Contemplating my trashed jib.
Day 0We arrived in Zagreb with ballasts damaged from the flight. On departure from Gatwick, we checked the sail box, hull crate, and small suitcase into the hold. For the benefit of the airline ticketer, I did a wobbly Schwartzenegger impression, holding aloft our two cabin bags and saying confidently "Two small bags for the cabin". This was merely an impression, 'cos while the bags were indeed small, one weighed 15 kg with two ballasts and all the radio gear, and the second weighed 10 kg with all the tools and spares. The impression worked, and the ticketer said "Fine". When we were done, in a fit of honesty, we said, "You might like to weigh these, we could be over our allowance." "Sure" she said, and had a heart attack when she read the scales. "You can't take these on board!" and she popped them onto the conveyor. Well, I hadn't packed those bags for the hold, and at Zagreb they emerged with two bent bulbs.
At Omisalj, we enlisted the help of the hotel handyman using sign language and mimed demonstrations of how we wanted to fix the damaged bulbs. All we really wanted was a good engineering vice, but we got more. The handyman beckoned us on to his workshop, but paused halfway and disappeared into a room. We thought he was checking on the work of a colleague, because he emerged a few minutes later with a large hammer and a block of wood. Before we could move, he put the ballast on the wood and whacked it with the hammer...!!! Aaarrrggghhh!!! Somewhat sheepishly, he then allowed us into his workshop where more delicate engineering straightened out the other ballast. Fortunately, it was the spare which he had rendered into scrap lead.
The Omisalj venue was attractive, scenic, and well suited. An entire water-side hotel, disused but in fine working order, provided the veranda, interior rooms, and space needed for competitors and officials alike. Amazing!
Day 1At the end of the three seeding races, "A" fleet comprised:
Kovacevic CRO, Bantock GBR, Beltri ESP, Smale AUS, Kellett AUS, Elliott GBR, Taylor RSA, Gilbert GBR, Edwards GBR, Roberts GBR, Rowan IRL, Cleave GBR, Stollery GBR, Roberts NZL, Cameron AUS, and Puthod ITA. Wow! I was eighth in the World after three races! I'd be World Champion by tomorrow, for sure! Erm, no...
The day enjoyed occasional cloud, bright sunshine, and a very pleasant temperature. The wind, however, was difficult throughout, flukey, variable, with holes just metres across, and 180-degree direction changes. The race committee struggled to set courses to everyone's taste, but by and large succeeded with adjustments, both large and small, made on almost every heat. I found a disconcerting feature of the wind was that ruffled water did not necessarily indicate anything usable was present, and equally a smooth and flat patch could provide excellent drive just a foot or so above the surface.
The big feature of racing was the use of umpires to judge on-the-water incidents. A team of eight umpires mingled in the control area with the 16 competitors of each heat, and called penalties as they saw them. In my opinion, and there are certainly some who would disagree with me, the judgements were fair and, in particular, well balanced. That is, the umpires seemed not to "notice" the most minor of transgressions, while calling the significant ones clearly and reasonably. For example, on more than one occasion, six or more overlapped boats stuffed themselves into the windward mark rounding. So long as it was clear that everyone was doing their best to provide room, the odd touch did not bring a penalty. The end result was much quieter racing with far fewer fruitless shouts of "Protest", and almost no arguing. The best bit was that the protest committee did not have a single protest to hear during the day, when past experience would have predicted something like 10 or 15. Excellent.
My races? The first saw me take an indifferent start, and struggle around mid fleet for most of the triangle and sausage. On the last beat to the line, with half the fleet more than half-way home, I saw a streak appear at a diagonal to the rhumb line. I put the boat on the edge of the disturbed water, and took a ride way out to the right. The leaders all were overtaken by the streak, which turned out to be pure turbulence and no drive. They drifted, helpless and bobbing pointlessly, as I tacked over to starboard for second place.
The second saw me make two mistakes, and sink to 13th. The first mistake was in my adjustment of helm, where I dialled in too much weather helm, expecting less wind than turned up. Nonetheless I had a good third place around the lee mark when I tacked to take the right side of the course about 30 feet too soon. I fell into a long hole, and emerged when 10 boats had gone past...
The third race was the best of the day. A careful start onto port tack straightaway into clear air saw me sail into, and not just luckily gain, another second place at the end.
The Ikon remains a better and quicker boat than I am a skipper, so no
complaints there (and, of course, no excuses either!). I was running
with three degrees of bulb cant, which make a definite improvement to
handling, particularly on the run, and my new SAILSetc sails were setting
well. It seemed to me that most of the other boats, particularly the
Ikons and Italikos, were running with significant bulb cant, much more so
than I saw in Malta at the previous IOM Worlds two years ago.
Day 2The wind kept a much more consistent direction, with backs and veers of no more than 30 degrees over a longish time scale of 20 or 30 minutes. Wind strength was also more consistent, low to mid No.1 suit, with little in the way of gusts or pronounced lulls, though we could still fall into relative areas of low pressure without notice.
The good news was that umpiring seemed to be working. Barely a protest was taken off the water, there were no hold-ups, and we enjoyed much reduced squabbling at the lake side.
The personal bad news was that I went backwards during the day, ending up in "D" fleet for the last heat of the day. I just couldn't recapture the boat speed of day 1, being unable to correctly adjust the boat tune to the short choppy waves and the modest but definite current running down the course. I didn't help my results by making unforced errors at mark roundings. Eventually, what seemed to be truly excessive twist in jib and main yielded promotion out of "D" back into "C" fleet for the next day.
The umpires added a "double penalty" -- 720 degrees -- to their list of calls, after some serious barging on the start line. They also called a double penalty if a penalised skipper sailed on instead of executing their turn promptly.
Up in "A" fleet, the day ended with Graham Bantock GBR 95 in
first place, Martin Roberts GBR 122 in second, and Geoff Smale NZL
61 in third. There was a considerable points gap to the remainder of
the competitors. Franco Borin ITA 131, Pierluigi Puthod ITA 22, Ante
Kovacevic CRO 30, Guillermo Beltri ESP 47, and Graham Elliott GBR 42 were
close together in that order. Following them were Mike Clifton GBR
05, Richard Rowan IRL 85, Gary Cameron AUS 162, and Craig Smith AUS
147. I had slipped down to 23rd.
Day 3The wind was similar to the previous day -- relatively steady and consistent. Thing was, it was "relatively" steady on the decision point between No.1 and No.2 suit. A number of races saw some of the fleet in No.1's and some in No.2's, and it was pure luck as to whether you had the right suit for your heat. Mark Dennis got his choices exactly wrong, and ended in "D" fleet for his trouble. The last "A" fleet heat saw the wind disappear completely, and after Puthod had finished well ahead, the rest were timed out. A disappointing end to some excellent racing.
As on the previous day, I was again unable to master the conditions, and remained in "C" and "D" fleets. I grew a little desperate, and made the mistake of calling for water and my rights at a tight wing mark rounding. The leeward boat luffed up on me while the windward boat bore down, and the resulting entanglement saw my jib ripped off the pivot and trashed. I hadn't brought a spare, and no one wanted to let me have theirs. Graham Bantock very kindly repaired the damage as best he could, but from that point on the jib would never work properly.
The officials got wise to a little ruse used by, erm, certain competitors, and issued a severe warning. When calling a penalty, the umpires used the standard phrase "Penalty. Boat 132 penalty". Skippers were meant to say, if they had a contact, either "Protest, boat 123 protests 456" or "Boat 123 will do a turn". Some skippers discovered that yelling "Penalty boat 456" had the magical effect of getting 456 out of their hair and doing an unnecessary turn. Personally, I'd have had these skippers thrown out of the whole event and sent home in disgrace for bad sportsmanship.
After 12 races and 2 discards, the points were Bantock 31, Roberts 35, Smale 36, Beltri 44, Cameron 58, Elliott 68, Borin 73, Smith 83, Chapelot 85, and Puthod 86. I'd fallen to 39th.
Day 4The wind was pretty much like day 2, but without any real decisions needed about No.2 rig -- the wind clearly remained at the middle to top of No.1.
The most interesting event at the end of the day was the "Judges Race", where competitors lent their boats to the various event officials, Judges, and Umpires. In their turn, the competitors acted as race committee, protest committee, observers, and umpires, and called triple penalties and imaginary contacts at will...! Great fun was had by all, and more than one judge was seen to walk away afterwards looking somewhat thoughtful.
I completed my alphabet soup, dropping down into "E" fleet for one race, and continued my slide down the leader board, ending in 43rd.
15 races completed, and Martin Roberts on 48 points headed the list for
the first time, with Bantock a point behind. A gap opened up to
third-placed Beltri 64, and Cameron & Smale tied on 78. Elliott,
Puthod, and Smith were on 97, 104, and 105.
Day 5The wind was again similar to that of the previous five days -- medium to top of No.1 rig, shifty, holes, and the same vicious short chop. Get your tack rhythm wrong, and you could stall in irons, flapping and bobbing serenely, while everyone sailed right on by. And that was in "A" fleet; you can imagine the frequent mayhem in "E".
The fight was on between Bantock and Roberts for first, and between Cameron, Beltri, and Smale for third. By the end of the day, it seemed clear that, disasters apart, Roberts more or less had the silverware in his grasp, and that Smale had dropped out of contention for third place.
I stabilized in "D" fleet for the day. In each of my races, I had clear opportunities to gain promotion, and wasted them one by one with ill-judged barging at the start, contacting marks, being over the line early, and similar shenanigans. My only consolation was that, from rounding the windward mark of the first beat in last place every time, I managed to avoid demotion every time, sailing into 5th last place at worst, and 5th place at best.
The most imaginative start of the entire event was Daniel Weiseman's high-speed perfectly-judged port tack flyer in "D" fleet. It was also the only port tack start seen. Trouble was, Daniel didn't have his rig set up exactly, and finished in 5th place for his trouble.
At the end of day 5 and 21 races with 3 discards, we had Roberts 62,
Bantock 68, Cameron 82, Beltri 86, Smale 116, Puthod 118, Smith 120,
Stollery 144, and Elliott 165.
Day 6The wind was different for this day. Although more highly variable, with 90 degree shifts, knock-down gusts, and many holes, I found it curiously more sailable. I gained promotion to "C" fleet, saw out the event there, and ended in 48th overall. Better than my result in the European Championships of 2000, and facing much stronger competition. So in the end, my slide from 8th on day 1 to 48th at the end was, erm, an acceptable improvement!
Three final races were run. Although Bantock and Roberts always ended well-placed, Roberts improved his lead to clearly finish the event in first place as World IOM Champion 2001. I wondered why he walked back from the last race finish without his gear, having given his boat and transmitter to someone else to sail. A few seconds later, a mass of skippers pounced and threw him into the sea.
As was fitting, the end result seemed to me to be a clear result of
skipper skill and determination, not of hull form. In a number of
"A" heat starts I saw Gary Cameron sail his TS2 into a clear
lead within 20 metres, and extend this to 2 or 3 boat lengths within 60
metres. Not particularly remarkable, perhaps, except for the fact
that the wind was nowhere near the top of No.1 rig. Equally, I saw
Graham Bantock and Martin Roberts drive their much narrower-beam boats
into the lead when almost completely overpowered.
ConclusionsEach of the top skippers seemed to show a characteristic strength. I thought Craig Smith showed superb boat-handling, able to manage and control his TS2 on the start and around the course with flair and dash. Martin Roberts seemed able to be on the right side of the course, and in the right place on the course, almost all the time, reading not only the existing wind but the forthcoming wind with telepathic foresight. Graham Bantock sailed with extraordinary precision, able to find the laylines to within inches without a single bobble or leech flap while the others were luffing and broaching all around him. Pierluigi Puthod took clear charge when the wind lightened, sailing smooth, low-drag courses that no one else could match. Guillermo Beltri, on the other hand, took comfort when the wind was at the top of No.1 rig, managing to drive his boat into and through gusts and squalls that others were desperately avoiding. Geoff Smale was simply always there or thereabouts, without drama, sailing thoughtfully and cheerfully capitalising on the slightest errors of those ahead. And Gary Cameron could trim his sails to extract the very last pico-gram of drive from the prevailing wind, being able to point his TS2 to a degree I'd never seen amongst sailors of his design.
Zoran Grubisa, who organised and managed a superb event, thought that
the key factor in the future of the IOM would be sails and rigs, not
hulls, and that the relative success of the competitors this year was
related to their ability to tune their rig and set their sails
appropriately for the prevailing conditions.
©2011 Lester Gilbert