It is good to be racing again!
It seems forever since I have done any international class racing and the “rust” showed. Simple decisions can make all the difference and my decision making was perhaps not what it should have been!
Being out of practice I decided that it was definitely worth doing the Practice race and the conditions were glamour. Indeed, it turned out to be the best conditions of the whole regatta. Big waves and a strong sea breeze kicked in at 15:00 like clockwork. I picked up the boat from Jean-Luc Michon the day before the practice race. It actually belonged to his daughter Pernelle. We collected our Australian boats in Melbourne at the same time. Therefore the boat was only 1 number different from my boat at home and with my sail, tiller, and South East sailing ropes (plus Gareth Griffiths traveller) it felt exactly the same as my boat at home.
Unfortunately, the conditions were not to last. On day one the heat arrived but not the wind. Luckily, the Race Officer kept us onshore. Indeed, I never put my rig up or got changed. Day 2 we opted for an early start in the gradient wind but not early enough. The breeze died less than half way through the race and we were towed in. It became a long day. We went to the water again for the sea breeze which finally arrived, but light, lighter than expected, and my 3mm wetsuit meant I ended up a cooked Jon, maybe even with very marginal heat stroke. How different from Poland… it certainly affected my decision making.
Not one to repeat the same mistake if I can help it, the next day we again had light winds. I just wore my Neil Pyde Sailing Hiking shorts… not even a 1mm wetsuit. With my core temperature now pretty much normal it was great: score 1,1 and I felt I was back in the Championships again [it is never a good idea to sail your discard on day 1].
Day four could not have been more different. Huge waves and very strong gradient wind. My plan was to keep it simple and stay out of trouble. It didn’t work! The first race I started by the committee boat to ensure a clean lane. I slowed to a windward boat who was trying to come in a non existing gap to keep clear but to no avail. They reached hit, wrapping their sail around my head, capsizing on top of me somehow with their mast under my bow. I didn’t have the heart to look at the tracker to see how long I was stuck there but it felt like 2.5 years! Fortunately, a big breeze meant big differences in speed and I was able to pull through to 3rd.
The next race I took a very conservative start and pulled through to lead at the top mark and take the win. As the waves continued to build the number of swimmers also increased. Indeed I encountered one swimmer near the windward mark as I prepared to round it for the second time. Never the less there were smiles all round but perhaps a small amount of relief when the Race committee decided not to hold the 3rd race.
The final day and all I seem to remember is current, even though the gradient wind was relatively strong still. I got the port layline wrong on every beat. It seemed strange to be pointing at the windward mark and still being overtaken by people further left than me (where the current was weaker). Despite this I won the first race but somehow made the same mistakes in the 2nd race when on the final long beat both the closest boats came past me. I passed them on the reach and sailed away downwind.
Having already won the regatta with a race to spare on the short beat to finish I decided to try and keep away from 2nd and 3rd and avoid tacking on/covering either of them if I could as they were fighting for the Silver medal. They split left and right, whilst I went more or less up the middle, crossing the middle of the finish line only to be pipped to 2nd once again by the boat which went hard left. You know what they say, nice guys finish 2nd or maybe I was just a slow learner that day. Certainly, it seemed to be the most tide I had seen all year!
Jon Emmett has over 20 years of coaching experience from grass roots to Olympic Gold.