Less sun, more rain, a bit less breeze for Day 3 of the RS Aero World Championship in Carnac, France. Wind was forecast to gently go from W to WSW and build as the day went on. Courses were Triangle-Windward-Leeward-reaching finish.
5-10 degrees of port-end bias to the starting line, and a fair bit of tide running with the wind. I set up to be the leeward-most boat, with 2nd Place Liam Willis just to windward. About 20 seconds before the gun I realized I wasn't going to lay the pin, so I bailed out early (NOTE: HIGH SCHOOL SAILORS), gybed around then found a small hole to tack back into. Liam *just* made it around the pin boat (actually hitting its anchor line) so my bailing was a smart move, but it did allow Liam to leg out and tack across the fleet about a minute after the start.
I held onto starboard another minute before tacking myself, and so began the long drag race right. The slightly lighter wind meant less vang on, which meant the mainsheet loads were heavier/more tiring to play in the very bumpy conditions. At least I had good speed, and calling the layline perfectly, managed to round the top mark in first. Liam turned on the jets on the reach to be overlapped at the 2nd mark, but I had the inside overlap and rounded ahead. Another battle royale on the second reach, but Liam blew over the top and into the lead by 4 boatlengths at the leeward mark.
Another long slog to the starboard layline. I rounded slightly better than Liam and managed to work a bit to windward, pinching hard. I held, held, held for over 3/4 of the leg, but we got a slight header that allowed him to move forward, then tack to the windward mark. He had me by about 6 boatlengths, but was around a few 7 rigs that were also rounding.
I got around the mark cleanly and dove low on a wave, trying to get well to the side of the wakes of boats ahead. A few surfs and I'd halved the gap between us. Liam tried to get over to the left but didn't have the wind or waves to get there, and had boats in between. Meanwhile, I caught a very nice wave in pressure and moved abeam, then slowly ahead. A few more waves caught, a few more puffs, and I was 10 boatlengths ahead at the leeward mark. Liam gained some back on the final reach to the finish, but not enough, finishing 6 lengths back. What a nailbiter!
After the race I congratulated Liam on a race well-sailed. We discussed downwind set-up, and I noticed he had a bit more downhaul and had been sitting further aft on the reaches. Mental note made.
Had a good start about three boats up from the pin end of the line, again with Liam to windward and my training partner Madhavan Thirumalai to leeward. I put her into high mode and quickly flushed Liam out the back, forcing him to tack. Another minute later we got more pressure and a little nibble of lefty, so I tacked over to consolidate. The breeze was slowly going left and building as forecast, so it was another long port tack sail to the starboard layline. Again I called the layline pretty much spot-on, utilizing the high mode at times to ensure I'd get around the top mark. At the rounding I had a 10 boatlength lead and blasted down the reach.
With the left shift, the first reach leg was tighter than it had been the race before. I stayed high to compensate, blast reaching and really working hard to keep the boat flat. Liam and Matt Thursfield sailed low initially, then had to work back up which hurt. I zoomed off, rounded the reach mark and went low on what was now a broader second reach. Again the boats behind sailed more off rhumb line, this time higher, which necessitated working back down to the leeward mark in the last quarter of the leg. That put sealed to their fates: I rounded 20+ boatlengths ahead and pulled out to a decisive victory over the next 3 legs.
The race committee changed things up for the start, this time giving the starboard end a 5-10 degree favor. The tide by now had diminished significantly, so boats weren't sliding sideways quite as much on the line. Liam set up almost perfectly at the boat, but couldn't *quite* close the door. I slipped between him and the committee boat with 2 seconds to go and blasted off the line at full speed. Poor kid got spat right out the back and was forced to tack early. I extended on starboard for awhile then tacked over. Matt Thursfeld was having a great beat and was right there, but I managed to extend on port, then again called the layline perfectly to round well in front of Liam, who had to do two additional tacks near the mark. Huge lead, extended and finished a minute ahead in the end.
We're three days into the 5-day championship. My scores are 1,1,1,3,1,2,1,1,1. We get two drops, so I'm counting all 1st place finishes for a net score of 7. Liam is in 2nd with 14 net, and Greg Bartlett cemented his 3rd place overall standing with 3 thirds for the day and 19 points net overall.
Obviously, things are looking promising, but there are two more days of racing to go. The net scores are quite close. One crazy day and the lead could evaporate, so no chances will be taken!