So the first couple of days was all about leaving the dock, sailing, then getting back without damaging anything. I was pretty happy to get it all strapped to the dock.
For me, in Oman, it was like we had eleven or so days of practice before the first event, and here I am up against all of these guys that have sailed the AC45s and have sailed multiple seasons on the 40s, so I knew that I needed the time. Dean Barker with Team New Zealand, he didn’t have a cat background, he had a boat, they went to training, they did the days and hours on the water, so he quickly got in the game. And Artemis, with Terry, the same, they had the funding of a Cup team, they shipped a boat to Florida, and basically sailed a month and a half straight. So when they showed up at the Extreme 40 event, I think they even went to the same training area, Musannah, which is 40 or 50 miles up the coast from Muscat. It’s a great little facility, it blows 8 to 18 everyday, so it’s a great place to get the feeling for a catamaran, or any new boat.
For me, I had so little time on the boat, with a new team. We have somewhat limited resources. We don’t have a big shore team. We have guys that can fix things, but we’re not totally dialed in. Don’t break the boat! Get the hours on the water. Don’t break any people. We don’t have any spare crew. So that was my first couple of days. And then we started to feel out a little bit of the practice races, so we had like three or more teams show up to practice. So here we are, right off the breakwater, there’s a big, steel, hard can buoy, which was one end of the starting line, and one of the leeward marks. We actually had a situation at a start, where, well, I was told that at the Extreme Sailing Series that there’s really no room around the start. There’s a breakwater, a seawall, spectator fleets, and you really have no room, so you have to enter from above the line. So you kind of reach in at a minute to go, and find your spot. So in Musannah, we had all the room in the world, and I was trying to learn how to do that. One start I was coming in at speed, I got across one bow, then had to duck another stern, and the end of the line is that hard buoy. So I’m flying a hull, fully powered-up, and the rudder is completely stalled. I mean just a rooster tail about ten feet tall, and I can’t do anything. We were headed straight for this buoy. Luckily, Charlie (Ogletree) dropped the traveler, and we missed the buoy, by not much. We were missing boats by not much. So we decided to tone it down, ‘Let’s not crash. Let’s do this without hurting anyone.’
Sounds a little nuts!
Yeah. So after that, the other teams took a day off, so Alinghi and us decided to do a couple of match racing starts. We were pushing each other. Also Musannah is a great sail training base. It’s kind of like US sailing. They have a bunch of little dinghies. A fleet of Lasers, a fleet of Hobie 16s, a fleet of F18s. Basically, anyone that wants to go sailing, they’ll train. It’s a bitchin’ set-up. So they’re out there, just off of our starting line training. So here we are, we’ve got a bunch of kids in single-handed dingys, we’re trying to battle for the pin-end. There were a couple of starts where, Ernesto, man, he just, no fear, tuck it right on in there. A couple of times we were in there, but I’d give it up, because I didn’t feel comfortable getting that close to the kids. It seemed like one time, he just flew a hull right between two kids (laughs). I thought to myself, ‘O.K. I’m not killing any kids. To his credit, he’s a great sailor, and knows the boats, and knew what he could do. So toward the end of the day, it was our last race of the day.
They won the first half of the day, we won a couple, so it was like, ’OK last race! Winner wins!’ We were getting the pin end, and he ducked behind us to push us a little harder, and he got to leeward and realized that there was no room between us and the pin. He wasn’t going to lay the pin, so he swung up to tack. He got into this situation that I think is kind of typical in catamarans where, we had no contact, but he spun up. His windward bow went over our leeward stern and then his hull hit the water. So we’re basically overlapped, with his bows locked in between out sterns. Like you take two forks and aim it at each other, you can wiggle a little bit without hitting, but he was getting closer and closer, and he was either going to hit the back beam, which would have hurt his bow. He bore away and took our port stern out. Credit to the boats, the bows are strong, there was just a couple of paint chips to his bow, and our stern was toast. So we went back in, we were sinking, get the crane, pull it out of the water, and the shore team only took three days to fix the boat. They said it was going to be four days, and it was only two and a half. They’re really on it!
Do you think some of you’re A Class sailing helped in the close quarter racing?
Stand by for part 3…