The Redline team rolled into Southampton the day after our win in Helsinki giving us plenty of time to acclimatise to the new venue. We were blown away by our kind hosts living less than 100 meters from the yacht club in beautiful houses where each of us had our own room and bathroom! No doubt this helped the team stay fresh throughout the regatta.
The Grade 2 Royal Southern Match Cup was sailed in the famous Solent waters, a stretch of water between the Isle of White and mainland England. This is a very technical area to sail as the tide eddies and bends around the island and up the various cannels. The tide can be extremely strong and changes speed quickly, our time on distance calculations before the start needed to be closely monitored from flight to flight. This extra curve ball makes it slightly harder for the international teams to adapt. Also the a-symmetrical kites where launched and dropped from the cabin rather than the forward hatch, this was an additional mechanical issue all teams were wrestling with.
We started our round robin against regular rivals GBR Race Team followed by Aschenbrenner Racing Team. Our race with the Brits was held in a steady 20 knots, racing was close around the entire race until the bottom mark where once again the race was decided. We had a terrible drop and rounding, luckily the Brits had a worse rounding under pressure forcing an extremely wide rounding allowing us to sail away for an easy win. Our next race against Aschenbrenner was a little cleaner however a lot of little mistakes were made by both teams where we made just a few less mistakes giving us the win. We were happy with the two wins, however our boat handling was behind where it needed to be, this was a similar problem felt by a lot of teams due to the strong winds, tight racing and cabin drops.
After a break we came back on for two races and started to gain momentum with 4 wins on the trot, but more importantly we started to sail the boats cleaner with better manoeuvres. As we finished the fourth race an umpire spoke with Matt and while he was focusing on the conversation forgot to steer the boat and crash jibed, knocking himself out in the process. It was a big hit, and put Matt on the floor of the boat. He was sent ashore for treatment with Pat to hold his hand as requested by management on the basis that our races would be postponed. Mark and Alex were left to sail the boat around. After 15 minutes the umpires said we had two options: accept two random crew and race or accept forfeit, this was a frustrating situation because we wouldn’t have sent our bowman to shore if we needed to keep racing, however we had no options and couldn’t fight the decision. So Mark took the Helm and Alex continued as mainsheet. Fortunately the boys rose to the challenge of the new roles and new crew to sail clean for another 2 wins without the opposition crossing in front once.
Our final 3 round robin races were in a fresh 25 knots. We won all except our race against 5 times World Match Racing Tour Champion - team GAC Pindar skippered by Ian Williams. Although we lost, it was a close race. We were behind slightly at the start, hot on his tail at the top mark and again kissing his transom around the bottom mark. We got a split right up the second beat and came out in front, another match was on our ladder rung and we accidently gave Ian the right thinking it was a boat in another match. A careless mistake that shouldn’t have been made. He used that to his advantage and lead around the top mark, he sailed well on the final run to defend the small lead.
From the round robin we went straight into semi-finals, partnered up with the inform Rascal Racing who are the current British Universities Match Racing Champions. The overly vocal team who made a lot of noise in the pre starts brought a tough set of races where the lead never extended more than 3 boat lengths. Our play of the series was in race 2 when we rounded the top mark just in front with a penalty, Both boats jibed just after the top mark and luffed, they rolled us, but we held on to defend the jibe back. We carried Rascal Racing past the bottom mark layline cleared our penalty and put a penalty on Rascal Racing before going back on a reach to the bottom mark. Although a tight series we came out on top 3-0.
We waited a good couple hours to watch an epic 5 race series between GBR Race Team and GAC Pindar. The young Brits sailed very well to almost beat the mighty GAC Pindar but ultimately Williams won out 3-2.
Our final we held in 2-5 knots with big wind shifts as the thermal breeze built and the gradient wind shut down. It was very similar to a Perth sea breeze pushing over the easterly gradient in summer. Both starts were very even and both races were ultimately won by whoever picked the shifts and puffs. This is an area of sailing that we as a team feel comfortable with hence we felt very happy to have equal starts. Both races saw us in control at various points and we had the choice of where to go up the beat, unfortunately both pivotal calls we made were wrong letting GAC take the cross in front from our decision. From there were struggled to break free. GAC Pindar are defiantly a level above the rest, and as you would expect being 5 time world champion.
Writing this at Doha airport in Qatar, the team is very proud of the results from the tour, our only losses in the finals were to full time, professional sailors. Our strong results have briefly put us on top of the World Match Racing Tour! Something we want to do a lot more of, the team can take a lot of lessons from the month for our next trip to Sopot and US Grand Slam. Look forward to seeing you all in Perth shortly.
Matt, Alex, Patrick and Mark