They say that preparation and practice are key to winning championships – on these counts we couldn’t have got it more wrong. We decided quite early in the season that we needed to run the spares at a home worlds properly, and that it would be hard to do the spares and sail, so Alan kindly fell on his sword and opted to concentrate on the shore side. Luckily we had a strong replacement in Richie Lovering from Hyde Sails who has sailed with us quite a bit over the years. What we hadn’t counted on was Spike, our usual Kiwi bowman, a week out from the event contracting some sort of tropical disease to his man plums, and really not being in a position to even walk let alone sail….I had been in touch with Geoff Carveth all summer trying to help sort him a boat to sail/charter, and a week out he was still trying to piece together a program, so I suggested he joined us. We didn’t really talk much about roles at that stage, just said we would work it out when we got to Cowes, which is pretty well what we did.
When we got to Cowes Geoff spent a lot of time up the rig fiddling – he clearly is fairly meticulous about boat set up. In terms of rig set up, the main change we made to how we have sailed the boat over the years, was slightly more pre-bend. Both in the V2/D4 upper shrouds, and in the set-up of the V1/D3 main shrouds and D2 Lowers. The boat was a new 2017 standard, straight out of the box, as she comes, SB20, and we put new sails on for the worlds. So we went into racing with virtually no boat handling practice and a much lighter crew weight than we would have chosen (c. 30kg light). What we did have though was a lot of tactical experience, and a lot of local knowledge of years of sailing in the wind and tidal vagaries of the Hillhead racecourse area.
As far as the racing goes, and is shown in the results, we started off pretty rusty, and got better as the week went on – by the end we were far stronger! This was both in terms of boat handling, starting, but probably more crucially how we communicated and worked together as a group. After quite a long windy day on the Thursday we sailed pretty well, except for one layline call downwind in Race 2 which cost us a few, otherwise we were largely pretty quick and going the right way. We nailed the last race of the day where we understood the tides with a start on the boat, hard right out of the tide all the way to a slightly overstood layline. Luckily for us when the race went a bit inside out up the second beat we were far enough forward to minimise losses from either side. This though was several teams undoing. That evening though the results showed us 11 points off the lead, and in 5th, we did feel we were still in it with a potentially tricky day ahead, up to 3 races and we hadn’t put a big score in yet, unlike all the other teams towards the top.
The last day, when we finally got a race away it was pretty light and shifty. We got away cleanly mid line in a big lefthander, but our main competitors seemed to be buried. We eked our way into the lead which we held to the end. It got pretty light at times, and the PRO nearly canned it at one stage. There wasn’t much we could do apart from make sure we won the race, and then wait and see where the others ended up. We were quite surprised to see some sort of match race tacking duel between the French and Aus teams halfway up the 2nd beat – maybe we weren’t on their radar points wise as at the end they were both only a few boat lengths from an inside overlap and a 4 point gain which would have made all the difference. That, was basically that – another race was still a possibility, but it never looked likely and at the cut off time, Peter Saxton called the regatta…..