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The Mykonos Race – it’s a wrap.

Another full weekend of sailing is behind us and it was not just plain sailing. In the right conditions you can point your bow in a northerly direction and 55 NM later you will be able to enter Saldanha Bay. This was not to be had this year. Instead of the anticipated SE breeze, we ended up beating all the way to Mykonos. To make it even more interesting, we had to navigate through thick mist most of the time. From about midday our crew on “Escape” was wet and cold and this did not change until we moored our boat safely in the Mykonos marina just before midnight.

Despite the tedious long beat we managed to reach the Dassen Island gate at 16:20. A few bigger boats came out of the mist like ghost ships and disappeared as quickly again. We had no idea how far back in the fleet we were. We managed to make another 10NM towards the finish in Mykonos in a dying NW breeze. By that time I did make the mistake to announce a halfway realistic ETA to our young crew. We would not be able to make the finish before 3am, realistically only in the morning as the wind usually dies completely at night. Only in the early morning we would be able to get some offshore breeze. The sorry faces of our suffering young sailors made the decision quite easy to start the engine and to try to get to the mooring before midnight.

The faces of our academy sailors only lightened up when they saw their lavish accommodation, generously sponsored by the Club Mykonos.

When I had a look out of the window in the early morning, I could see the mist still hanging over the lagoon. I went back to bed for another hr and luckily the sun came out before our start at 10:59. We could at least see where we were going. In the light onshore breeze we were able to shake off the other L26 “Warlock” quite quickly. This was the pay back for cutting is off at the start line!

Halfway through the race, after we made good progress through the fleet, we were running out of boats in front of us. It was only “Far Med” not far ahead of us but we could already see the bigger boats making their steady move through the fleet. On the run from Jutten Island we had to fight off the faster “FTI Flyer”. When two boats fight the other boats usually get away. In this case it was “Far Med” and the Charger 33 “Shadowfax”. The first bigger boat, “Jacana”, just sailed effortless through our lee. Unfortunately this didn’t stop until we reached the finish. The bigger boats were passing us left and right and it really was demoralizing. We got handed down to 19th place overall in the bay race and 4th place in our class.

In our debriefing after we’ve crossed the finishing line my students reminded me why we are participating in races in first place. We are here to learn and not necessarily to win. That did settle it quite quickly for me and we could head back to the mooring.

There are a lot of things our students can still improve on. The biggest problem is the lack of discipline. The students are not sticking to the routine and usually are getting side tracked. It happens quite often that our boat is not prepared and we come late to a start because of that. The lack of concentration is another big problem. Most of our students can only concentrate for a short time and their minds are drifting off too quickly to non sailing related topics.

The absolute low point of my sailing career I did reach when I was sitting lonely on the mooring in the early morning, waiting for our students to arrive for our delivery back to Cape Town. The first guys pitched one hr late and I was about to explode. In the end we headed off shorthanded that morning.

After passing Jutten Island my remaining two crew mates hoisted the kite and went back to sleep. That left me sailing the boat single handed under spinnaker in the most beautiful sailing conditions and also gave me chance to get my mojo back.

We made it safely home after only 7hrs of the most enjoyable downwind sailing. When the last gybe before the harbor came up, we discussed the gybe and I mentioned that a slow gybe will most probably end up with a wrapped kite around the forestay. In the middle of the gybe a big wave was pushing the boat forward and the kite found its way around the forestay as discussed. Luckily it all ended well. The kite could be dropped without much damage and we were able to miss the harbor wall.

The Mykonos Race proved to be challenging in many ways. Hopefully our students did learn something along the way, I certainly did!

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