Wow, what a way to start a World Championship! Left the beach at 11:45 in about 12 knots of breeze, which some swore built to 25 as the day went on. I would say it was about 17, maybe 20 in the puffs, quite steady in direction but with a lumpy sea state punctuated by occasional sets that were real boat stoppers upwind. It was a long, 5-hour day at the office to get in 3 races for all three fleets (5, 7 and 9 rigs).
The course sailed by the 9s was a triple quadralateral (windward-reach-run-reach x3), with each race taking the leaders about 45 minutes to complete. The reaches were fantastic: super fast, flat-out hiking and occasionally surfing the big sets down. The runs were challenging, especially when the water was chopped up by other boats, and several flipped while attempting to gybe from a run to a reach going around Mark 3.
I got out early to the racecourse to do a little reconnaissance: checking current at the right, middle and left sides of the course. Then, Ben Rolfe from the UK and I did two, 3-minute splits (sailing 3 minutes toward opposite sides of the course, then tacking back to the middle and seeing who came out ahead). Finally, I got compass readings for the start line and wind direction. From all this, I deduced the right side of the course was favored for the first (upwind) legs, and set myself up accordingly.
Got a clean start at the committee boat and quickly tacked onto port. Dug into the right until I got a bit of a header and tacked back. Greg (Quadzilla) Bartlett came booming in out of the left middle to lead at the first mark; I was in 2nd with Liam Willis (UK) in 3rd. Greg took off on the reach but was heading to the wrong mark; I yelled out to let him know and he was able to retain his lead at Mark 2, but I managed to get inside at Mark 3 and, with a fast gybe, was able to extend out to a nice lead at the finish. Liam snuck in ahead of Greg for 2nd.
The breeze was building and squirmed a smidge left as Race 2 went underway. For some reason several people started at the port (left) side of the line, even though the starboard side was at least 5 degrees favored. Again I got a fast start at the boat, tacked over fairly quickly, but this time dug, dug, dug into the right until the wind started edging right before tacking and crossing the fleet. Led handily at every mark, only to capsize while gybing at the last mark before the final leg to the finish! Luckily I was able to climb over the top and quickly right the boat in time to hold off the rapidly-closing Liam; then, sailing deeper but just as fast, pulled out to a 15 boatlength lead by the finish.
Quite lumpy for the start, and with starboard tack being favored, most of the fleet stayed on starboard for quite a long time before tacking compared to the prior 2 heats. This was my first time to be lined up with top sailors (remember, I'd tacked away quickly before), and I was pleased to note I had good pace and when needed, point. It seemed many were letting their boats heel (tip over) a bit more when puffs or bad wave sets came up, which caused them to slide sideways. I had to be very aggressive with the sheet to avoid a similar fate, but the work paid off with less sideslip and equal or better speed. Had some mixing with the 7 fleet as they started close to the leeward mark I was going around the leeward mark, which caused some interesting boat-on-boat interactions...
So, 3 races, 3 bullets. Not a bad way to start the regatta indeed! :) Forecast for tomorrow is much of the same, and it's past midnight, so time to sign off. Sleep well, wherever you are.