Too windy to race?

Andy Rice worries about racing tomorrow on the classic 12m Flica

Saturday August 18th 2001, Author: Andy Rice, Location: United Kingdom
There's going to be no gentle introduction to the America's Cup Jubilee regatta. The forecast for the Solent on Sunday is for fresh to strong winds from the south-west. For a race in a classic 12-metre like Flica II, which I am navigating this week, you can interpret that forecast as fresh to frightening.

Maybe the adrenalin of lining up against 18 other classic 65-footers will distract from the inherent dangers of racing a boat that is designed to look good more than to be raced hard. Christian Scherrer, one of our team of professionals who is currently employed as part of Russell Coutts's Alinghi Team challenging for the next America's Cup, has ordered a set of new Spinlock blocks to be bolted into place on Flica's pristine wooden deck. Function over form is what he is looking for.

Flica's German owner, Alex, cringed when he saw the power drill spinning through his beloved deck, but Sunday's conditions will demand more brawn and less beauty from the boat. I think we will be thankful for any help we can get from our equipment on the boat.

We went out for a little sail this morning on an increasingly crowded Solent as ever more yachts go out for some last-minute practice. You have to keep your wits about you in these boats. The graceful motion of these enormous classic yachts disguises the rapid speeds at which they travel, and an extra pair of eyes in the back of your head would be pretty useful. The organisers have placed a huge emphasis on safety this week, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some major damage at some point in the next few days.

Most of my day has been spent in the classroom, going to local expert Peter Bruce's tutorial on the navigational hazards around the Isle of Wight - in preparation for the round the island marathon on Tuesday - followed by a briefing on the Sailing Instructions, followed by a more intimate gathering of the 12-metre skippers and owners.

Dean Barker, John Bertrand, Torben Grael et al were present, with many sailors posing the sort of nitpicking but essential questions that are the bane of every race committee. Then it was time to get blazered up and off to the Opening Ceremony at the Royal Yacht Squadron. The Jubilee is really getting into full gear now, but the weather is refusing to behave. Dull, overcast and windy, local pro sailor Peter Warren said the Spanish sailors on King Juan Carlos's Farr 53 Bribon were suffering from the cold. I don't what the fuss is about. All the Brits are still wandering around in shorts. It is summer, after all.

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