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Letter From Switzerland: Star Worlds & Cup Jubilee

October 31, 2001

Dear Friends,
I’ve had a full action-packed month, starting August sailing AC boats in Southern France. Next I went to Medemblik, Holland and sailed the Star Worlds with Hans Fogh. Finally I finished up in Cowes, England, sailing the America’s Cup Jubilee on Nicorette.

The Star Worlds were held in Medemblik, Aug. 6th to 12th. There were 102 boats competing and 32 countries represented. All the big names were there: America’s Cup skippers, gold medallists, all the big dogs had come to Holland. This was the first time I Sailed with Hans Fogh . I’ve had the good fortune of sailing the last several championships with Ross Macdonald, but this was the first time I’d sailed with Hans. Ross and I had been in contention for the title each and every time we sailed, and I can honestly say Hans Fogh was of this caliber. This shouldn’t be a surprise as Hannsy (as he is known) has been to 6 Olympics, won a bronze and a silver in the Flying Dutchman, and finished fourth two other times. He has stayed at the top for over 36 years.

How did we do?

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Race 1: Broke a spreader and sailed the race with a bent rig. Finished 34th.

Race 2: Nice conditions, sailed hard with new mast, finished 21st.

Race 3: We got off the line well, rounded the windward in 9th, unfortunately we were black-flagged for an early start. So at the mid-way point things weren’t looking so “flash” for the Hannsy and Kai squad.

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Race 4: Got off the line nice and worked the right side of the course to round 4th. By the leeward we were on Torben Grael’s tail in second. We basically sailed the next beat in match-racing format, since we both wanted the right side of the course, and the same for the next few legs. Going up the last beat we thought we had made our move and for a while, at least, we were ahead. Then the left shift came in, and we were passed by Vince Brun and an Italian team (that competed in the Soling at the last Games). We finished 4th, which put us into 18th overall. With two races to go we had an opportunity to finish in the top 15 and qualify for the Canadian Star Team.

Race 5 + 6: The conditions were great, and Hannsy and I felt good. Unfortunately, the boom broke at the vang during the first start. We tried to grab a tow back to shore and make the last race, but, the chase boat informed us that they had to stay on the course in case of a break down. I yelled back, “Why? So you won’t tow them either?” This confused the crash boat operator and he drove off.

I had a great time sailing the Championship with Hannsy. At 64 years young the fire still burns harder in him then many younger sailors.

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I was then off to the Isle of Wight in England to race on the 80-foot maxi Nicorette during the America’s Cup Jubilee, a regatta that has to have been the coolest event I’ve ever seen. We are talking more than 3012-Meters, the hottest maxis, boats from generations past, and the best of the best steering them all. Nicorette carries water ballast and is built for speed. So I had a pretty cool ride myself.
I was also fortunate enough to have an Alinghi access pass, which enabled me to float around the 12-Meter docks soaking up the America’s Cup atmosphere. The town of Cowes was full to the hilt, and there was a huge party’s every night. The sight of a sailor in a tux was almost commonplace.

Racecourses were interesting for our division because they picked the courses before the event started, and that was the race regardless of the breeze. So you could be sailing any type of race. Made for some interesting sail changes–for example, a 4-mile beat, half-mile reach, 4-mile fetch, then back downwind. It sure keeps the bowmen on their toes.

Apparently we had good weather for England standards. It only rained twice. Check if you don’t believe me, but we did see the sun. Our Alinghi 12-Meter team sailed a fantastic series, winning the regatta without having to sail the last day. I have to admit I was pretty impressed with the caliber of our team and the effort they showed. Russell Coutts decided before Race One that the mast needed to be move forward. Out came the saw and they cut the mast column 20cm forward. This proved to be effective.

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On the second to last night they had the America’s Cup Past and Present Party in the GBR America’s Cup syndicate compound. This included almost every player that will be in the Cup partying together. They had a video presentation when the bash started–a complete history of the Cup played to some great tunes. The whole place followed the video, and I can tell you once it ended the boys were ready to play. Well, I can say I was charged up. Tyler (my brother), do you remember before football games, hanging in the locker room listening to AC/DC Thunderstruck. Getting jacked! Well, I had a similar feeling. GAME DAY BABY! Twelve months and counting, then it’s show time.

I am back in Sete, France at our base again. We are in full conditioning mode again. I know none of my buddies will believe this, but, I was jogging and training daily while on the last trips. I am learning that this is what it takes to make it happen. I have lost 12 kgs. to date and am feeling great. I have to admit the training isn’t fun, but the results are.

We sailed the past week in good breeze. The Kiwi’s call it fresh. We are talking 20-plus knots. I have to admit I’m still not comfortable with the noises a Cup boat makes in breeze. The moaning that comes from these beasts is to say the least scary. Sounds sort of like a wounded grizzly bear, pounding out of the bushes after you.

Good Winds,
Kai Bjorn
Team Alinghi
GRINDER

Copyright © 2001 by Sailing World magazine. All rights reserved. These reports may not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, without the prior written consent of Sailing World.

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