed the line. They were followed shortly after by Massey and Hillary, Krstic and Lanati who took second and third.
Back on shore the boat park was buzzing with the thrills and spills of the days racing. Once changed and fed, crews hung out outside the yacht club with their well-earned beers, exchanging adventures and stories which will be revisited and recounted again and again over the decades to come. Other sailors, spent from a long days racing chose instead to retire early for a quiet afternoon, to recuperate and recharge batteries for what is looking to be a technical, light wind day tomorrow.
Racing for the 76 teams is scheduled for August 26 to September 2.
Report by Ellie Meopham