Charging down wind in the RG650 with two reefs in the main and the code 5 flying proud from the pole ahead of the boat in 22kts of wind in the med reaching speeds of over 16kts in a 21 foot boat is one of the best feelings in the world. Rain, flying spray, and cool autum temperates were forgotten about as the boat planed down the face of the steep mediteranian chop.
After a crazy few weeks I finally have time to sit down, have a beautiful italian coffee, escape the rain, and catch up on emails and write some blogs. Even to get to the start line was a challenge for this regatta. Talamone is situated half way up the west italian coast, and is not the easiest place to get to, let alone to organise trasportation of a mini 650 and all the gear required for the regatta. I arrived on Sunday, and was straight away getting stuck into boat preparations. After ten days in Talamone the boat has had a full make over, and has also participated in its first race of the season.
The Talamone race was a chance to test modifications to the boat made over winter and in the previous week before the start. It was also a great opportunity to trial weight configerations and sail combinations while racing against a good compedative fleet of minis that included for the first time ever another RG650 – the new Russian owned 838.
On Saturday the first of April the a fleet of Mini’s lined up off the beautiful Talamone yacht club. The course for this race would be was Talamone yacht club, a short windward work before rounding the top mark and sailng down to the Islands of Grosetto then up to the Giannutri Islands around Elba Island, Capria Islands and then returning to Talamone.
After a few pre start delays the gun went and my co skipper Bret Perry and I put the RG650 into gear, charging up the first leg of the course in the top half of the fleet. We had fantastic speed on the first leg which was proving our modificaitons were working. We rounded the top mark and set the kite and hammered down wind reaching some fantastic speeds in the mid teens. The boat was nicely loaded up, and we were side by side with the other RG650 838. Halfway down the second leg of the race some modifications proved itself too light and the new running backstay system let go with a bang.
Straight away we dropped the kite, and as bret crawled into the back of the boat, removing the emergency buoyancy and a plether of sails and gear stacked in the back we started to re-rope the backstays as many other boats sailed past, and we unfortunatly lost our good position in the fleet. Half an hour later the running backstays were fixed just in time for us to round the second mark of the course and start heading up wind again.
As we worked our way back to windward with nice 15kt winds and we began to catch the fleet again. By the time we were at Giannutri we were again in a good positoin but a poor navigation decision took us too close to the island, where we found gusty winds making the boat hard to control. Again some boats slipped by underneath us, and we were playing catch up as the sun begain to set.
By the time we rounded Giannutri we were again in a good position, and the real fun began. As the wind swung around and picked up we had a fantastic downwing run of around 80 miles with some blistering numbers recorded with boat speed in excess of 14 Knots – extremely quick for a mini.
The tables turned when we reached Capria and we went from planing down wind in beatiful consistant winds to dropping the kite and reefing the main in preparation for the dark clouds at the northern end of the island that indicated the predicted cold front was about to hit. We had just got our reefs in when the first squall hit. This squall smashed us with so much force the boat was knocked down flat with the spreaders touching the water! The weather did not imporve on the other side of the island, and we were forced to drop the solent and hoist the storm jib. Stay tuned for some awesome GoPro footage of 816 smashing our way upwind in some horrific conditions. Thankfully I had my Zhik gear to keep me warm, and Spinlock vests to keep us safe, as the temperature dropped to a freezing 5 degrees and the waves continuously crashed over the boat. The next 65nm were extreemly tough as we saw winds consistantly over 30kts and some large waves making tough going for life onboard a 21 foot boat.
Navigation for the rest of the race was tough and the conditions proved benificial for the locals who hugged the coast with more consistant wind that we experianced further offshore. Due to this being the first race of the season, and our inabilty to hoist our lightweigh kite, I decided to remain further offshore to protect the boat against the unmarked reefs and hazards that can be found closer to shore. Unfortunatly this move allowed a few yachts to take us on the inside, and we finished the race drifting across the line at Talamone in 5th place.
Since the finish I have not had time to rest until now. The mast came straight out of the boat the day after the race to repair a damaged top spreader, and I have also utilsed the opportunity to fit a new autopilot ram, move the electronics and re’calibrate the instruments in preparation for the next race and my 1000nm qualifier. Tomorrow I sail to Genova to prepair for the GP http://www.gpi-mini650.com.