Today was the final day of sail auckland and as the forecaster said breezy! Full directional change today and we had a SW breeze starting at about 20 and finishing in the final race with gusts up to 35 knots. The RC had a bit on even putting up flags it was hillarious! but in true Kiwi style we started and battled around the course.
Race 1 – Started to leeward of the fleet and waited for a left hander to come back and cross. Found it near the lay and barely crossed Andy coming back from the right. At the top myself, Sam and Andy rounded in a row and made for a hectic and very loose reach and run. At this point the breeze was gusty and between 10 – 25 knots and it paid to sail to pressure. On the second beat Andy went to the left gate and Sam and I the right. Andy found a nice right hander and came back and tacked ahead of me to lead into the top. Sam was still close behind. Very tight racing !!! On the run we bunched up again and I went to the left gate with Andy and Sam going right. I tacked back so as not to split but Andy got on a huge right hander and literally tight reached into the top mark and pulled 100m on me. Sam also made a little gain but not enough. Andy was gone and had sailed the shifts better and I would have to take a second shot in race 2.
As the points squared up it was a race for first and second. Whoever won the final race would win (Andy on countback or me by 2 points).
To add to the stress of that situation for both of us the wind filled in steady and moved a little right and a constant 25 knots with gusts of up to 35 knots on the RC were being read. As the breeze went right it kinda came right down the harbor so it steadied out a bit.
After some waiting around I thought at two points they would call it off when I saw 49ers and Cats cartwheeling hahahahaha. The RC almost pulled up the anchor but then someone must have said nahhhhhhhh send the lasers. So off we went.
Race 2 – Started close to Andy about mid line and just wanted a nice gap to work in and to go for speed. Went block to block while possible and dropped sheet and footed and max plank hiking effort for around 2 mins. Punched clear of the bunch and tacked in phase with Andy. At the top we were a clear one and two. Let the battle begin!
First reach was just a plow fest. Could bearly see a thing. Right up the back corner and just dropping down in the big big gusts. Andy hot on my heels we bore away into the run. On the run I locked my feet into the back corner and on the front corner of the cockpit and went hard by the lee. The aim was to try and get speed and stability and when I could point back at the gate in the lulls or with a big wave I would. We rounded the bottom seperated only by a few boat lengths. On the second beat I held the lead but Andy sailed some fast port tacks and was chipping away at me.
The next run I held the lead again almost capsizing twice and Andy rounded right on my stern. I tried to tack and keep him with me but at the top he crossed me on starboard about 100m short of starboard lay. So i ducked and sailed out to starboard lay and came in fast. I didn’t catch him and he tacked just next to the top mark. What I did do though was get all my gear sorted for the downwind.
As I rounded I shot inside him and took his breeze for a moment while he was sorting gear before planing off by the lee. New pressure came in from behind me but more straight down the harbor so I got it first and pulled a solid gap on andy ahead to leeward. Then SO close to disaster I got hit by a big gust and lost control and spun out. I didn’t capsize but was head to wind and flapping uselessly. Andy came at me and I managed to do the bear away and just hold the inside though again parallel and only separated by a few lengths. My game plan was then simple. Get through the gate and gybe, doesn’t matter if you capsize to leeward you can get it up quick and keep going. I wasn’t watching Andy, I was afraid if I watched him i’d either run into him or bury myself into a wave. It was at least 30 knots and we had plenty on.
I was just five or six lengths from the gate and I heard a crash behind me but didn’t dare look back and kept looking forward and focusing on the gate. Planing down a wave by the lee I passed through the gate about 10m from the rounding mark for the final reach and just went for the gybe. I just made it !!! Sail flapping I looked back and saw Andy pulling it up quick from what looked like his boom just taping the water after a gybe. I bore away and sailed carefully through the finish to win the race and ultimately the regatta.
Obviously very pleased to finish Summer with a win in Sail Auckland but I felt it obviously could just have easily have gone to Andy. Luck and timing definitely played a part in a windy regatta where we were often only boat lengths apart. My fitness was much improved since Aussie nationals and doing some cardio on the bike with TB. I have really enjoyed and taken a lot of value from training and racing with the kiwi boys in Sydney and here in Auckland. Also thanks to their coach Mark for looking after my bag and including me in training now and in the week to come. Of course Thom Saunders too for looking after me in Auckland and Doc for his sweet as laser !!!
Next up a day off and let the body recover, key thing is 11 races in 15 – 35 knot range completed and feeling tired but strong. Plan is some cycling on the west coast with boys on Thurs. After that a few days training at Taka and then a coach run regatta on 12,13,14th Feb before coming home to Sydney.