The first day of a regatta is often a defining one. We practiced on Saturday and Sunday with some informal tuning and some slightly less informal match racing with our competition for the week. Conditions had been between 12 and 18 knots from the north, and in those flat-water conditions, we’d been going well, certainly holding our own against the more established teams. But as is so often the case, the first race day was a completely different scenario. The wind had shifted to the south, giving a lumpy sea and, although we started in about 14-16 knots, a breeze that eased over the day to about 10-13. What is clear is that, in those conditions, we are not consistently up to speed against Aqua, Mascalzone Latino, and Oracle. So we have a lot of work to do this week to try to bridge the gap, and our goals for the week have been amended to be less about results and more about getting up to speed, ready for this year’s RC44 circuit. Judging by the forecast, tomorrow we’ll get to work on our light-air sailing.
This afternoon, I served as a panel member on a discussion about match racing in the United States. The panel included Don Wilson, founder of the Chicago Match Race Center, and was focused on the resurgence of grass-roots match racing in America. With centers also recently established in Wisconsin and New York, there are now some fantastic facilities for people to get into match racing in the States. U.S. competitors are noticeably absent from the top echelons of the ISAF match race rankings, but I’m sure that the new opportunities will change that. Historically, the clubs or centers with fleets of boats have produced the top match race sailors in the world, and the U.S. is well placed to start producing those top match racers again.
Regarding my own match racing, today I put in a bid for a tour card on the World Match Racing Tour. This year is the first time since 2008 that I’ve started the year knowing that I have the funding to complete the year, which puts us in a much better position than in the last two years. Now we can plan our training and events well in advance and the whole team can get the dates locked in early, which is hugely important when managing schedules and the inevitable clashes. Those clashes mean that I can make only seven of the nine events on the World Match Racing Tour this year, but despite that, I’m feeling more confident about our prospects for the year than at any time since 2008. Hopefully, we will be successful in our bid for a tour card, about which we find out on Friday. If we are, I think we can really challenge for the World Championship Title again.