Light airs start

Red Funnel Easter Challenge sets sail on the Solent

Friday April 10th 2009, Author: Louay Habib, Location: United Kingdom
The Solent served up some challenging conditions for the 64 yachts entered in the first day of the Red Funnel Easter Challenge, organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club. For Race One, the Race Committee set two courses for the fleet in the Eastern Solent in the vicinity of the Hill Head plateau. The larger boats in Class Super Zero (SZ) and Zero (0) were sent on a cascade course of approximately 16 miles, with a similar but shorter course of 11 miles for the smaller classes.

Getting a good start is always important, but even more so in light airs. Clean air can mean a couple of knots more wind than the competition, but relative to the low wind speed, that can be a massive advantage.

“The yachts that got away well, took a long run into the start, hitting the line with pace.” Commented RORC CEO, Eddie Warden Owen from the race course.” In these conditions, starting at the favoured end of the line is not as important as getting clean air. The yachts that were too early or got hemmed in, scrubbed their boat speed which is always difficult to recover from in light winds.”

World renowned sailing coach, Jim Saltonstall added more astute advice for light airs racing. “It was a day for heads out of the boat looking for the best breeze and more importantly, avoiding the holes in the wind. Concentration is also paramount in light airs with a change in conditions always on the cards. Opportunities will arise and that means that there are always chances to make gains. Looking down the track, there was evidence of better breeze, thicker cloud cover and darker patches in the water. In light airs it is very important to look for signs of breeze and to be prepared to act on them when the wind arrives.”

Toe in the Water, the A40 skippered by Paul Anderson and Little Toe, the J/80 skippered by Alex Tucker both nailed the start in the middle of the line and were well ahead on the water by the second beat. Getting away cleanly is so important in light conditions as it allows you to go where you want on the race course.

By 1600 today lack of depth was a big issue and the wind direction had become unstable. Principle Race Officer, Jamie Wilkinson shortened the course for Race One and had no option but to call it a day for the competitors. No doubt there will be plenty to discuss at the video debriefing after racing.

Full results here

More photos on the following pages...Barbarossa

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