Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Nations Cup Regionals: Behind The Scenes

As some of you might have followed on the ISAF web site, I was at the Nations Cup Group D Regional Finals in Dubai last week, skippering the Turkish Team. Before giving a narrative of the event, I would like to thank everybody who sent supporting comments through this blog.
This years most promoted event, the Nations Cup, started with dissappointment as the first of the Regional Finals in Dubai saw only three countries participating: UAE, Turkey, and India. This low attendance forced the organizers to invite local teams to reach 7 entries and have a Grade 2 event. As a result, we had two simultaneous events; one fought among the three nations to decide the regional qualifier and one among the 7 teams to decide the winner of the open Nations Cup Qualifier event.
Racing started with a round robin series where each team sailed against each other twice. This format resulted in a long and time consuming round robin series, which were dominated by us and India. Both teams lost only one point, and this against each other. Local teams skippered by Chris Graham and Cedric Le Rest took places 3 and 4 respectively, rounding the entries for the semi final stage. Since these two teams were not eligible for the Nations Cup, these results confirmed that the Regional Qualifier final was going to be among us and India, irrespective of the results of the semi-finals.
Despite this fact the organization decided to proceed with the semi finals hoping that the final of the open event and the Qualifier would be the same, allowing them to have only one final. To their relief it was indeed so: we beat Graham 3-2, while India sailed past Le Rest easily with a 3-0 score. This set the stage for the final of both events as India against us. As we got ready for the decisive final knock-out series it was already noon on the last day of the event and the set limit of 15.30pm as the last possible starting time was looming close.
Earlier that day we asked for one of the boats to be replaced, as we had used it during our semis and felt that it was significantly slower. This is done at last minute costing us more valuable time and finally racing got under way with boats number 1 and 3 (the replacement boat). The finals were going to be a best of 5 series, with boats swapped after odd numbered races and pre-start ends altering after each race. India won the pre-race draw and selected the startboard advantage (this means that they would be assigned the starboard end 3 times in case series went to 5th race). We got to choose the boat and opted for boat number 1 (meaning that we would sail her 3 times in case series went to 5th race).
When the first race got started, it was to everybody's dissappointment to see that boat number 3 was even worse than the boat we sailed during the semis. It was simply much slower in light air conditions. Hence, racing was no real match racing: sailing boat number 1, we won the first macth despite entering the start on port tack, and after switching boats India won matches 2 and 3. In match 2 we had won the start but India simply sailed by us on board boat number 1, after a short tacking duel where we tried to cover them. At this point the score was 2-1 for India but we would have had boat number 1 for the last two matches. Given the speed difference among the two boats we easily won match 4, tying the score at 2-2. Then the wind gave up on us. After two starts that got abandoned the race committee decided to stop the event. It was 15.25pm.
According to the rules the tie had to be resolved based on the round robin series, where India had beaten us in our latest encounter. Hence they got crowned both winners of the open event and the Regional Qualifier for Nations Cup. 10 minutes after this was announced and while we were still on water, sailing to the marina, the wind picked up again reaching 10-15 knots!
Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to list excuses for us not winning. In fact this blog would read the same if we had won. The fact is that the teams from Turkey and India were very closely matched in sailing competency and both sides could win the event if it had decided by sailing. However, it was the inequality of boats and poor event management that were decisive, a real pity for an event such as the Nations Cup. My feeling is that the race committee and the organizers could work better to have the deciseve final amoung Turkey and India at an earlier stage of the event, under better wind condtions and they could have prepeared boats to be much more equal in performance. I hope next year the Regional Qualifiers for Group D will be better organized and better participated at.


Blogger Tillerman said...

Tough way to lose. So what's your next big challenge?

3:29 AM  
Blogger Fred said...

Interesting to hear about the inequality of the boats. Did it have to do with the trim/set up or do you think they were not equal in weight and maybe keel/rudder distribution or the way it had been mounted?

6:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dude , that's the way the cookie crumbles - it could've been INDIA who came 2nd.

its all about luck , the toss of a coin , heads or tails.

99% sailing & 1% luck - it was INDIA's day.

9:40 AM  
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