Fiddlesticks. That wasn’t the script I was looking for. Sir Lewis cruising to victory and a new outright record of driver’s championships and then with just a few laps to go, Nicholas Latifi decided to tail slam his Williams into a wall and claim a lifetime supply of Red Bull. The result? Sport played out at the highest level with classic last lap drama and Holland thunderously claiming their first ever world champion.
It’s sport. It happens. It’s why we love it. Yes there’s a million permutations, enquiries, appeals, opinions and viewpoints but at the end of the day, it’s just sport. Someone won, someone lost and depending on which side you support, you either watched for the champagne spraying and the relentless interviews with everyone from a Spice Girl to a rap star or went and did something else. I went and bought some floorboards.
Sadly, no sailing this weekend. Too darned miserable in the UK (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it) plus the Christmas tree had to be bought, the dog needed walking and ice skating (the daftest sport known to mankind in my opinion) was required. It’s an unwritten rule that you can’t be a grinch at this time of the year – but am I alone in thinking that in the UK we go a bit overboard? The supermarkets endlessly pressurise from about the end of September and personally I prefer the Monagasque approach (check out these photos) where normality reigns and the shops and restaurants are all open on the big day as if nothing were happening. Suits me.
The only saving grace was our sailing club calling for all hands on deck for what they called a ‘Works Party’ and I was happier than a pig with a pair of shears hacking away at undergrowth in the dinghy park with plenty of other willing souls giving up their Sunday morning lie-in to do everything from trimming vast quantities of undergrowth to clearing the front apron, storing boats, hosing stuff down and generally doing their bit.
I’m so proud to call myself a member. Great place. Proper club. Funnily enough, almost all the humungous job list was completed miraculously just before the Formula 1 started and the exodus was as palpable as it was predictable.
December is a dull month for sailing – more dinghies are being taken away than arriving and the trots out of Cowes, usually teeming with colourful craft of every hue, are bare other than a few abandoned to winter storm fates. It was nice to see a few cruising boats making their way slowly up the Solent against the ebb tide and mizzle on Sunday but largely it’s commercial vessels only plowing the furrow up by Lepe and into Southampton Water that provide any great interest.
Not so down in Monaco, as you can see from the photos inserted amidst the waffle, where the fabulous Yacht Club de Monaco’s winter series is in full bloom with the first two ‘Acts’ as they like to call them already completed for some 55 J70 teams all getting some practice in ahead of their World Championships in the Principality in October 2022. It’s a terrific scene down there and it’s been going since 2013 when some Russian members of the club asked if they could base their winter training down in Monaco as the lakes and waters of their home club that they sailed on were frozen over in the winter months. Cue, the stand-out winter sailing programme for keelboats that is now absolutely dominated by the ubiquitous J70’s.
And what’s great to see is that it’s not just locals on the roster – there are representatives from Ireland, Holland Finland, Russia, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Turkey and Switzerland all making a tough commitment during these Covid times to get racing.
And after two ‘Acts’ you can see that the racing is tough, varied, rough at times, still and swelly at others in one of the trickiest areas to sail that I’ve ever seen. When the swell’s running in Monaco, you know about it and with wind bends aplenty coming off the rocks and the flat facade of the waterside Oceanographic Museum, it’s no surprise to see a Monagasque, Ludovico Fassitelli, of the YCM Sports Division topping the standings. Tough place to sail but very cool.
And I look at the Yacht Club de Monaco – probably the most impressive clubhouse in world sailing – and its ambition and think that surely one day they will be in the mix to host an America’s Cup. With the likes of Matteo de Nora and Jim Ratcliffe resident in the Principality, and Prince Albert a huge supporter of sailing as well as being supposedly the richest monarch on the planet, it has to be in the mix surely?
The boats would have to be light-weather flying machines and the event would probably last for months with the prevailing wind conditions during the summer months but a Cup in the South of France would be memorable. One day it will happen, I’m certain of that, and the Norman Foster designed uber-clubhouse would be just about the most perfect host – shoreside it would be off-the-scale. The billionaires must have run the rule over Monaco, surely?
This week though, after the Alinghi press conference tomorrow in Lake Geneva at the Societe Nautique de Geneve, it’s all eyes on Sydney for the SailGP that thunders onto our radar for the almighty shoot out for the San Francisco slots and the million buck decider.
The local money’s on Slingsby – and the weather looks like suiting him – but the smart money’s hedging on Ben Ainslie and Nathan Outteridge whilst Jimmy Spithill is due a good regatta – as are Pete Burling and Blair Tuke. Too tight to call.
The superstars of our sport are in town. The shore crews are hard at work. SailGP is about to explode in Sydney in a cacophony of high stakes sport. Just like Formula 1, it’s a thrilling shoot-out at the top…let’s just hope the stewards aren’t required and sport is allowed to flourish.
Fascinating. Bring it on.