Finn Open & Junior Europeans, July 2013

Warnemunde, Germany
Well, that was a challenge!  103 competitors from 26 nations gathered at Warnemunde, a venue 'famous for its big stable winds, long waves and fabulous hospitality' as the pre-event report stated.
Only one was true this week.  The local organisers were friendly, hospitable and keen to do a good job.  However, it was very much a light wind week with velocity never exceeding 12 knots.  

Many hours were spent by the race committee on the water waiting for the sea breeze to kick in.  But with varying amounts of inversion the sea breeze was inhibited and was not reliable in strength and direction until late in the day.

Day 1 saw no racing with no wind; on days 2 & 3 a sea breeze arrived in time for 3 races on both occasions but they were long hard days for the sailors; days 4 & 5 saw the sea breeze arrive after 3pm so there was only one race before it died away again; day 6 (medal race day) was very similar to 4 & 5 and, with a last possible warning signal at 3pm, no racing took place.

When winds were too light to race the sailors were kept ashore under AP and AP/numeral when possible and half-hourly updates were given over the PA system.  The sailors appreciated this.

With such a big fleet on one line, starting was a real challenge especially when the wind was light and shifty.  Length was in excess of 600m! We used a mid-line buoy but when set just a few meters low the sailors just ignored it.  The senior sailors felt that when it was on the line it stopped the normally seen mid-line sag of a black flag on a long line.  So it was not helpful.  

With no hard and fast guideline on preparatory signals from the class, we stuck to ISAF policy with one attempt under P before moving to black.  Whenever the line was unfair the start was postponed.  At times, and not infrequently, this incurred frustration to not only the race committee but also the sailors, especially the top end of the fleet who just wanted us to start and BFD the 'cruisers'.  But they are all customers and deserve the right to a fair line.  The obvious solution is for the class to group the fleet.

The very large fleet also required the first beat to be maximised to give some separation of the fleet, with the second lap of the windward-leeward course reduced so that target time could be met.
So, with a wind of 8-12 knots, a leg length of 1.2 to 1.3nm was used; the second lap was reduced to 0.8 or 0.9nm with a Charlie minus at the gate.  Feedback on this policy was largely positive with just a few complaining that it gave too much importance to the first beat.  Apart from the first race when target time was exceeded by 8 minutes (13%) all other races were within 1 or 2 minutes, or 3% of target time (60 minutes when 3 races were scheduled; 75 with two).

Throughout the week, the beats were good as were the runs, being on occasion perfect, with a very wide field of play utilised and an almost 50:50 split on port and starboard.

Talking to the competitors after the closing ceremony, most of the top sailors recognised and appreciated the good courses and fair racing and, with a few exceptions, favoured a split into groups if this size entry was to become the norm.

SolentXtra was represented Robert Lamb as the Race Officer, Peter Knight on the pin-end, John Whyte and Emma Bourne on the finish boat.  Martin Stephens and Neil Williams took the mark laying in hand.  

From a procedural perspective everything was robust and of a high standard.

IMG 0769

Each committee boat posed problems to be overcome as far as the boats themselves and the equipment available were concerned.  The start boat had so much steel that it became a Faraday's cage making the use of a compass impossible and communication by VHF extremely difficult in ranges exceeding 1 nm; the finish boat required additional anchor warp as it could not anchor reliably with the amount of chain on board; Neil's RIB was frequently a paddling pool eventually cured with an orange juice bottle and gaffer tape; Martin had the dubious pleasure of lifting very heavy sections of railway line as anchors for the marks - but it has almost cured his frozen shoulders!  Only the pin end boat  was free of equipment issues, unless Peter kept them to himself.

So a light wind week with 103 boats on the start line and many lessons learned.  We forged good relationships with the locals both on the committee boats and ashore.

The event microsite is here

© SolentXtra 2012