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Rooster 4000 Euro Cup at Quiberon, France - Overall

by Steve Cockerill 20 Jul 2015 12:05 BST 15-18 July 2015

Day 3

The RO had his weather forecast and was prepared to send us afloat early for potentially 4 races on the penultimate day of 4000 Euros in Quiberon.

The Met forecast was reasonably clear – there would be wind for a period before and after a weak front passing over the race area, then the wind would vanish. This was represented by the forecast for the wind going left (backing) before the front with some light rain – then clearing and going right (veering). The age old tactical problem on the race course is to know for sure when the front is about to arrive and when it has passed. How can you tell? When will the back and veer effect start and stop and when should we ignore them and use the local land effects and normal cloud information?

So lining up for race 4, the first of the day – the port tack to the right took us closer to the shore (this is a standard no brainer on a big course as the wind leaves the shoreline at 90 degrees to the shore so sailing there should give you a header then a lift along the shoreline. The topography of the land was also bay shaped which also suggested left or right but not up the middle might pay.

In the end we tried to hedge our bets and sailed up the middle to be passed from the left and the right. Rounding in the teens, in many classes might be the end of the race, but with the possible downwind gains in asymmetric sailing, there was still a chance to turn the race into a counter. After the first now even tighter reach to the outer loop, we had to decide if we should we take the early starboard gybe – which might head more but then make the port back worse? Instead I focused on looking for pressure – and we did take the early starboard.

This seemed to work, we took a few on the first downwind. As the breeze continued to shift left (upwind) we took a few smart right hand gates downwind to use the new bias on the marks to reel in the leaders, this time is was Geoff and Bernice again who had sailed hard to the left hand corner on the first beat. Our charge through the fleet took us past Michael and Nicolas, John and Fran – then finally Cedric and Anthony. We never imagined we could catch Geoff and Bernice – but we picked up a couple of lucky gusts down the last run to at least make them a little edgy and cover us to the finish.

2 firsts in a row for Geoff and Bernice definitely tightened it up at the front. We should at least keep a weather eye on where they go in future.

Race 5. With the wind moderating some more and still shifting slightly left we aimed to start at the port end of the line – as there was no sign yet of the front. With an OK but safe start we found ourselves being squeezed out by Anna and Andrea and opted to tack to find some clearer wind. The right hand side also had some advantage. The middle was once again a bad place to be. Anna eventually winning the race – I can only assume that the left side came good later on as we took the starboard tack header to the mark. The wind had shifted significantly, the top spinnaker reach to the spacer was now so tight that it paid to 2 sail before hoisting. We followed Geoff and Bernice driving over a large bunch who were struggling to hold the Gennaker.

Our first offwind was frustrating, always feeling that we were just a little late to take advantage of a gust or shift. The second downwind to be the last in the race – and we found ourselves a lovely last gust from the left(upwind) nice header on starboard downwind with pressure – perhaps the front was close? We took Geoff and Bernice and found ourselves in touching distance of Yannik and Loic who held us off with some significant cheers at the finish. Our 4th had been a terrific number reduction from the late teens at the first mark. Anna and Andrea (last years Euro Cup Champions) had won their first race which was terrific and Michael and Nicolas had a second. Geoff and Bernice finished one behind us – still in the hunt.

Race 6 Now even lighter winds. I finally realized that our rig set up had either stretched in the day before's conditions, so we pulled the rig up another 25mm on the jib halyard from our initial 7320 mast rake which helped the lowers bite and give us some more pointing ability. We started at the starboard end and took an early port tack. We had felt some rain, but no sign of the front yet. So we crossed back to the left half way up the beat just in time before it went further left. Phew we were in touching distance of the leaders this time – and the boat felt high and fast.

We found Keri and Freya in the lead closely flowed by John and Fran. The wind started to build, and we took J&F on the run then took early tack to port from the right hand gate (looking downwind) and extended. Keri and Freya had taken the left hand gate (looking downwind) which gave us the advantage on the new left shift We passed and extended on Keri and Freya upwind.

The Spinnaker reach home was fun, as we prepared for it to be rather broad due to the wind heading. Keri had missed the 'last lap' flag and started to drop at the outer loop mark but got it back together again by the drop at the last leeward mark.

Unfortunately with Florance le Brun on their heels, their drop was a bit untidy and they made a wide rounding letting in Florance. With now perhaps 20 knots of breeze on last beat we crossed to take the win to watch Keri and Freya capsize on the last tack to the line, recovering to take 7th. John and Fran came through to take a well deserved third.

Race 7. Wind increased significantly and the skies began to clear, so now I was finally certain that the wind should go right. We started at the Committee boat with Michael Duflos just under us. The progressive right shift took us over Michael and we cleared all on the left. Trevor and Adrien Pierce had taken our transoms and enjoyed even more right shift to lead at the top mark from Tim and Harry Litt. As the wind veered more the outer loop became increasingly tight. We did a set gybe and then just made the leeward gate – Tim sailed too far on starboard – found the gate too hard to get back to and we were through them.

Geoffrey and Bernice enjoyed the reaches as the beats became 2 sail reaches, they took many places as those who were not great at 2 sail gybes capsized in the 20-25 knots of breeze and so sneaked another 2nd.

To suggest that we have every size of sailor in the 4000 fleet should not be exaggerated, Geoffrey suggested that his biggest put down was that he was offered a copy of Finn Times whilst checking the results.

What had started as our hardest day had finished on a high with our points total in tact.

Day 4

If there were only two races, then we were already the winners. If there were three – then they needed a top 4 result to ensure that Geoff and Bernice could not win even if they won the three last races.

Sounds simple enough as long as gear failure did not rear its ugly head.

Once again the Met suggested that the wind would slowly die from its 10 knots and go right. An early start gave the RO the chance to run three races, now on a simple windward leeward course. Instead of using the green marks, they opted to choose the small yellow marks that were easy to confuse with local yellow cans.

We found the waves were hard on the bow on port tack and alongside on starboard. So we opted to have the jib cars one more forward on the port tack than starboard. Even so it was hard to keep the boat moving along on port so I opted for sitting slightly further back and using more laser style steering to keep us bowling along on port. Pointing on port was not much of an option I thought.

Our basic setup had been rig on 7320mm 25 loose on the forestay – I had again pulled it up again another inch to help the lowers bite in and stiffen the mast. This was what had made the difference the previous day – so it was our starting point today.

Rooster 4000 Euro Cup at Quiberon - photo © Steve Cockerill

We opted for the starboard committee boat start and lined up on a nice starboard tack layline for the boat with 2 minutes to go to start time. 90% of the fleet were still to windward of us as we plodded under control to the corner of the committee boat. The 4000 needs enough jib to keep her from tacking unexpectedly and some forward motion to keep steerage. So with jib on and occasionally flapping we crept towards the corner of the boat. At about 30 seconds to go, Michael Duflos had tacked to port to slow down at the boat, when Anna Ferrari had nowhere to go but collide heavily with Michael stopping both in their tracks. To my left there had been some excited starters who looked to be close to being over as we picked our way off the line whilst being leebowed by Keri and Freya, at the same time nearly being rolled by Anna who had miraculously recovered from the collision with Michael.

We clung on for a while – then eventually gained slightly to windward on Keri when Anna also tacked off giving us a clear lane for as long as we needed. Taking a small shift to the right it appeared that our differential set up worked as we quickly past the opposition around us to find Tim Litt popping in from the left to take the lead at the top mark. We had also practiced heating up between the waves and bleeding the speed off to surf when the wave was going the right way with plenty of windward heel to encourage the bleed. Sarah was not looking forward to it as it meant massive movements from to leeward on the bleeding and pops to windward when heating it up.

Our practice paid dividends, as we were able to pass and pull out a 50m cushion on Tim who was not sailing slowly himself. With only one round to go, we were finally certain that the title was ours, then the jib knot came undone which caused some consternation tacking off to secure it again and back to progress to the top mark. Tim certainly ate into our lead and appeared even closer when I checked before we turned for the final downwind. The second downwind was again hard work, but we extended and crossed first.

There was sadly not much celebration in the boat. We felt we had done the practice, spent 12 months to develop our trapezing and asymmetric sailing techniques, with a view to win the Euros – and now in the moment of glory we were still in the one more race – don't get excited mode or was it complete exhaustion? Perhaps it was also because I had seen many of my friends numbers on the board again for UFD, including Tim who had sailed an excellent 2nd and Keri who had crossed the line inside the top 5. Its hard to be excited when you are feeling for others disappointment.

Tim Litt was stoic saying its great racing at the front so we are going for an early start again.

Meanwhile John and Fran were making a comeback and might still take 3rd from Michael Duflos. Their series had been constructed from a vast amount of Fireball and 505 championship experience so John was well aware that a regatta like this was not a sprint – hence they had not yet had gear failure or been UFD'd. The light winds are their speciality so they were keen to race all three on this last day.

Geoff and Bernice finished second in that race as those in front had UFD'd, besides Geoffrey's downwind was a similar style to ours. Perhaps 'Solent Chop' practice had paid off.

Race 9. Despite Sarah asking to go in to start packing the shop, I was keen to not affect any results by not being on the water. I used to find it hard when the winner of the first two races of an open would retire to leave me having to win the last race to finish 2nd overall despite having beaten the boat in 3rd in two previous races. So I felt it was our duty to race hard and take another win if we could.

The wind had dropped and the waves had now reduced – so we evened up the jib cars again. The wind had veered just before start time – and we finally had our first general recall. But with a super quick turn around we were back in a black flag countdown. The start felt like a better re run of the first – we won the committee boat and popped out. Although we led at first mark, Tim and Harry were on the hunt.

Downwind we extended but opted for the right hand side of the course again with Tim. This time Antonio and Massimo with Anna and Andrea took the left and made some big gains. Our downwind was good enough to pass Antonio and Massimo back to take the second gun of the day. Tim made it into 4th behind Anna.

The AP over H marked the end of a long regatta.

I must say that the regatta organisation was fantastic. The tractor that helped the tired and weak (me too) up the steep beach at the end of the days racing was a godsend. The sailors from Italy, UK France, Belgium and Luxembourg were some of the most friendly and down to earth teams I have ever sailed with. Michael Duflos had helped organise an excellent event. We would love to come back in 2 years after giving Garda a go next year.

We had an excellent series, one that we could be proud of. When I asked the other South Coast partnership what was their secret of success, was it the new sails or the training at Stokes Bay with us? – Geoffrey replied "its simple – wine before beer – makes you feel very queer, but beer before wine and you'll feel fine!"

Where is the 4000 fleet now? With many boats still available on the second hand market, the fleet appear to be those of any size who are keen to race a cost effective high performance boat. There were many new faces at this years Euro's which bodes well for the future, many buying new sails and getting ready to launch their own campaign for next year in Garda.

I spent my week sailing in a Thermaflex Longjohn with Race Armour Shorts, Thermaflex top and Pro Aquafleece (in the windier races), visor or beanie – depending on the conditions. The water was warm and the weather was humid, but when the wind blew, it can always feel chilly.

Full results and a photo gallery are available.

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