Too windy?

Big breeze brings big trouble to the Princess Sophia Regatta

Thursday March 28th 2002, Author: Andy Rice/Sacha Oswald/Peter Bentley, Location: none selected

Paul Brotherton calculated that over £10,000 worth
of damage was done in the 49er fleet today

Guillermo Altadill is a man in demand right now. The Spanish sailor of the year has been following the progress of his team mates on Assa Abloy with great interest. "I was pleased to see they won the leg to Miami, but I was sad not to be with them," he told madforsailing, while sitting in an internet cafe in Palma after the Olympic classes had been sent in for the day from the raging northerly winds.

He had just received an email from Tracy Edwards asking if he could join in with sea trials on Maiden II, the recently purchased maxi-cat formerly known as Club Med. Altadill was part of the winning crew when Grant Dalton won The Race just over a year ago. "I would like to get involved with the project, but I am waiting to see if Neal McDonald wants me for the next leg of the Volvo Race."

In Palma he has been passing on his Tornado catamaran expertise to some young Spanish and Portuguese sailors who are getting to grips with the catamaran in its new, souped-up twin-trapeze, asymmetric guise. He was hoping to do another session of coaching at Hyeres Olympic Regatta in a month's time, but is not sure if he can squeeze it in between Volvo legs. "If I'm asked to do the transatlantic leg I should really do that," he said.

For Altadill and the other sailors and coaches gathered in Palma it has been a frustrating day. All classes left the shore this morning to compete in what were going to be fresh but manageable winds. But no sooner had the sailors down the briefest of downhill rides to their race courses, than the race committee called them ashore again. What was a fast downwind ride was a hard slog back upwind, particularly for the Finn sailors.

Only the 49ers, of all classes, completed a race. It was the final qualifier race to balance up the two flights of skiffs before they were divided into Gold and Silver divisions. It was in stark contrast to the light-wind sniggling of the past two days. This was full-on, heart-in-mouth stuff as the fleet toppled like skittles at the windward mark. It was a war of attrition, and as is so often the case when the wind blows large, Denmark's Michael Hestbaek and Rasmus Terp came to the fore to win the race, one of only seven finishers. Last year's Fireball World Champion Stevie Morrison and crew Ben Rhodes handled the conditions with style, to record a useful fifth place, while many more experienced crews failed to finish on time. Seven finishers, seven rigs broken, and on the quick estimate of Paul Brotherton, about £10,000 worth of damage done in a race barely 30 minutes long.

Germany's Marcus Baur put in a protest against the race committee, saying the wind speed exceeded the class's stated limit of 25 knots for more than a 30 second period. Not according to the wind gauge of Team GBR's 49er coach, Richard Parslow, it didn't. "It never topped 22 knots while they were racing," he said, although he did admit it was probably on the limits of sailability for the skiff class. But not for a class like the 470, which gobbles up these conditions for breakfast. "I think people have a right to be pretty pissed off they're not racing in that stuff in the 470," he said. As if to prove his point, a few of the top men's teams went for a blast anyway, including Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield. For them it was a wasted day and a missed opportunity to climb from ninth overall up into the top five.

The lack of racing proved frustrating for coaches and sailors alike. Most of the problems seemed to stem from the inability of the race committee to anchor their boats. "It's realy quite dissapointing," pointed out Team GBR Olympic Manager, Stephen Park who added that up until today the race management had actually been quite good.

Although the Finn class did not sail, there was a slight change at the top, Olympic Gold Medallist Ben Ainslie was reinstated after being wrongly accused of starting prematurely in race five yesterday. Ainslie lodged a protest as he believed he was not over the line, and later yesterday evening he won redress in the protest room . Now counting a sixth place instead of an OCS (on course side) he regained his position at the top of the Finn leader board, two points in front of Atlanta Silver Medallist Sebastien Godefroid of Belgium, at his first International regatta in a class that he has only been sailing for 4 months.

The change of conditions saw some exciting sailing in the Women's Europe class. Sari Multala of Finland showed that she was the 2001 Europe World Champion for a reason, winning the race and with it the overall lead from Signe Livbjerg of Denmark. A good day for Debbie Winstanley, after rounding the first windward mark in fifteenth position, she gained places up the second beat to climb up to 4th place in the shifty conditions. Winstanley sailed well round the rest of the course to drop only one place on the last tight reach to the finish, to take 5th place and move her up into fifth in the overall scoreboard. Delighted with her result, Winstanley retired early to bed early, commenting that she had "more to do" on her fitness before if she was expected to sail regularly in such tough conditions. Team mates Kirsty Bonar and Bryony Percy both capsized in the gusty conditions, but showed good speed and sailed well to climb back into respectable positions.

The Spanish women's team of Monica Azon/Diana Cuadras/Julie Garcia dominated the Yngling class in the breezy conditions scoring two bullets, which was plenty enough to regain the lead from Annelies Thies/Annemieke Bes/Petronella De Jong from the Netherlands. Lizzie Edwards/Nicola Muller/Vicky Symmers have seen their results improve throughout the regatta, and scored a ninth and an eighth to move them up into fifteenth place overall.

Racing at the Princess Sofia Regatta concludes tomorrow.

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