Monday, July 31, 2023

2023 RS Aero World Championship - It's been awhile!

I've not posted here in quite awhile. In Sep 2021, to correct irregular heatbeat (afib), had atrial ablation surgery. That went horribly wrong and nearly died in Oct 2021. While emergency doctors tried to repair holes in the heart and esophagus caused by the initial botched procedure, I suffered a stroke and heart attack, and was unable to walk or use my left arm (the gory details here). Spent most of 2022 recovering. 

Pills I now take everyday.
 Finally got back into a dinghy again in Aug 2022, with distant hopes of eventually competing in the 2023 RS Aero Worlds in Calasetta, Sardinia (Italy). Several mishaps along the way, multiple hospital stays and emergency room visits, a defibrillator implant, an upset mother on the West Coast, etc... but nonetheless managed to make it to Italy!

Arrived a few days early at the regatta site, and managed to experience the insane heat that gripped most of Europe during that time: several days above 90 degrees, just miserable. Did manage to get out on the water a few times, had decent speed against UK sailor Chris Hatton and Irishman Roy Van Maanan.

Rugged Calasetta shoreline and nice breeze

What follows are copies of social media posts made at the time. In chronological order:

25 July    I've been in Calasetta, Sardinia since 20 July. It's a quaint, small town by the sea that has been searingly HOT so far. The town's main piazza (stone, naturally) really heats up during the day - I avoid it at all costs, despite street performers and a generally bustling vibe once the sun goes down. There seem to be few foreigners in this town of 3,000, beside sailors preparing for the World Championship.

Narrow stone streets

Have been staying at a B-and-B run by a delightful guy from Roma who has been be very accommodating, doing laundry, making nice breakfasts (including lovely buttery croissants) and providing historical perspective on the people and culture of this part of the world. The place is uphill from the sailing center, which is tiring for me after a day of sailing, but I just chug up at a slow and steady pace. Breaking up the climb is the town's gelateria, so there's that...
Today was the final day of practice before the 5-day World Championship commences, and the wind was HOWLING out of the NW, providing some respite from the heat but also making launching of boats a challenge. There is one, one-boat-wide ramp from which to launch 140 boats! About 50 of us went out for the practice race in 20-25 knots of breeze and a steep, choppy sea. It was glorious sailing, boats planing madly downwind on big rollers! I took it easy, just went out for an hour to do a little upwind tuning with fellow American Dieter Cruetz. Was happy to have good speed against this very fit 16-year old, who is the reigning Aero 5 World Champion (now sailing, like me, the new 6 rig here).
This is the first Worlds where the 6 is sailed. I've only raced against 2 other 6 rigs at home, so the first few races should be very interesting to see how the fleet shakes out. Avoiding capsizes will be a major feat in the steep waves - fingers crossed! 
OK, time to head to the opening ceremony. Arrevederci for now from Italia!
26 July    Marc's overseas regatta breakfast: muesli with milk, croissant, 2 eggs, and green smoothie. Kale isn't in season here, so smoothie consists of cabbage, carrot, celery, banana and a few organic walnuts.
Our Italian host can't understand eggs for breakfast, nor can he get past the consistency of the smoothie (which is a bit...grainy due to his weak blender).
This, plus some locally grown cherries, Galatea peaches (incredibly sweet and fragrant!), a few energy bars, and several bottles of water with electrolytes will keep me going through the racing day. Immediately following will be a sandwich, more fluid, then dinner a bit later in the evening.
Sail 4466. Too much vang for this windy reach on Day 1.
3 races, I was first to the first 2 marks in R1, and was in solid 3rd when judge flagged me, for what I have NO idea. Lost 7 boats doing exonerating 720 degree turn. 5th in R2, then had breakdown that took a lot of time/energy to fix before R3 and had a stinker. In 5th overall right now.
Heeling too much rounding top mark behind Rhett
 Very tired, don't have much in reserve these days. Will get to bed early and recharge. I'm sail #4466.
Barely hiking but still flying along in champagne conditions.
 27 July    Day 2, three more races. Was in 7th on the last run of the first race when the jury AGAIN flagged me for rocking! Right after completing my 720 degree penalty turn, the boat quickly rolled to windward and capsized. 
Since my return to sailing last August, I've capsized only two other times. In both cases I needed outside assistance to right and get back into the boat. So here I was, boat turtled at the Worlds. Eventually got the boat upright and yanked myself back aboard. It was exhausting and took forever. Went from 7th to 31st. F*CK!
Had a bad start in the second race of the day but picked my way through and ended up 10th. Got rolled again in the third start but plugged away for a 9th. I've dropped to 10th in the overall standings.
I'm really ticked off at this jury. The wind is strong and the waves are chaotic, making it very difficult to avoid the boat rolling downwind. It's ridiculous the calls they are making. 
If I am flagged again in future races, I'll be automatically disqualified from those races We've three more days of racing to complete. It's incredibly frustrating.
I can't hike hard enough to put the bow down and sail fast upwind. This makes it hard to get off the starting line well. Fortunately, I have a high mode that allows me to pinch people off once we get going. Planing reaching again requires flat-out hiking, which I can't do effectively. Ironically, when not being flagged by the jury I'm reasonably fast going dead downwind.
Tonight was the regatta dinner at a nearby restaurant. Tons of seafood (which I generally don't like and prefer to avoid during regattas). It'll be just my luck to get food poisoning...
Apologies for the whinging. Tomorrow's another day. Supposed to be very light wind and hot. Goody goody.
Signed, Pissed-Off Marc
28 July    One race sailed yesterday. Had a pretty nice start at the starboard end (pic shows me, sail 4466, owning the boat), but had to do a clearing tack that ended up lifting almost the whole way to the starboard layline. Rounded top mark in the top 10, Worked up to 6th, but lost two boats on the final run to end up 8th. At least the jury didn't flag me (again)!
Setting up a great start at the boat. Sail 4466.
Still in 10th Overall, but pulled a bit ahead of the chasing pack. More light-ish wind in the forecast for tomorrow.

29 July    Day 4. Took a long 7.5 hours on the water to complete two races. We started in a southerly that plummeted as the day went on. I had a decent race going around the top 10 and was terrified of being called yet again by the on-the-water jury. They literally followed me for several minutes upwind; I was still as a stone. Downwind the same. Had a good leeward mark rounding and was climbing to windward of the guy ahead when the whistles started. The jury asserted that I rocked the boat while rounding the leeward mark.
As this was my third "infraction" for the event, I was forced to retire from the race. To say I was pissed is an understatement. It was a long, very hot wait to see if the race could be completed within the one-hour time limit. When the breeze completely shut off, it was abandoned, but not before the jury meted out several more Rule 42 infractions to other competitors. 
The jury here is out of control. A Top 5 competitor who was behind me on the leeward leg and rounding sought me out after the race and volunteered he didn't see ANYTHING wrong with my sailing. The wind at the time of the supposed infraction was maybe 2 knots. It was uncomfortable, awkward conditions where it was easy to upset the balance of the boat. Ridiculous calls by the jury. ANYWAY...
There was a several-hour wait for sailable conditions. A southerly once again teased the race committee to attempt a start, but huge windshifts meant the course needed to be shifted, and by the time that happened the wind shut off again. Eventually, a northwesterly breeze filled-in, prompting the committee to move the racecourse several miles to the north and east.
Because the prior race attempt was abandoned, my disqualification was made moot. I now had to calm down and produce. The wind was a bit light for a NWer. In the first race I had an OK start but lost in little ways around the course and ended up 11th.
Had a great start in the second race, and pointing really high, held my lane to the left corner, to eventually tack, loosely lee-bowing regatta leader Rhett Gowans. Rhett did a great job living on my windward hip as I sailed as fast as possible back to the middle. I made good progress on boats to leeward while maintaining height, but a slight right shift in the final eighth of the beat allowed several boats from the right side to round ahead. Went right on the second beat and lost some, but gained ground on the first reach and a few places on the run to end up 9th.
In all, it was a "maintenance" day, just held ground. Actually dropped one place overall, to 11th, as a local who was behind me going into the day won both races to lead me by one point. 
30 July    Today was the finale. First start at 11:30, and the race committee was motivated to get 3 races completed in the forecasted building breeze out of the NW. I was up until nearly 1am arranging showings for clients back home (a Realtor is always on the job!). Woke up agitated at 5:45am and couldn't fall back to sleep. 
Now that the regatta is over, I can admit I was concerned I wouldn't be able to sail three races. Actually laid down for 15 minutes at the club and was moving very slowly rigging up, just exhausted. 
Fortunately the wind wasn't very strong early in the day, making my high mode upwind particularly effective off the line. I started reasonably well in all three races and had steady finishes of 9,9,12, while several others near me in the standings had more inconsistent days. 
In the end, wound up in 10th place, moving up one place overall from the prior day and only 2 points out of 9th. Was also the top old (over 55) guy. As I always said to my high school sailors: every point counts. Think back to prior regattas where final finishes were decided by just a few points. Heck, I blew 2 places on the final leg to the finish in the first race of the last day! 
It was lovely to see so many friends and make new ones as well. I feel so lucky to be able to still do what I love, even if it's at a diminished level. 
Congratulations to Rhett Gowans on another commanding performance. I'd be remiss to not also mention the incredibly mature regatta sailed by 16-year old Dieter Creitz in Second Overall. Watch out for that one in the coming years... 
Top Old Dudes: Kazuyoshi Nakao (2nd), Me, Roy Van Maanan (3rd)
Final Results, 2 points out of 9th


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