Spared the Carnage

A strong spring cold front sends the men's gold fleet tumbling across Lake Neusidl, as the women watch on from shore. When the girls get their racing in, it's entirely different affair.

Down Time
Courtesy Annie Nelson

May 18, Lake Neusidl, Austria-Now I know why I've always lived next to an ocean. This lake sailing is driving me crazy! Yesterday the wind built in the morning with the passage of a cold front. The Men's gold fleet was sent out at 11 a.m. They completed one race in 15 to 20 knots. As a squall line approached, the RC went ahead and started the next sequence. Meanwhile, back on the beach the rest of us were rigged and ready, but were told to take all sails down and batten the hatches (if there were any). The race began as the sky turned black, and while we were all inside the tent hiding from the elements, those on the water tried to survive the 30-knot gusts that basically knocked them all down. About four of nineteen boats managed to stay upright. We watched as the water turned frothy white, and one by one the stories came in. The first casualty was a broken foot. Because the lake is so shallow, when the boat went over, its German skipper, who was winning the regatta after Day 1, broke his ankle when he hit the ground. Usually, when you capsize the bows have some water under them, but here in Lake Neusidl the hulls hit the bottom and the impact is dangerous. The next thing we knew an Austrian volunteer was running around looking for Americans to get clothes for Jacques Bernier. When their boat went over and hit the bottom with such force, he went flying into the mast face first. He heard such a load crack in his skull that they waved a boat over to rescue him. The good news is he's fine and he only has a partial fracture above his brow and some skin missing. Lots of carnage with spinnaker poles snapped in half after hitting bottom, mud on bows and mast tips, and bruised egos everywhere. Only seven boats finished the race. We keep asking why the RC didn't abandon, but it looks as if there is a contest out the on the lake between RCs to see who can get the most races out of the different sites. Ours might be winning. The wind howled all afternoon and finally when it calmed down enough, the women were sent out in 10 to 12 knots. As they lay the course, the wind died and we finished in about 6 knots. Sue and I placed fourth and were leading overall. But the RC wanted more out of us, and started a race in 3 knots. We limped around the course three times and finished in 10th. The South African team finished fifth and regained its lead by 3 points. The French team was the best on the day, scoring a 2-3, and they're back up in the top with us again. They are probably the toughest team in most conditions because they have sailed together for many years and in many major events, winning this one four years ago. As we came into the beach after racing, the sun was setting for the second night in a row. Today it's sunny and warm and light with an offshore breeze. The Gold fleet went out, and they are now drifting around in about 6 knots. We are rigged and ready and hope to have a better day in the light stuff. For results from the Women's Hobie 16 fleet and all others, www.worldsailinggames2006.at -Annie Nelson and Sue Korzeniewski