Friday, July 07, 2006
Last weekend we were in Ancona, ITA for a Grade 4 event. Finally a competition for our strength. After being beaten up badly in the last two Grade 3 events I went, finishing this regatta at a respectable 3rd place brought the morale back. Although it was again a "put-together-at-last-minute" team (composed of my brother Cagatay, long time sailing friend and opponent from old times Burcu and her colleague Franco), we had quite fun and fought close battles on the course.
Racing was done on J24's. Although this is a very old design and the boat is very uncomfy and slow then modern boats like Blu24 or Ton28, I found it quite suitable for match racing. The boat is quite slow making the pre-start tactics especially important. Further, once one has the control over the opponent, it is rather difficult for the latter to get away with a quick roll tack or gybe.
After struggling during the first two races (especially with in-boat communication) we got hold of things and executed pretty good pre-start combinations in the remaining races. In the end we won 5 out of 6 races. This was still not enough to get to the finals though. Due to low winds on the first day, the committe could not finish round robin in time and had to cancel semi-finals. This meant that winners of the two round robing groups qualified for finals, while 2nd placed teams qualified for the petite final.
The decisive race for us was the last one of the round robin. Both we and our oppenent had a 3-0 record up until then, meaning that the winner would be the 1st of the group. It was a nice split start but we were on the left. So, at the first cross they were starboard, and we tacked right to the front and leeward. The judge tought it was too close of a tack: we got a penalty. Up the beat it was very close and we were able to pull through on the first downwind. The second round we extended our lead a little and were about 3-4 boat lengths in front at the beginning of last beat. I thought we try to extend the lead a little more and take the penalty at the finish line. Then, at the start of the downwind leg, it seemed that they were really close and that we would not be able to take the penalty and still be ahead. I don't know if this thought was correct and they were really near or I panicked too much, but with a quick change of mind I decided to slow down the boat and try to create a penalty situation. Slowing down the boat worked fine but they just sailed down to leeward of us and gave us no chance of creating a penalty situation. So, it ended with them taking the finish and moving to the final.
On retrorespect, I could immediately tell how stupid the whole strategy was. The right thing would have been to take the penalty on the last beat, at the starboard layline. Then we could get a chance at having a starboard-port situation with them, and even if they crossed ahead of us, they would overshoot the mark and we would get very close for the last downwind. Actually the situation was perfectly set for such strategy, as we had them on the left side of the course on the last beat. That one should opt for this strategy when the situation allows is, was the lesson well learned and made this event another valuable experience ! Hopefully, a time will come when I have experienced so many of such sitauation that the decisions will fall naturally...