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The Only Way Is Up!

by Mark Jardine 4 Jan 22:00 GMT
Yannick Bestaven on Maître Coq IV first at Cape Horn in the Vendée Globe © Yannick Bestaven / Maître Coq IV #VG2020

After the year we've all been through we're all hoping this to be the case, and in the sailing world there are many current examples where the saying is both physically and metaphorically true.

Firstly, let's turn to the Vendée Globe, where the leaders have just made the turn at Cape Horn, ready for the 7000 nautical mile return journey up the Atlantic to Les Sables d'Olonne. The moment was anything but smooth for leader Yannick Bestaven on Maître Coq IV, who had to battle mountainous seas and high winds. He said of his passage through the deep south, "I had to believe in my options and in my route without worrying too much about what my competitors could do. I had to be stubborn, especially when I stayed along the ice barrier. But I didn't think you could go so far into the human body to physically and mentally overcome all the stress, the cold, the damp, the loneliness. There were some magical moments and some very hard ones, like when the boat broached and I was on the deck in the middle of the night wondering what the hell I was doing there."

Bestaven's wide rounding of Cape Horn looked to have opened the door for Charlie Dalin on APIVIA, but the leader's routing looks to be spot on, despite his obvious tiredness; this battle is far from over.

The Vendée Globe still has 27 of the 33 competitors racing, which - for all the talk of attrition in this edition of the race - is extraordinary. The light winds in the South Atlantic and Pacific Ocean have meant the race won't be troubling the record books for elapsed time, but when we're starved of international sailing competition to follow, the fact that they're racing for longer just provides us with a bit more great competition to enjoy.

For the America's Cup teams, the trick is getting up on the foils quickly and then staying up there for as long as possible. As was painfully exposed during the America's Cup World Series Auckland, the British team have some big issues here which need to be resolved quickly. The AC75 is a steep learning curve for both the designers and sailors, and all of the teams are learning rapidly. It is possible for Sir Ben Ainslie's INEOS TEAM UK to pull a rabbit out of the hat and catch up with the other challengers, but time is running out rapidly as The Prada Cup starts in just ten days' time...

Many have written off the British team already, saying the challenger series is a straight fight between Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli and New York YC American Magic, but in many ways we're back to the same situation as the 2013 America's Cup, where the teams were learning as they raced and upgrade packages were introduced constantly. For sure, INEOS TEAM UK are on the back foot, but let's not forget that ORACLE TEAM USA were truly on the ropes in 2013 before pulling off possibly the greatest comeback in sporting history.

There is very little racing going on in the UK at the moment, but it's great to see the participation surge that we saw in the Northern Hemisphere summertime continue in Australia, with a record fleet of 56 yachts taking part in the Bartercard Sail Paradise Regatta at Southport Yacht Club, Queensland. Unfortunately, the 52nd NS14 Nationals at Gosford Sailing Club, New South Wales, was cancelled, but Ross Hansen gave us the encouraging news that they would have had the biggest fleet in years.

And adversity often brings new ideas, so with many events being cancelled, the Western Australian multihull community got together to organise the WAXIT National Championship at Jervoise Bay Sailing Club. As local A Class cat sailor James Clark said, "Most sailors were not able to attend their usual regattas due to COVID, which is particularly tough for the guys and girls that train regularly and put a lot of time and effort in to their sailing, based on that the idea of WAXIT came up and the wonderful volunteers at Jervoise Bay Sailing Club made it happen."

With Dougal Henshall we don't look up, but back in time at some of the great innovators in sailing. His latest article was on Charles Currey, titled 'The Winningest Wise Man', plus the John Westell Centenary video series has now begun, with Part 1 outlining the early years of the 505 dinghy designer.

Dougal's keyboard is running hot and we've got much more in the pipeline from him, with many lessons from the past proving very applicable in the age we're living through.

2020 was an extraordinary year in many ways, with some extraordinary stories, so I chatted with Andy Rice to go through our top ten articles. You can watch part 1 here (counting down from 10th to 6th) and part 2 here (concluding with 5th to the top spot). Andy has been working with super coach Hamish Willcox to create the Road to Gold, a brand new video-learning course which could revolutionise your sailing. If you're wondering who Hamish is, then hearing that he coaches none other than Pete Burling and Blair Tuke should give you a small insight...

These are dark times, but sailing provides us with respite from the gloom, out in the fresh air and naturally distanced. The positive to take home is seeing all those who have discovered our great sport and previous sailors reconnecting with it and getting back out on the water.

You don't have to be foiling in a multi-million dollar machine to enjoy sailing - it's possible to get out and sail for very little - and it'll certainly make you feel 'up'.

Mark Jardine
Sail-World.com and YachtsandYachting.com Managing Editor

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