Saturday, December 21, 2013

ALICE J/24 Women’s Sailing Team Report

J/24 German women's sailing team- ALICE off MonacoImpressions From The Monaco J/24 Europeans
(Hamburg, Germany)- In early October, the ALICE crew went along with their boat on the 1,700 km long road to the J/24 European Championships in Monaco. Here is the report from the skipper of the six women crew, Katharina Witt from the Hamburger Segel Club:

“For the first time after 20 years, the Europeans were going to be held in the magical princely state along the Mediterranean.  Seventy teams from eleven countries were registered from all over the world.  There were crews from Australia, USA, Italy, UK, Brazil, Hungary, Turkey, Greece, France and, of course, Monaco. By far the largest group was the Germans with a total of twenty-two teams!

J/24 ALICE sailing downwind off MonacoThe 22-hour drive was exhausting, not the least including the nerve-wracking descent through the narrow streets in Monaco! But, the sight of the Principality and the summer weather made ​​us forget all this very quickly! After the measurement process was completed Saturday and Sunday, thank goodness it went quickly and smoothly for us, we were looking forward to “practice Monday”.

We sailed with about 60 teams Monday in the race area and became acquainted with the local conditions.  Monaco is a challenging place to sail with waves, currents and shifty winds. At the same time, the large bay has the stunning backdrop of Monaco spread across the mountain slopes behind the harbor. The turquoise water was almost unreal. In the evening, we were welcomed by the Yacht Club de Monaco (whose President is Prince Albert) for the reception dinner— the participants enjoyed a delicious culinary pasta party!  Unfortunately, Albert did not show!!  We were hoping to see him!

On Tuesday commenced the first day of the regatta. After several false starts, the first race finally started under black flag. Our start was successful, to some extent, we made some good tactical decisions and were able to finish the first race 45th.

The atmosphere was great and we sailed the next two races to become better acquainted with the sailing area. After we were given a time penalty in the second race, the third race was exciting again. We sailed some good courses and finished this race in 54th.

J/24 ALICE from germany rounding markWednesday started with a postponement, giving us a long breakfast break in the harbor. After we finally went out, the wind, however, was only good enough for one race. Initially the wind was still light after the start, we managed to round the windward mark in the top half of the fleet!  But, the last downwind leg hurt us, so we dropped quite a few boats to finish 55th. We were really looking forward to the next day, which should provide more wind to get in more races but also to give us a chance to sail in breeze (which is more comfortable for us girls!).

On Thursday, the race committee sent out the fleet right at 9am, hoping to get in three races. Races with over 60 boats were a challenge for us. In each race, we learned a bit more and our tactical decisions were always better. We tried the right side on which we suspected more wind and favorable current flow.  This tactical decision was a complete success for us! We sailed well, with some exciting crosses upwind and downwind and we went even better, taking 25th at the finish! This gave us great motivation amongst our girls, so we were hoping to capitalize on this momentum for the next race.

J/24 German ALICE teamwork off startAs the fleet was waiting for the fourth race, the wind suddenly died completely.  Then, a surreal, hazy, fog-like cloud formation formed above the water and some of the locals next to us said— “it’s the calm before the storm”!  They were right!  Just a few minutes later, we were all swept up in an enormous 35 kts gust that knocked us over on our ears with just mainsail flying!  A mistral just hit us!  We were all immediately called to the port and secure our boats in the harbor.  It was a breath-taking, but outstanding experience. After a successful day on the water, we were able to hold our own getting back to land. We were very thankful for this regatta because we had achieved our goal of top 50- we fought in the overall standings to 49th!

On the last day of the regatta there was nothing to be felt by the storm. The air was still and the race committee had us postponed in the harbor. Shortly before 1500 hrs the signal was again given to follow the Race Committee boat offshore for the start of a race. The YC Monaco PRO finally decided to capture the light wind and start an eighth race. We were happy to sail one last time against the backdrop of Monaco!

J/24 German ALICE women's team ready to set spinnakerThe race started and never got higher than 5 kts of breeze.  In fact, the wind and waves persistently tried to push the boats back to shore, what an ordeal!  Many Js rocked under main and genoa to windward mark and over again under spinnaker back to the starting gate.  It was a crazy race for us.  Unfortunately, we didn’t do so well in the last race, dropping in the overall results from the 49th to 55th.  This was disappointing, but it was a great learning experience to sail against such top teams.

In the evening we were looking forward to the gala dinner with Prize Giving Ceremony at the Yacht Club de Monaco. Freshly showered and with crew outfits on, we went back in the evening to the yacht club, enjoyed the delicious dinner, and applauded the winners. The British skipper, Chris McLaughlin, and his team on IL RICCIO had shown consistently good performance for the regatta and deserved to win.

A big “Thanks” goes to Lennart, who actively supported us, and our sponsors— who made it possible for us to compete in the 2013 sailing season and sail the European Championship 2013 in Monaco. For us, the European Championship was a great success.  We left Monaco with many lessons learned, much richer in our experiences and full of new perspectives on how to improve next season! Starting with nearly 70 J/24s was very exciting and a great challenge. We had huge fun sailing in such a large fleet!  For more German J/24 fleet sailing information