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International Canoe World Championship at Pwllheli - Day 3

by Dougal Henshall 22 Aug 2017 22:37 BST 19-25 August 2017

Mae'r haul wedi cael ei het i ffwrdd! (see below)

Race 5 - Wind 100 degrees 4-5 kts. Light rain at first then sun.

The forecast for today was for sunshine with the possibility of a sea breeze, but as the fleet launched off the beach you could almost hear the mutterings of "they have to be joking" for not only was a light rain falling but that this was clearly going to be a light airs race from the off. Once again the Race Team got the calls right, going to AP whilst they swung the course around to the left to meet the new wind (what there was of it).

With some more rapid mark shifting the delay was kept to a minimum, and on a clean start, the fleet picked their way up the beat. With just a little more wind this would have been a classic Pwllheli day out in the bay, as both the mountains of Snowdonia and Harlech castle were clearly visible from out on the race course. The helms had plenty of time to admire the views as progress was slow, but steady; despite the lightness of the breeze the better sailed bats were always moving.

The second start was also clear, but one sensed that the heavier Taifuns might struggle when it came to getting downwind and this would prove to be the case. There was enough breeze for the asymmetric spinnakers to fly properly, though the angles were a little higher than normal to keep the pressure in the sail.

At the windward mark, it was once again Robin Wood who held the lead but his advantage was small, with a number of boats behind him creating the trickiest of tactical challenges. USA boats try to be Robin's nemesis, though this time it was Todd Twigg, a clubmate of Chris Maas who was chasing, along with Peter Ullman, again the leading German IC. Some of these boats went high, others low, leaving Wood wondering who should he cover. With the gybe mark hard to see against the shore line, PSC ribs led the way, helping to clear the RS-X squad off the layline along the way. Along the bottom reach the tactical situation became even more acute, with four boats spread in a line from leeward to windward. For 5 minutes or more it looked as if Wood, as leader, would get rolled by the boats to windward but he is far too wily a competitor to get caught like that and with a better angle into the leeward mark, had just enough pace to keep his lead. The big surprise then was that he tacked over onto starboard, making a long board towards the shore; the next 10 boats at least stood stayed on port tack. Followers of these reports might by now be asking "what of Chris Maas", the overnight leader from the USA. Chris was somewhere in double figures at the windward mark and using his downwind boatspeed picked off some of the boats ahead, but unless he could do something dramatic, this race would be a discard.

The boats were closing in on the windward mark from both wings when two guns were heard, causing helms to look for the S flag indicating shortened course. It was there (honest – the picture proves it) but by now it was hanging limp. In the lightest of airs Wood crossed the line for the gun, closely followed by Ullman, Twigg and Caldwell.

It had been slightly more straight forward for the Asymmetric fleet as they could at least get downwind into the strongly ebbing tide. Yet even here, the conditions were to jumble up the results, with Stephen Bowen's impressive string of results coming to an end with a 3rd place. Phil Allen, from Chichester YC would win this one, ahead of John Robson who enjoyed his best result to date. As predicted, the Taifun fleet struggled in these conditions and were a long way back, the results were an exact repeat of the previous day with Cladius Junge winning from Andreas Steiman.

After this long, drawn out race the T flag was conspicuous for its absence so the fleet were released to head back to shore, though for many this would take most of the time allowed for lunch just to make it back to the beach.

Race 6 - Wind 105 degrees. 1-3kts, Sun.

It hadn't been too bad for the leading ICs and the ACs, they'd had plenty of time to get ashore, have lunch, boat bimble and get ready to set out again. For the back markers it had been something of a rush, made worse by the fact that progress (even with the tide) had been reduced to a crawl. In a move intended to keep the event on schedule the Race Officer dispatched the windward mark out to the intended position, but on arrival, 0,8m upwind, it was clear that with a total lack of wind further out, that racing would be impossible. As many of the boats were still only half way out a quick decision saw them turned around and sent back to the shore, with this being the end of racing for today.

It may have been a testing day for the patience out afloat, but for the canoe WAGs, friends and family, the attractions of the Llyn peninsular are proving to be an enjoyable and popular asset. Abersoch, then on to Aberdaron, with the stunning views out over Bardsey Island is one way; the Italianate village of Portmerion (with its connections to the Prisoner TV series) is just to the east. But the Llyn is so much more than scenery, for it is also rich in culture, with some of the visitors to Pwllheli Sailing Club taking up the offer of a day of games and activities intended to show off – and teach, some of the rudiments of the Welsh Language. So for those of you who took up this interesting offer, Mae'r haul wedi cael ei het i ffwrdd! (The sun has got his hat off) which he might well have tomorrow as well.

Tomorrow is THE big day here at Pwllheli, with the running of the New York Canoe Club International Challenge Cup. Just 6 boats racing, 3 each from the UK and USA, for one of the iconic trophies not just in sailing, but in all sport! 3 races to be held with a forecast of a building breeze – and sunshine!. After a couple of days racing in light and fluky airs, the 'big one' looks set to be a classic.

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