As we closed in on the end of our training block here in Barcelona and few other teams started to arrive on site and we ended up with a very nice little fleet to come together at the end of the day and have a bit of racing. In the predominantly light winds Nikki and I were going really well. The wacky conditions were great training for us and trying to get the most out of an unsettled race course was hard but very rewarding. It was the perfect way to end a great couple of weeks training and we packed the boat up very content with the hours and progress we had made over the period. Having put up with me for 2 weeks straight i decided i was only fair that Nikki got some light relief, and so I dropped her to the airport for a brief spell at home.
My next adventure was only just starting, and after waving good bye to Nik I headed for what is no fairly hallowed ground. After many regattas in my youth, and the annual olympic world cup, I have come to know Hyeres in the south of France pretty well. Though this time would be a bit different. I was meeting Jon and some of the other members in the phantom project for our first competitive event. We came from all over the place, I drove from Barcelona, Hugh and Jon flew from London, and Jay drew the unfortunate short straw and drove the van and trailer from Plymouth. Having had limited time on the boat it was all a bit of a work in progress, but we were just looking forward to lining up against a few other teams.
Lucky for us Phantoms most experienced team decided to attend the event so we knew we would have a good reference. These boys have been sailing the boat for the last 2 years and have been with the project from the beginning so we knew it was going to be hard. On day one of the 3 day regatta, it was pretty windy, to the point where the other phantoms decided not to sail, but lucky for us we had a support boat, so we thought it was as opportune time (warm water, and sunny skies) as ever to get some experience in the windier conditions. A couple of the Nacra 20 foilers came so we weren't completely alone. After a quick swim before the race started, we managed to sail the boat all the way round the long distance course, we learned a huge amount as we went and due to the slight lack of competition finished as first foiler. We returned to shore with the boat in one piece but most importantly our confidence boosted a little bit!
Day 2 wasnt quite so sucessful, but not because of any of the teams efforts. We launched into a quickly building breeze and by the time it came to racing it was windy, really windy. We flew up wind with the more experienced teams, keeping pace, and even a bit quicker at times. As we reached the first windward make along side the other boat, out jib clew connection gave out. After a few minute wrestling with the wildly flapping jib, we managed to drop it, and decided it was probably sensible to cut our losses at that stage and return to the beach to prepare for the next day. As it happens the race committee had the same idea and 5 minutes later the race was abandoned and everyone joined us ashore! and that was it for day 2.
For the final day of the regatta the committee arranged a long race covering most of the bay. It was always going to be tricky as the sea breeze was due to take over from the gradient. We made a great port tack start and flew up the first leg where the breeze was most stable, having led around the first mark, we pulled out a healthy lead on the downwind leg, just managing to stay on the foil when others couldn't. But then it got wacky! we did everything we could to stay in the breeze but it was impossible to read. Having lost, gained, lost again, and regained the lead we were leading into the finish line. But with the breeze filling from behind the others we inevitably catching quickly. We tried everything to get up on the foil alas we were just in too lighter wind and by the time we got there 1 boat had slipped though. We had to settle for second. After the initial disappointment Jon and I were really happy with the result, we were fast that was for sure! when the breeze was stable we were always pulling out our lead or reeling in those ahead. We have been inspired to work harder on the boat handling side of things as there is no doubt huge gains there. As we packed the boats up back onto the trailer, a number of people commented on how incredible we (mostly the boat) looked on the water.
Currently i have just arrived back in Barcelona, I have 2 days before nikki gets here, so alongside some jobs on the boat i aim to have a bit of a rest. We have our coach marcus joining us on thursday and from then on its full tilt through to the europeans next week!
As ever thanks for the support and putting up with my very poor grammar!