Sean O’Brien reports from day four in Costa Brava…
Day four started firing early here in Costa Brava. Normally we’d have to wait agonisingly until late afternoon for any wind but today we were out racing by 11am, with light sideshore 8-13 knots and blistering sun. We managed to finish 2.5 full eliminations in what turned out to be one of the most difficult days of racing I have done in a long time (now I remember why I always used to skip this event! Haha).
The thing about Costa Brava is, you NEVER KNOW what the wind is going to do. It could be 8 knots all morning and you take your biggest kit, then in the 45 seconds it takes to sail out to the course it picks up to 20 knots and you can barely sail it home in one piece to change down! Today was one of those days.
I had a nasty first heat with these exact conditions and watching the wind increase over the course of the morning I decided to jump down on to my 7.8m as the wind was teetering around 18 knots and looked like it could go NUCLEAR at any second; apparently not. Half way through the race the wind dropped to 6 knots and my heat was abandoned with us left drifting at the 2nd mark. I tried as best I could to make it back to the beach to grab the big gear but the wind remained light and I couldn’t actually get back upwind to the startline! Taking a DNF for my first heat today; FML.
The rest of the fleet had similar issues with names like Finian Maynard, Jimmy Diaz, Ben Van Der Steen and Antoine Questel getting knocked out in their quarter finals choosing the wrong kit! The wind decided to come back for the winner’s final however which saw the two boys on Gaastra, Arnon Dagan and Alberto Menegatti make one of the funniest mistakes I’ve seen in a long time in racing!
Both boys had seen the advantage starting at the pin, and despite being teammates, went head-to-head battling to keep the lowest sailor off the line and protect the pin start. The damage started with 2 minutes to go as the sailors ran back through the startline to get a run-up to the start. Alberto and Arnon kept downwind of the fleet and battled each other for the lowest spot, neither one willing to relinquish the pin-end position. Down and down and down they kept sailing, eyes on each other trying to psych each other out and get this low position. With 1 minute to go they gybed, then looked at the startline – they had sailed 250m downwind of it! NO CHANCE TO EVEN MAKE THE LINE!
Antoine had already made an over-early before this happened so when it came to the green flag, all we saw from the beach was five guys starting at the boat in clean air, and two Gaastra sailors well downwind of the startline making some tacks to try and make the line! They started a good 30 seconds behind the rest of the fleet – ROOKIE ERROR!
With Antoine out and Alberto probably being one of the fastest guys here on the big gear, Bjorn had an easy time winning this final and we were on for the next round quicker than you can say “the pin start was a mistake!”.
Just like Costa Brava is famous for, sailing out to our heats on 8.6/7.8m sails the wind suddenly NUKED to 30 knots, with most of the sailors unable to get around the course without crashing at half the gybes. I was unlucky in my heat with a bunch of guys crashing at the first mark (me included) and had to sit another round out on the beach. Ross Williams, Antoine Questel, Finian Maynard and Peter Bijl also joined the ‘way too overpowered to stick a gybe’ club and were knocked out of their heats!
The winner’s final in Round 4 became the Bjorn show once again after Antoine Albeau uncharacteristically crashed his 2nd gybe sitting in deep in the pack. Ben Van Der Steen made the same error and was back to last in the fleet allowing Dunkerbeck to win 2 finals in a row and stamp a clear lead on this event.
Just as quickly as the wind came, it disappeared again, with the first 10 heats of Round 5 beginning with a lot of us starting our heats on 7.0m completely juiced only to get to the 2nd or 3rd gybe and have it abandoned when the wind dropped down to 10 knots! I had a decent heat and qualified for the quarter final and taking a 7.0m in the quarter I was thankfully gifted an abandonment flag as I could barely plane off the startline and was LAST by so far at the first mark! Grabbing my 8.6m and big board and heading straight back to the startline for the resail of my heat by the time I got to the line the water went glassy and we had to be towed back to the beach with the boats as we were drifting out to sea in the outgoing tide! Amazing to think about 6 minutes before I was stacked on a 7.0m and now I was unable to hold my 8.6m up out of the water in glassy conditions! Only in Costa Brava!
So I’m up first tomorrow with a pretty stacked quarter final. We watched England scrape in 3-2 against Sweden with free beer at another nicely hosted party here at the biggest camping grounds I’ve ever seen in my life. A similar forecast like today is planned for the weekend, so we’ll see what it brings!
More from the previous days by clicking the numbers below….