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The August wind curse

by Mark Jardine 22 Aug 2022 20:00 BST
505 Worlds at Crosshaven Day 2 © Christophe Favreau / www.christophefavreau.com

The first couple of weeks of August were certainly hot in Europe, causing all sorts of problems throughout the continent with water restrictions put in place and forest fires, especially around Bordeaux, but it also caused havoc with some major sailing events.

As sailors we're all used to losing the odd day at a sailing event due to too much or too little wind, but the 505 class at Crosshaven, Ireland only managed one race in four days, before the wind finally kicked in for the final two days of their Worlds, allowing the organisers to complete a series.

The final day provided the 'brochure conditions' that the sailors were promised, so at least the 76 competing teams will have left Ireland with a good parting memory.

The OK Dinghy World Championship in Marstrand, Sweden also had a windless final day, but as mentioned, losing one day is to be expected at an event. It did rob us of the decider between Great Britain's Charlie Cumbley and Sweden's Niklas Edler, who were separated by just .4 of a point going into the final day, but it was a good series up to that point.

Elsewhere the GP14 Worlds lost their first two days due to no wind. The Fireball Worlds first day was windless and the Fireflys lost two days at the end of the UK Nationals.

It's a bitter blow for event organisers and competitors when days are lost due to the wind, with so much planning and the expense of travelling to the event. Classes have waited up to four years to host their major events after the disruption of the pandemic, which really rubs salt into the wound.

Events and classes look closely at historical wind data before committing to a venue and date, but what's happened before doesn't say exactly what'll happen in the future, and as we've seen, this August is being far from normal.

The SailGP has to run to schedule, and to try and get around too much or too little wind, they have a selection of rigs and foils for different conditions, ranging from the towering 29-metre wing, which can get the F50s up and foiling in 4 knots of wind, through to the 18-metre wing, J2 jib and small foils which allow them to sail in up to 30 knots.

Even with this quiver of options, there's nothing you can do when there's no wind at all, as was the case on Friday at the ROCKWOOL Sail Grand Prix | Copenhagen, which put paid to holding any racing on the first day of the event.

Sailors are necessarily philosophical when there is no wind, and New Zealand driver Peter Burling said: "I mean, it's simple, for our sport we need wind and today just wasn't to be."

The hanging around clearly didn't phase the Kiwis, as they went on to win the event with a clean sweep on Saturday, making it back-to-back SailGP wins for the team skippered by the America's Cup defenders.

Royalty seems to have taken a shine to the SailGP, and the Danish event saw another 'Royal Race' with Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark joining Tom Slingsby's Australian SailGP Team in a thrilling match against His Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, who raced on board Nicolai Sehested's Denmark SailGP Team. The friendly race between the two teams took place prior to the final day of racing.

For the Australian SailGP Team Skipper Tom Slingsby it was a personal race in many ways, "Crown Prince Frederik and I have sailed together and he is a good mate of mine and I knew he really wanted the win. But with Princess Mary on board, who was born in Australia, we just knew we had to perform and show that the Aussies can't be beaten in a race, and we did just that."

Mid-week sailing

During the week I was sent this glorious photo by artist Lavinia Cadey of Loch Long One Designs working up river against a strong ebb during an August Wednesday evening race on the River Alde. It reminded me (if I ever needed reminding) just how good mid-week evening sailing is.

Sailing clubs everywhere are adapting to changing lifestyles, where weekend time has become a commodity that often can't be dedicated to series racing, and there has been an undoubted decline in club racing on Saturdays and Sundays with a rise in participation in weekday evening racing.

There is no doubt that there is an important place for weekend series, but the question of how to keep clubs busy at weekends, attracting individual sailors, families, the young and old, is difficult and requires tailoring for each club's circumstances. Constant review and asking questions of the membership will help provide the direction, and I'd love to hear from clubs where change has been made to increase participation; please email mark@yachtsandyachting.com.

A famous quote, attributed to many over the past 150 or so years, says "I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination." While this doesn't help in no wind, it does apply to clubs and their strategies moving forward to cater for sailors' changing needs. We all need to be thinking through what is best in this changing world to ensure that sailing both survives and thrives.

Wherever you are in the world, I wish you fair winds, and remember there's no better place to be than out on the water.

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

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