Tuesday, April 9, 2013

J/Teams Frozen @ SPI OUEST

J/70s sailing SPI Ouest France Regatta (La Trinite sur Mer, France)- Of the 423 boats sailing, over 130 alone were J/Teams (31% of the entire fleet) and, it's safe to say, that after the first day of racing many were wondering how they were going to survive the chilling weather forecasts for the next four days of sailing.  Facing unusually cold, windy conditions for this traditional Easter Regatta, the competitors woke up three mornings in a row to temperatures in below 0 C. (under 32 degrees F), winds blowing 15-25 kts for two of the days. Over the course of the regatta, dropouts were not uncommon, especially with the smaller one-designs-- several people were "med-evac'd" to the hospital using RIBS for treatment of hypothermia.

After a freezing rainy and windy Thursday, the next two days were relatively quiet. However, on Sunday, the last day of racing saw a return to the strong winds and an icy northeast breeze gusting to thirty knots!  While some suffered, others rubbed their hands with glee.  For Eric Brezellec and his tactician, Sebastien Col, the last day of breeze left them ashore. Their J/80, INTERFACE CONCEPT, did not have to sail the last race as they had already won the regatta the day before!

J/80s sailing SPI Ouest France RegattaOthers in the J/80 class were less fortunate.  The phrase "caught a cold" fits perfectly with the beginning of the competition and for those that endured it for four days.  The OMANI SAIL girls team, in particular, had a tough challenge for them, sailing in conditions they've never experienced in their lives-- icy cold rain, hail, and huge winds.  Said Nicolas Honor, the head of the OMANI SAIL team, "the shock was violent, they'd never seen hail, much less sailed in less than 0 deg C!  After hoisting their spinnaker on the first day, the decided to return to home port-- a good idea and I understand!"

Spi Ouest air temperature dataFor the rest of the J/80 teams, it was a battle to overcome cold as well as the challenge of sailing smart.  In the beginning, ATLANTIS's Louis Sambron gave Brezellec's crew on INTERFACE CONCEPT some tough battles.  But, a 19-5-38 on Saturday killed their chances of being a contender for the lead.  The same was true for Michael Vasquez's GOLD SAILING from Spain, accumulating a 7, BFD and 14 to drop them from contention as well.  Then, the team on GENERALI led by Nicolas Lunven compounded finishes of 10-9-10 over the first 7 races with a 26th in race 9 on Saturday to torpedo their chances as well.  In the end, while Brezellec's win was a "runaway", a total score over ten races of 12 points (seven 1sts, 2,3 as counters), the fight for the balance of the top five was a dog fight, to say the least.  In the end, Vazquez's team on GOLD SAILING hung in to finish 2nd overall, a full thirty points back from Brezellec's with 42 pts.  Lying third just one point back was Lunven's GENERALI with 43 pts.  One point back in fourth was Sambron's ATLANTIS with 44 pts and rounding out the top five watching all the drama unfold before him was Simon Moriceau's team on INTERFACE CONCEPT 2.

Spi Ouest wind speed forecastAs for the J/70s, suffering no less than their counterparts in the J/80s, the cold was equally taxing on their abilities to sail fast and smart and not be too "numb" from the chilly, windy sailing conditions. In the end, perhaps the ultimate survivor was M Thomas skippering OEUST GREEMENT, winning the J/70 class by just one point! The top four places were so close, that the last race determined how the entire top five finished in the overall standings.  Second was Fred Bouvier of J/Composites sailing J BECRE. Third was M. Kerscaven sailing PL YACHTING with 24 pts.  Fourth was FLAHAULT MARINE sailed by M. Ferchaud, perhaps sailing the most "dyslexic" series-  five 1sts and three 10ths! Rounding out the top five was M. Chapelot sailing ALBERTO.

In the world of IRC racing, many crews either dropped out, replaced crews, or spent time keeping crew-members warm.  With just 18 boats, IRC 4A may well be one of the smaller IRC divisions, but it's incredibly competitive.  And, up to that task was the J/97 MISPICKEL V sailed by B. Fagart, capturing a 5th overall in the difficult weather.

Finally, the "little boat" division is IRC 4B with 40 boats thrashing around the race track freezing their butts off for most of the regatta, much like their colleagues in the J/70s and J/80s.  And, none other than the "classic" J/24, now over 35 years young, managed to sporting a fleet of six boats to duel it out for J/24 "bragging rights".  In the end, top J/24 was INSULARIS's A. Garcia taking 7th in class.  Second J/24 was MARTA's P. Lemaistre taking 9th in class.  And, third J/24 was BOLERO's P. Ravel. Until next year!  May it be much warmer for all sailors in the third weekend of April- Easter Weekend 2014!  For more SPI OUEST France Intermarche sailing information