The easiest thing would have been to not go. It was a solid 20 knots, cold and a lee shore off the Island with breaking waves on the beach. The club was closed and the only boats on the Solent early on Saturday morning were of the cruising variety, most were motor-sailing. Determination took over and I’m very glad that I didn’t give up, for it was the sail of the year.
Launching was a nightmare but once away with the rudder down, cunningham wound on so hard I could get a half decent note out of the dyneema and the kicker way beyond max, it was electric. A blast at speeds I’ve never seen before in my Laser took me right across the Solent over to the Lepe shoreline where I played around on the rollers and had a lot of fun trying to beat the waves upwind as the tide just began to turn.
But with the weather closing in and some thunderous black clouds above, after about an hour I headed up to the entrance of Beaulieu River before bearing away and lighting the after-burners back to Gurnard. Wow, broad reaching in a Laser is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.
The gusts were building and it was a rooster-inducing screamer of epic proportions with spray everywhere, right on the outer edge of my limited talents. I wish I had a Go-Pro or Carlo Borlenghi and Daniel Forster in a RIB behind but no such luck. You’ll just have to believe me. The only witnesses were a plump seagull and a chap on a Westerly Fulmar whose stern I ducked at warp speed off a breaking wave as he whooped and waved.
No such problems for the AC teams however, as every second of their campaign will be followed by invasive camera crews to record a Netflix style documentary lifting the lid on just what it’s really like inside a Cup team. It promises much.
Grant Dalton’s been talking to the world’s leading AC print journalist, Duncan Johnstone from Stuff in New Zealand and slipped this one under the table alongside confirming that all was proceeding well for an announcement on the 17th November. Hydrogen-powered chase boats, a multi-challenger series and a hoped-for travelling event circus sounds to me like the Cup is on the right track. It’s all moving along nicely and there’s simply no evidence to suggest that the Challenger of Record is getting antsy about how things are running.
Tom Ehman on his excellent Sailing Illustrated channel does however make a compelling case for the current burn-rate being expended by Ineos as they await the confirmation of the venue and the detail around the design. I think Tom has a valid point but it’s chump change to Jim Ratcliffe. Retaining some superstar sailors and a host of design talent in-house at your works Mercedes outfit isn’t bank-breaking stuff and pretty soon everyone will be at the max.
Ben is now highly engaged in his SailGP team so is keeping his eye in and reflexes sharp whilst the rest of the team are on the pro circuit sailing TP52’s or whatever keeps the pennies coming in. Pretty soon, the key appointments will be made in the sailing team although they already know to a large extent who’s in and who’s not. All will become very clear in a few weeks’ time.
Aside from the AC, it’s been a busy weekend. Alinghi won the GC32 event in Mar Menor and took the overall title that they last won back in 2019. Elliot Hanson is leading the fleet in the ILCA World Championship (Go Elliott!) and Tom Slingsby didn’t win the TP52 Worlds. Stop Press. The fact that Checco Bruni and Murray Jones did the business with an absolutely all-star crew on the final day in Palma speaks volumes for just how tight that TP52 series was and what a terrific season-ender with all the big names showing up for a final hurrah.
Meanwhile, the stunning sight of the Transat Jacques Varbre getting off was something else again. I am slightly addicted to watching the Gitana Team’s social media updates at the moment as they seem to capture the desolation of ocean racing and the sheer man against the sea nature of crossing large expanses of water in boats that are on the edge.
Those guys are the ultimate sailing team in my view and Franck Cammas is one cool cucumber. I think it sounds better in French – most things do. Their latest post was all about staying calm under pressure and not making mistakes. Intense stuff.
What’s even more remarkable is just how big the fleet is in the TJV…45 Class 40s, 22 IMOCAs, 7 Ocean 50s and 5 Ultimes. Sailing is alive and well at the sponsored, professional end of things and that’s just remarkable to see. A lot of people are living the dream and working like fury to derive sponsorship return. Their success is good for the sport and trails are blazed. It’s all good news.
Now I’m just eyeing the weather forecast for this weekend…winter be damned.