Sailing: splendid seascape between La Ciotat and Cassis. Weather conditions went from 10 to 35 knots under clear and sunny skies. On the Saturday, 2 reefs and the funny orange storm jib were mandatory to sail the Grand-Surprises for a final race in Baie de La Ciotat.
Seven races were sailed overall and, as usual, the podium wasn’t final until the very last leg to the finish.
Wednesday: Final day for the hand-over of the boats. 5 crews (sometimes single-handling skippers) picked their boat at the Frioul base near Marseilles and sailed on the Tuesday to La Ciotat, taking (for some of them) this opportunity to visits the creeks” along the spectacular coastline between pointe Rouge and Cap Canaille. The fleet of 12 Grand-Surprises (30 feet), managed and maintained by TeamWinds, was in perfect condition with identical sails - a key feature in the ABCup one-design format
Thursday: the practice race was launched at 10:30 in Baie de La Ciotat with a mild 10 knots southwesterly breeze. Three true races followed, which left INSEAD (Maarten de Vries) with the best score at the end of the day but not too far ahead of WU (Stefan Luger), LBS and HEC (Ph. Lerique). Interestingly, Maarten, the clear leader at the end of the day, didn’t win any of the 3 races. No one did actually win more than once on that first day: LBS, IMD (Michael Ring) and WU each scored a first. At the other end of the fleet, no clear indication either…the last boat to finish was different each time; INSEAD/Kellogg, Harvard and Oxford, were only 3 points apart. The wind vanished between race 1 and 2, allowing some to take an onshore break on the picturesque Ile Verte which closes the bay in its southwest end.
Friday: In similarly good sailing conditions, with 15 knots of westerly breeze, the first race of the day took the fleet between mainland and Ile, for a 1.5 upwind leg with an arrival near the high cliff of Cap Canaille. Crossing first, MIP (Paolo Sito) sent a signal that the first day hadn’t told the full story, although more was required to put pressure on the usual suspects closely following (WU, LBS and INSEAD MdV). The second race of the day was almost an excuse to reach the spectacular Creek of Port Miou. Whilst there was little room for sophisticated tactics, good sail trimming and disciplined helming enabled the leading pack to strengthen their ranking. However at this stage of the regatta, INSEAD MdV had lost their leadership to LBS and WU, albeit by only 4 points. The 2-hour lunch break in the ‘Calanque’ was a lovely parenthesis involving swimming, mast climbing and photo taking.
The ambiance wasn’t quite the same when the fleet pointed out of Port-Miou, as a good 25-knot gusty wind had settled in Baie de Cassis. Despite the spinnaker ban, the Grand-Surprises were powering over 10 knots when rushing down to the leeward mark. No real surprise on the arrival line with IMD crossing first and therefore taking a firm step onto the podium alongside LBS and WU. MIP finishes 2nd and becomes a credible challenger next to INSEAD Maarten de Vries. At the end of this 2nd day of racing, it is impossible to tell who will be on the podium. As usual the onshore games and the discarding of the worst ranking will take their toll. In this respect LBS run with an advantage, having not scored worst than 5, they can afford a poor ranking on the Saturday, whilst, with an 8th on the second race, WU feel more pressure, not to mention IMD and their 10th in the same second race.
Further down the fleet, the Oxford team (new to the ABCup) seems to get more familiar with the boat and finishes 6th despite a rather small crew of 5 people.
Saturday: 10am, the Baie of La Ciotat is home to a typical Mistral blowing 30knots with gusts nearing 40 knots. In consideration of the fact that the sea is choppy but manageable, it is decided to take the fleet for at least one race, with storm jibs and two reefs. With a course set not too far from the coastline and gusty conditions, tactics are essential. Also, the very small jib makes it important to have a good and dynamic main sail trimming. The Italians of MIP did well on both grounds and finished 1st. Some say that the weight on the rail provided by a few top pasta killers did help as well.
This had to be the last race of this 18th ABCup regatta since the 2nd committee boat was nearly sunk by one of the boats in a far too ambitious and unanticipated attempt to shorten the dog leg.
Whilst the ABCup official ranking takes into account the onshore contests, sailing is obviously at the heart of the gathering and the final sailing score – different from the overall – is then: 1st WU (Stefan Luger), 2nd LBS (Klaus Rasmussen and Rob Coterill), 3rd MIP (Paolo Sito).