27 Dec 2019, Black Rock (Melbourne), AUS
Today we were assigned charter boats by the efficient Liam Willis of RS. I jiggered with a few things to make them to my liking, then went out for a quick sail with Brit Noah Rees, Australian National Champ Rhett Gowans, and Jens Roehrssen from Germany. It wasn't as windy as we've seen over the last few days: still hiking breeze, but not enough (for me at least) to start depowering with vang. This is a tough condition to sail in because the boat is fully powered up, making steering around choppy waves very physical, especially when bearing off a bit.
We did a few rabbit starts upwind, then did a couple of long runs back to the harbour. The wind was quite streaky, where a boat just a boatlength or two to windward could be in different wind than you, so outright speed comparisons were difficult to make. I felt generally good with my height, speed was OK, but at times Gowans put the bow down and was quite quick. On the last beat my downhaul strop broke with a loud BANG that the others heard several boatlengths away! A few minutes doing up a jury rig and I was ready to go again, but we were quite far away from the club so decided to sail back.
On the run to the club, Gowans was again fast on his home waters, playing the choppy waves well. Rees seemed to be going well, ever so slightly slower but he wasn't pleased. I found it absolutely vital to catch the few big wave sets that came through, otherwise one was boatlengths behind. Additionally, it was important to stay well clear of slower boats' wakes downwind (standard stuff, but never hurts to re-visit). A little disconcerting was pace toward the end of the day, when the breeze lightened and it was harder to keep up. Being 15-20 lbs heavier than others kinda does that, so here's hoping for a windy regatta!
It was only about an hour's sail for me, a quick check-out of the boat and some of the faster competition. This will be my first international event in a 7 (mid-size) rig, so it will be interesting to see how it goes. Tomorrow will get the boat measured/inspected, then MAYBE another quick sail. The next day will be a practice race at 2pm, then actual racing starts at 1pm. Excitement is building, as people are starting to trickle in from around the world. It has been nice to see old friends and make new ones.Can't wait to start racing!