St-Cyr, France. 1-8 July 2000
There were three seeding races. Graham Bantock's new Italiko was measured 1.5mm over length, causing him to retire from a first place in his first seeding race. This would have profound consequences for his defence of his title.
At the end of the seeding races, "A" fleet comprised the skippers who would eventually fill the top positions. Peter Stollery was sailing a Tonic, an outstanding club boat having a rare outing at an International level. Guillermo Beltri was sailing an Ikon, as was Pierluigi Puthod. Martin Roberts and Graham Elliott were sailing the new Gadget, a Widget with a touch more transom beam.
An unfortunate pattern emerged of non-existent competitors' briefings. When challenged, the organisers insisted that competitors' briefings had taken place at the appointed time. They then added that, unfortunately, no competitors had attended the briefings...
Race 4. The A heat was delayed for some time. The light and variable winds led the organisers to declare their inability to set a fair course. When the heat finally started, Graham Bantock led off the line, and thereafter no one came close. Weed was a problem, hitting boats at random. Peter Stollery had a strong start then went backwards with Pierluigi Puthod, both hit by weed. Graham Elliott fought with Guillermo Beltri for second, and came third. Alastair Law snatched 4th when Xabier Zatarain's weed took him down to fifth. From a promising start, the race turned into a drifter, and only the first five finishers were classified, the remaining boats timed-out. The four resulting demotions into B fleet were unexpected, since they were done not according to positions on the course at the time-out, but according to points earned so far.
Race 6. In heat A, the Italikos of Bantock and Alastair Law made excellent starts, but they held out for a lift to the mark that never came. Chris Harris (Widget) & Roberts tacked much earlier and arrived on the starboard layline to find Bantock on port within the zone. Bantock had to gybe and bear away twice before he could round the mark in third last place, though some hard work saw him back into 6th by the end. Harris meanwhile had passed Roberts on the last run to gain first place. Beltri took 3rd.
Race 10. The top skippers again fought it out, with Roberts taking his only win of the heat races, Bantock behind in second, followed by Beltri and Puthod.
Race 12. The best A heat of the event. Conditions were towards the top of A rig, all boats made a clean start in clear air, and the crowd was then treated to a superb display of disciplined, spirited, and good-natured racing as the cream came to the top. The eventual leaders were obliged to work their way through the fleet, overtaking the other boats one by one. Once clear of the fleet, the top five set about racing each other to a thrilling finish with no more than ten boat lengths separating first from fifth. At the finish it was Bantock, Roberts, Elliott, Beltri, and Stollery.
Race 14. All except Michael Scharmer suited in A rig when it was clear that the conditions required B rig. The resulting A heat was won by Giovanni Veronesi, who scored his second win in succession with his TS2, to the intense delight of the Italian team. Scharmer came 2nd with a wide-beam hull of his own design, Roberto Valle 3rd with his TS2, and the other places were simply determined by the beam of the boat and the number of squalls in which they were caught. Wild broaches and continuous nose-dives made the race curious rather than interesting for the spectators. Significantly, Beltri took his worst finish of the event with a 9th place; he had previously never finished lower than 4th.
Race 15. All suited up to A rig, and were caught by a rising wind with seconds to go at the start. Ken Binks made a perfect start to lead the fleet towards the windward mark. Puthod luffed up under him in a lifting squall to force Binks outside, and in doing so unwittingly did Binks a favour as the charging gaggle of following boats luffed and fought at the mark, which Binks rounded in first place. Towards the gybe mark the squall caused Bantock's narrow-beam Italiko to nose-dive, and Roberts slipped by into third place. On the run to the lee mark Binks relinquished the inside of the course to Puthod and Roberts. On the second beat Roberts overtook Puthod to lead the race, but there was drama behind. Beltri needed only to finish five places behind Roberts to win the Championship. A second incident between Beltri and Scott Chisholm saw Beltri take a penalty turn, and eventually finish 9th. Bantock "advised" Chisholm on the platform that his actions "might be considered team racing". On the last beat up to the line, Puthod took the left of the course and Roberts the right. While the right had paid off all day, the lifted left allowed Puthod to fetch the line ahead of Roberts. Valle came from behind into 3rd place.
Beltri protested Chisholm, and a long jury meeting eventually disqualified Chisholm for another incident, raising Beltri into 8th place. It wasn't enough, however, and Roberts won the championship with 36 points after two discards. Beltri finished one point adrift, and Bantock was third overall on 55. On the never-ending "what if?" questions of any event, had Bantock's boat been found to be within length after race 1, his points total would have been 47 instead. [In my first version of this report, I thought Bantock would have come down to 32 points. Not so; I incorrectly calculated the discards.] Puthod and Stollery finished on 87 and 93 points respectively, not having been able to stay in A fleet for the entire event.
Having led the event from day 2, a very unhappy Beltri nevertheless congratulated Roberts later that evening.
The facilities were excellent at the well-established dinghy sailing club at St-Cyr. A permanent team of non-competing observers allowed the skippers to focus on their racing and tuning. DIRBOS calls were surprisingly few in view of the number of incidents other skippers thought they saw, particularly at mark roundings, where it became clear that the observers thought that a spinning mark was merely caused by the wake of a boat passing near by.
There were many protests, and unfortunately the pace of racing suffered. About half of the competitors' protests were dismissed by the International Jury, perhaps a reflection of the fact that a depressingly substantial number of skippers rather optimistically thought that their mistakes were either not of their own making, or could be rectified by appeal to authority.
The Race Committee took pains to set the best possible course. Unfortunately, for the first four days, the wind shifted direction continuously, and again, the pace of racing suffered.
Weed remained an intermittent problem. Many a skipper found his promotion into the next higher heat halted when in fifth place by a small frond over the fin or rudder.
Many skippers wished, either publicly or privately, that they had brought their wider-beam boats to the event, rather than their narrow beam ones. The wind blew unexpectedly strongly in the afternoons of the first few days, and then blew consistently strongly throughout the latter few days. The TS2's of Kovacevic, John Cleave, and Valle benefited from these conditions and these skippers rose up the standings.
So there were 15 races and 75 heats in all, run over 5 days, an average rate of 3 races and 15 heats per day. This was the most disappointing aspect of an otherwise fine event, especially since the days generally started at 9:30am and ended at 6:00pm.
Given a different throw of the dice, it seemed to me that any one of the top five skippers could have won the event. Congratulations to them all.
Bantock's "Italiko" showed a topping lift with a finer-than usual bowsie adjustment. It also sported a fin that was faired into both the hull and the bulb.
Dieter Halle-Krahl's "Image" showed a very neat arrangement for the jib pivot and jibstay length adjustment. A length of line starts on the right-hand side of the cockpit, it's fixing seen as a rather indistinct blob, travels under the foredeck and emerges to loop through the small red jib pivot ring, and returns to the adjustment bowsie seen on the left-hand side of the cockpit.
Photos on the water
©2011 Lester Gilbert