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Measurement and final practice for Neilson GBR Cadet World Team in Buenos Aires

by Ian Harris 29 Dec 2016 14:11 GMT 26 December 2016 - 4 January 2017

28th December: Measurement Day

In the searing heat just outside some wind stopping boat sheds at Club Nautico Albatros, the Neilson GBR Cadet World Team lined up for their measurement slot. It was 8:30 am, but the heat built quickly to an almost unbearable level as the boats passed into the shade for their pre-tournament measuring. A number of the British boats had problems, a mm here or there, but the team gelled and with the assistance of some seriously capable dads, none more so again than Chris Sparks, the GBR fleet, bar 2, passed their tests and were on their way to a reception from the British Embassy in downtown Buenos Aires with Mr Richard Kent. And it here that 2 tales unfold.

Whilst one GBR team member was left behind as mast step epoxy set, the British team headed south to the city. Dressed in GBR Neilson team kit they were received by the Ambassador at the glorious British Embassy house, and treated to a fine tea. Ryan Wilkinson showed his musical prowess by playing a piece on the grand piano for all after team mates Megan Ferguson and Ellie Wootton had made an introduction about the Cadet to Mr Kent. Impressed by the team's presentation and manner, Mr Kent and his young family made a huge effort to come north to Club Nautico Albatros the following day (29th) for the opening ceremony.

Meanwhile back in the searing heat of the club, there were many tales of woe as firstly the Belgian team and then the poor Australians had problem after problem. Thankfully they were all resolved but not without some serious sweating in the afternoon sun. For those at the club, a large band played classic Tangos and Argentine dances through the early evening to those parents who embraced their well-deserved "cervezas" at the end of a very long day in the sun.

29th December: Practice race and Opening ceremony

After team briefing and a run through of the SI's, the international teams congregated under the Argentinian and Club Nautico Flags for the final briefing from the race management. With a single ramp to launch from, and nearly 2 miles to the start area, timings and efficiency were paramount to the organisers. So with ½ an hours delay the fleet launched country by country to be picked up by support ribs and towed... and towed... and towed. It really is such a long way to the start area that everyone has to be careful with flogging sails and especially with dehydration.

Once at the course area and ready to go, with a 1 knot tide under them and a week of intense practice from all the teams behind them, inevitably there was a general recall. The 2nd attempt to start was nearly as bad but with such a long way back to port and the opening ceremony lined up the race was left to run. My guess would be that there were 20 boats OCS, but it was just the practice!

So the runners and riders at the top? The Argentines showed really well in very light conditions, but were chased by GBR's Cara Bland who arrived at the finish in 2nd place, but who, being very superstitious, peeled away at the last moment. There were a number of Australians and Belgians in the finishing group, as were a strong gathering of GBR boats amongst them Megan Ferguson and Jamie Harris who had been top ten all the way around, but also including Ellie Wootton who had recovered from a very late start to a place just outside the top 10. The rest of the team were also well placed with Anna Morgan and Ryan Wilkinson looking good in the top 20.

An hour's tow back to port ensued after the race where, once the sailors had settled, the speeches, in a typically South American style, began in earnest. A huge brass ensemble began to play the teams march through the crowds, with flags, songs and chants, to loud cheers from all those there. With excellent sentiment and celebration of the history of the Cadet and its role as the premier global 2 person dinghy, the teams walked off together to unveil the flags of nations competing, and the unveiling of a huge Golden C to celebrate this the 50th Cadet dinghy World Championships.

Tomorrow the racing starts in earnest. The forecast is yet again for very light and fickle breezes, so it may well be a difficult day for the older larger sailors in competition with the younger smaller teams. Only time will tell, but the forecast remains light for most of the week. It will be a true test of concentration for all in the tremendous heat out here in Buenos Aires. Good luck and fair winds to all.

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