After a couple of years of near wind drought Defi 2013 finally got the generous helping of Tramontana wind that it so deserved. Severne teamriders James Dinsmore and Allan Cross made the trip over the Channel from the south coast of England. James gives Boards his thoughts on the trip:
No wind but there is an air of anticipation as the forecast for the following three days is perfect. We meet fellow Severne teamrider and Dutch speedsailor extraordinaire Jurjen van der Noord. It also turns out we are parked next to Patrice Belbeoch who, like Jurjen, is great to chat to.
The 60 minutes countdown to race one starts mid-morning. With 20 knots at the start I take a R4 7.8m/iS107/Ca 36.5 fin. The powerful combo takes me cleanly through the chaos of a start line with 800 other people on it. However, by the time we reach the first mark, 10km away, 35knot gusts are being recorded. I am well in the top 20, which inspires me to grit my teeth and hang on. I flatten off the adjustable outhaul and muscle the gear for the next 30km to the finish. Thirteenth place is a good start in a big field with competitors from over 30 different countries.
The second race is delayed and run over only one 20km lap. I take a R4 6.2m/iS87/Vector Volt 34 combination and am right up there until about 4km from home when I suddenly lose speed and start to struggle to point upwind. People start to overtake me and I fear that I will not make the finish line. About 10 metres from the line I have to unhook and pump and just bounce off the downwind finish buoy and over the line. On the beach I discover that the fin head has cracked and the fin has been leaning over in the box. I am lucky to have finished in 23rd but the need to find a replacement fin is to have negative consequences on the following days. Sebastien Bonhomme Allaire leads overnight and I am 14th overall.
Two races are run, each of 40km. In the first I go with the R4 6.2 (now tweaked after advice from Jurjen)/iS87 and untested loan Nik Baker 34 fin. As with the previous day I start at the upwind end of the line well away from the bulk of the top sailors. The problem with the upwind end is that it takes the rabbit boat 45-50 seconds to get there from the pin end. However, the wind is clean and so it is a strategy that enables a safe start but from which you are unlikely to ever win the race as you have a significant time handicap. Anyway, things feel comfortable after a clean start and I come in 14th position. Race 4 in the afternoon does not go so well. The wind is now hitting 45 knots on the course and the direction has shifted. My R3 5.1 comes out of the bag with the same board and fin. The upwind start does not work so well with the wind having swung and I am just outside the top twenty at the first mark. The return legs are now tight upwind and I find it difficult to make the board head up enough with a fin that I then realise does not have the pointing potential of the broken Volt. I struggle but do make the finish line in one reach and still just outside the top twenty. Many sailors need to tack to make the line. Andrea Cucci is the overnight leader.
For the fifth and final race I take the R4 6.2/iS87/Deb SL3 34. I try the fin for the first time on the course beforehand and it feels quicker and more comfortable than the NB one. I get a decent start at the pin end and am in contention for a top 20 finish until the fourth and final leg. The wind has backed and I cannot point enough to make it back to the line. It is gutting to see sailor after sailor stream over the line as I tack back up to the finish. The saving grace is that a couple of other top twenty guys have to do the same. On the beach the rest of the British crew tell me I was an idiot for taking a downwind slalom fin. Thanks lads! Why didn’t you tell me before?
The flying Patrice Belbeoch takes the overall win on his birthday. I have come a respectable seventeenth overall and just ahead of Danny Aeberli as the top Severne sailor. We are lucky to have been able to take part in a Defi event with some of the best conditions ever. I will go away with my smaller sails tuned better, quite a bit wiser about fins and generally inspired.