2020 Sailing World Cup Round 1 – Enoshima

The 2020 Sailing World Cup series got underway today the with the start of the Enoshima leg. Throughout the pre-training, we saw three days of an onshore southerly breeze; with everything from 5-15 knots and flat water to a lumpy ocean swell. This was the complete opposite to anything I’d ever raced in at this venue, but the forecast was suggesting that this year’s regatta would experience more of those onshore conditions.

Day 1; 5-7kts S/SW + small chop + current

With the forecast for today predicting a possible sea breeze, with a light gradient slowly turning from N to S/SW. As I got to the harbour in the morning, there was significant cloud cover, and any chance of a sea breeze seemed greatly diminished. After a few hours of waiting on shore and general boat park banter, we finally got sent out to start a race at 3pm.

Race 1; After a postponement to the first start due to a significantly pin biased line, the RC shifted the pin back, but not enough to reduce the 10 degree bias on the start line. I started about 1/3 up from the pin end, but with a lot of current pushing the fleet behind the line, I wasn’t aggressive enough at the start and had to tack out of my spot almost immediately.

Despite my race plan favouring some additional pressure on the left, I sent it hard right in search of clear air. I had clear air all the way to the starboard layline, and a bit of pressure on the layline which helped marginally improve what was a terrible 1st leg. Having learnt from previous regattas to overlay the mark in adverse current, I also picked up a few places from people who failed to lay. 45th at the top.

With adverse current and light air, the only choice was to go high on the reach, which allowed me to hold 45th. My plan for the run was initially to head right, but a large pressure line to the left begged me to change that plan. I had good pressure and angle initially, but fell out of that pressure in the middle third of the downwind, which cost me ground to the pack on the opposite side. 50th at the gate.

A heavily crowded left turn gate mark caused my to do a last minute gybe to head to the right turn gate, but in doing so, my mainsheet snagged my transom (whoops!) and I had a very average rounding, which was further exacerbated by the current. Generally average lanes, and picking the wrong side left me in 50th at the last top mark.

Sailed straight down the rhumb line with good speed/pressure downwind to catch a single boat which I held to the finish. 49th.

Race 2; 

With a quick turnaround for race 2, we tried a start attempt with a heavily boat end favoured line which got recalled. The RC moved the pin end again, and we started under black flag with a somewhat biased boat end line. I started at in the middle with the plan of continuing on starboard until reaching the expected left shift – interestingly, this is exactly what the race winner did. After more poor pre-start boat handling, I immediately had to go in search of a new lane. After a short stint on port, I found something somewhat resembling a lane on starboard and headed out to the left. The left ended up paying, and I was able to round the top mark in 36th after losing some distance due to poorly placed tacks in the top 1/3.

Similar plan for the reach as the last race. This was even more obvious due to the left shift at the top mark. Held 36th at the reach mark, and headed for the right side of the run in search of better pressure. Managed to find a good lane with decent speed, and rounded the gate in 32nd. My goal for the run was to try and use accurate fore/aft boat trim and sheeting to maximum gains towards the mark – this seemed to work pretty well.

I rounded the right turn gate, and headed towards the left. There was a big left shift at the time, so a few boats in front of me tacked to consolidate, but I elected to continue in search of better air/pressure; light air favours the bold! I found both of these, along with a left shift, which helped me make huge gains. I crossed an additional ten boats or so on port, and chose to continue on the lifted tack in anticipation of an eventual right shift near the top mark. This never eventuated, and I ended up rounding the top mark in 26th, having lost about 5 boats on the layline, but a good gain nonetheless!

Same plan for the last downwind, but lost a single boat after sailing a little too much distance. 27th at the last mark, which I then held to the finish.

An okay day, but definitely a lot to work on over the rest of the regatta! Looking like some more breeze for tomorrow, so need to get my hiking legs working…

Lessons for today;

  1. Light wind pre-start boat handling – shoot up, and then try to stay head to wind for as long as possible to minimise sideways slippage.
  2. That being said, constantly moving forward pre start in an adverse current helps you stay advanced on the fleet/line.

Day 2; 20-25kts+, 2m swell

After nearly a whole day of waiting on shore due to strong winds, the race committee decided to send out some of the fleets who needed to catch up on racing after yesterday. This meant that the Finn fleet was sent on to our course, and we would have to continue waiting.

This ultimately meant that we ran out of time to get any racing in, and have three races scheduled for tomorrow. There’s a similar breeze forecast, so it should be a bit of a hike-fest!

Day 3; 12-22kts + swell

Well that was a big day on the water… Three races in full power conditions with plenty of swell.

Race 3; How to lose a good placing in three simple steps.

After my pre-start warm up, I had noticed a general left trend in the wind, and decided that the left side of the upwind would be favoured. We started under a black flag, and I elected to start towards the middle of the line in a good gap. I got a decent start, but soon lost a bit of ground to one the fastest big breeze sailors in the world who had started below me. I decided to hold the narrow lane for as long as could, and eventually tacked as the furthest left boat. From there, the breeze continued to swing left, and without any current pushing us downwind, I ended up well over the layline (step no.1). After footing in to the mark, I was in decent shape (around 17th), but as I was approaching the mark, a group of starboard tackers who had just rounded sailed downwind towards me, and I had no option but to go downwind with them for a bit before rounding the mark…(step no. 2) 26th at the top mark.

From there, I worked the middle of the downwind, but was never able to piece together any waves, and ended up getting a little frustrated (step no. 3). I was saved in the last third of the run where I was able to catch three massive waves to get me to the gate. 33rd at the right turn gate.

The plan for the second upwind was pretty simple; work the left side. I did that, but tacked a little bit under the layline, meaning that I lost a little bit of ground at the top mark when there was more pressure right on the port layline. 33rd at second top mark.

I couldn’t quite get the boat going on the reach, and ended up playing around with my sheet too much which was just bleeding pressure from the sail. 35th at wing mark. On the downwind, I had good pressure initially and made some gains, but couldn’t quite sail fast enough back to the mark, so I lost a boat. I then held on to finish 36th.

Race 4; 

A bit of deja vu for the second start, but this time I was marginally closer to the pin end, on a pin end favoured line. My start was okay, but I ended up losing my lane pretty quickly. I held to the port layline, and tried to minimise any overlaying compared to the last race. I was a bit closer to the layline this time, but still had to foot to get to the mark, but wasn’t quite fast enough. 21st at top mark.

I still couldn’t quite get the technique right on the downwind but did enough to hold on to 21st at the gate. Followed the same plan for the second upwind, but didn’t quite have the speed to hold on to the top guys. 25th at the second top mark.

On the layline, I subconciously let my cunningham off before the reach. This turned out to be a bit of a mistake. WIthout any cunningham, I wasn’t able to depower the boat effectively for the reach, and lost out a bit on speed. 26th at the wing mark.

This second downwind was the first one in which I was able ‘wick er’ up’. I was able to link up some pressure and waves to gain a boat, but also lose a boat. 26th at the last mark and subsequently the finish.

Race 5;

This race started with a bit more even line, but with the fleet favouring the committee boat end. Expecting the left to pay again, I started towards the middle of the line, but towards the left of the fleet. I ended up started next to the guy who went on to win the race, and had a good start in which I was able to hold my lane all the way to the left. I tacked a bit earlier than the previous races, with the plan of not overlaying the top mark. Initially, the left wasn’t looking too flash, but as we went further, we got some pressure and the left dialed up to bring me to the layline and round the top mark in 12th.

I was then able to get some decent pressure along the right side of the downwind, which allowed me to link together a few waves to keep me in 12th at gate. I rounded  the right turn gate, with the goal of going left again, but the breeze was already further left than we had seen on the previous upwind. After about half of the beat, I tacked to consolidate on some boats to windward, and then tacked back after crossing. The result was that I lost some leverage to the left, and ended up losing to boats who went all the way to the port layline. 16th at the second top mark.

I then held on to 16th on the reach, with a bit better sail set up keeping me going fast for the whole leg. The last downwind was generally good, as I was able to keep a close chasing pack behind me, but a few missed waves in the last 50m caused me to lose a place at the mark. 17th at the gate and the finish.

Generally, a pretty good day, but still with plenty of lessons to take away. Tomorrow’s forecast is looking pretty similar, so I’m keen to try and put together another few good races.

Today’s lessons;

  1. If approaching on the port layline to the top mark, stay high to avoid any boats rounding the mark, then wait for an opportunity to get past.
  2. If one side has been paying consistently throughout the day, protect that side at all costs.

Day 4; 14-25kts, moderate swell

Today was a day of extremely good luck, along with extremely bad luck and tough strategic choices. The wind and sea state were similar to yesterday, although we were on a different race course. Another major difference today was the influence of clouds/rain squalls compared to yesterday’s purely left hand track.

Race 6; 

Prior to the first race, I saw a left trend similar to yesterday, and expected the left to pay again today. On our second start attempt, I started in the middle of the line, which was the left of the fleet who were all racking up near the boat end. I had a killer start and was holding my lane nicely, until about 3mins in to the beat, I managed to dig my bow in to one of the largest waves I’d seen all day. This caused me to drop from 4th to 17th – according to the tracker. As a result of being bow back, I was stuck in the dirty air of the fleet, heading the wrong way. In the end, a large squall came from the right, and I lost out to all of the boats who were to my right. 45th at the top mark.

Having learned from yesterday’s mistakes, I kept my cunningham on for the 1st reach, and focussed on sailing as fast as possible to make up some ground. I got a bit closer to the group in front of me on the reach, and then really let it rip on the downwind. With the wind now gusting over 25 knots in the squall, there were boats in front of me capsizing, and most other just trying to survive the run. This was my opportunity, I got in to the brunt of the squall and tried to plan as close to dead downwind as possible, only turning to jump/avoid running in to the back of waves in front of me. I nailed the gybe, and rounded the favoured left turn gate in 38th.

Most of the fleet had immediately tacked on to starboard, but I kept going until I hit a large knock. I followed this right shift for around two-thirds of the beat, and continued to gain on all the boats who had tacked earlier. As these boats started to tack, I crossed a few and ducked a few before finally tacking on the next header to gain even more. This lefty then took me all the way to the starboard layline, where I rounded in 33rd.

With the breeze now a bit lighter, I tried my best to surf as many waves as possible on the downwind. I held my position and finished the race in 33rd.

Race 7;

Race 7 got away on the second attempt, under a black flag, but I nearly didn’t get to start the race. In between the two races, the coach who had been taking my bag told me that him and his sailor were heading in for the day. So I had to find a new coach to give my bag to, and I found Ben, the Hong Kong team coach. During the first start attempt of race 7, with about two minutes to go, I was bearing away when the universal joint on my tiller extension snapped. I thought this would be the end of my day, so I sailed over to Ben to get my bag to head home. Before taking off, I waited to see what would happen with the start, and as it turned out, there was a general recall. It was at this point that Ben offered me their spare tiller extension for the race. I quickly attached it, and even more luckily, it happened to be the same model with the same universal joint. I can’t thank Ben enough for the help! Any score is better than a DNS…

I started this race at the committee boat end (big mistake) on a 15-20degree pin end favoured line, with the plan of getting to some extra pressure on the right, and expecting the left phase breeze to swing back to the right. My start was okay, and I quickly tacked out to execute my plan. Nothing eventuated out of the right, until the very end at the layline, which I did a good job of getting to early to gain me 10 places or so on what I’d been halfway up the beat. 37th at the top mark.

On the reach, I worked a higher groove to get to the oncoming pressure first, which I then was able to soak down with. This helped me close the gap to some boats in front, and round the wing mark in 36th.

Our first downwind was a little bit skewed, and a lot of boats ended up sailing unnecessarily low. I chose to go high out to the right to try and hook in to some pressure which appeared to be heading towards that side. It took a while, and it didn’t look too flash for a while, but the pressure eventually hit and I was able to ride it all the way to the gate to round in 34th at the right turn gate.

Most of the fleet had tacked to port out of the gate, but I continued on starboard with the plan of heading to the new breeze which had appeared on the run. I should’ve taken note of the fleet, as there was a bit of a left shift which came through, but it didn’t last long, and I ended up lose quite a few boats on the right. 39th at the final top mark. I then struggled on the run to find any rhythm in the softer pressure with the waves, but managed to limit my losses to one boat. 40th at the gate and the finish.

A little bit of a frustrating day, as I was never quite able to get on top of the strategic priorities. Three more races to finish it off tomorrow, and it looks like it’s going to be a funky one, with breeze forecast from 10-25kts…

Key lessons;

  1. Make sure you double check your tiller extension universal joint before major regattas! This might even mean unscrewing it from the tiller extension, to check the whole thing.
  2. A 20 degree line bias is too big to forfeit, especially when unsure of the first shift on the beat.

Day 5; 15-20knots + wind swell

Three long races in full power conditions on the last day of a mostly windy regatta will put the will power of even the mentally toughest to the test. Today was a day which really sorted out who’s fit, and who isn’t. Unfortunately for me, I fell in to the latter category, with my post-worlds break leaving me a bit behind on fitness compared to the best in the fleet.

Race 8;

After waiting on the water for the breeze to fill, once it did, the wind shifted quickly to the left, followed by a gradual right trend. As such, I started this race at the race committee boat, with the idea of protecting the right side. I had a killer start from about five boats down, and held my lane until I had the first opportunity to tack on to port. Once on port, I lost a bit of my lane, and as soon as a right shift appeared, I tacked to head back to the middle in clear air. Once in the top 1/3 of the beat, I didn’t commit to either layline, and lost a bit of ground in dirty air. 29th at the top mark.

On the first downwind, I wasn’t able to find my rhythm in the waves early, and lost some ground to the boats who were surfing. I was eventually able to get it going, and made up some of those losses, but ultimately got caught on the wrong side of a huge pile-up at the right turn gate. 33rd at the gate.

Out of the gate, the breeze was in a right phase, so I continued on starboard until the first left shift appeared. I carried this the whole way across to the course until I hit a solid right shift with pressure. I’d made up a fair bit of ground, but a questionable port-starboard incident in the top 1/3 of the beat meant I rounded in 33rd again. I lost a few boats on the reach by not defending the high lane early enough, but I was able to claw back those places on the last downwind to round the last mark in 34th.

Ultimately, a couple more luffing battles on the last reach (one involving the same boat from the port-starboard) cost me the places I’d gained on the run. 36th at the finish.

Race 9; 

Race 9 started with a slightly pin-end biased line, but I chose to start towards the middle, expecting a right hand shift shortly after the start. The right shift came, and I was able to hold my lane well after a good start. As soon as some boats around me began to tack in the first sign of a left shift, I too tacked, but a general lack of speed and a gradual left shift cost me quite a few places on port tack. My losses were further exacerbated by under-tacking the starboard layline in to dirty air. 35th at the top mark.

Along with under-tacking the layline, when I did manage to find the layline, I failed to take in to account the change in current – which was now pushing us downwind. This caused me to hit the top mark. I did my penalty turn and lost three places as a result. I held 38th until the gate. At the gate, I chose to go to the heavily favoured left turn gate, but when performing my gybe at the mark, I was a bit slow to cross the boat, and nearly capsized. Preventing the capsize allowed two boats to sneak inside me. From there, I tried to work some of the oscillations on the second beat, but didn’t get much out of it. 40th at the second top mark.

I had a good top mark rounding, and managed to get the boat moving well to put some distance on the boats behind me. 40th at the wing mark. I kept my speed up on the run, and managed to pick off a couple of boats by sailing fast down the rhumb line. 38th at the gate.

It was then a quick reach to the finish, but with one of my competitors close on my tail and gaining, I was doing everything I could to keep the boat surfing. He’d gotten a good wave which he was able to use to soak below, and to midships on me. I thought I had him when I started surfing the last wave before the finish line, but I pointed too far down the wave and buried the bow resulting in a near pitch pole. 39th at the finish.

Race 10;

The start line for the last race of the regatta was slightly pin biased, but the fleet was favouring the boat. As such, I chose to start towards the middle to utilise some of the line bias. I had a pretty average start, and had to head right to try and find a clear lane. I ended up continuing on port, to the right of the fleet, in a progressive left shift… I rounded the top mark in 45th and very low on morale/energy.

Despite my lack of morale, I knew that I had good speed downwind, so I used the downwind to try and catch up as much as possible. I managed to gain a lot of ground on the boats in front of me, but without gaining any places. Given the huge shift on the first upwind, and the similar conditions to the second racing day, I decided to send it left on the second upwind. Despite a lack of speed from limited hiking, I managed to gain a place to round the second top mark in 43rd.

Better speed on the reach helped me to claw back another place. 42nd at the wing mark. I then tried my best to bridge the gap to the boats in front of me, but I wasn’t quite able to catch them. That being said, reducing the gap from 50m+ to 20m wasn’t a bad effort.

Lessons from the day;

  1. Fitness in 15-20 knots is probably the single most important factor, along with the ability to keep racing at your best at the end of a regatta.
  2. If tacking with the fleet, consider delaying your tack a bit longer to give you more free space on the next tack.

This was one of the hardest regattas I’ve ever done, both physically and mentally. That being said, it was a great experience to race in a gold-fleet quality field, and I managed to get some decent results along the way.

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