by Mark Jardine 20 Jul 22:00 UTC Hattie Rogers out in her WASZP © Max Dooley / www.instagram.com/themaxdooley Tweet
In the past few months, we’ve all got used to new terms in our lives, such as bubbles, social distancing, flattening the curve and ‘stay safe’ – the ubiquitous sign-off to all emails and conversations. We have changed the way we do things in our daily lives and sailors, as our competitive spirit rises and we return to racing, are thinking up new ways to compete within Covid-19 regulations.
We’ve seen various formats trialled by clubs and classes including virtual marks, time trials and even the MarkSetBot self-propelled racing marks – which Sail-World.com North American Editor David Schmidt found out so much about when he talked with Kevin Morin a month ago – and had reports come in from the events that ensued. What has struck me most, both from the reports and talking to sailors who’ve taken part, is that this kind of competition has instilled a sense of adventure which the de-facto standard windward-leeward races cannot hope to achieve.
A MarkSetBot, as seen from a drone – photo © Image courtesy of MarkSetBot
Just as companies the world over are learning that home-working is possible, and the long commutes which millions upon millions of people undertake daily aren’t always necessary, the sport of sailing is learning that maybe the endless loop around the windward mark, with a perfectly set run to the leeward mark, returning to the same windward mark, isn’t the be all and end all. There are T-shirts which say ‘Eat, Sleep, Sail, Repeat’, but none which say ‘Start, Windward Mark, Leeward Mark, Repeat’…
Close battles at the windward mark during the first race of OK European Championship. – photo © Kiel Week / Sascha Klahn
I’m not saying turn everything on its head and never do windward-leeward races again – just as time in the office and face-to-face meetings are vital parts of business that have a place – but one of sailing’s great strengths is its variety, and that extends to the kind of racing we do as well as the huge range of craft we sail in.
Emirates Team New Zealand dips a 49er sailed by an Austrian crew – October 2019 – photo © Richard Gladwell
Experimenting with new formats has tapped into the adventurous spirit which sailors naturally have, and one of the projects we will be covering is the ‘Foil for Life Challenge’, where a group of British and French Waszp sailors who wanted to make a difference set themselves the goal of crossing the Channel between Lymington and Le Havre (no mean feat at 103 miles) raising money for the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and the French Assistance Publique Hôpitaux de Paris (APHP). As founder of the challenge Hattie Rogers said:
“This was able to be planned due to not having any international events this summer. One of the best things about the Waszp class is the community feel. It is such a great opportunity to bring the British and French Waszp communities together and do something for charity.
“COVID-19 has highlighted the amazing work both the NHS and APHP do and how lucky we are to have them. We want to raise as much money as possible. The reason we have chosen these charities is to deepen the meaning behind this challenge in showing the French and British sailing community relationship, despite Brexit and any political arrangements.”
Hattie Rogers out in her WASZP – photo © Charles Whiteman / www.sleek.pictures
It’s great to see sailors and sailing bringing people together in a world which is far too often accentuated by divisions.
One race which personified adventure was the Vendée-Arctique-Les Sables d’Olonne, where the latest IMOCA monohulls, many of them now foilers, sailed north from France on a triangular course, completing their Vendée Globe qualification in the process. From what we’ve seen of these new designs, November’s race is going to be fast and furious!
Charal leads the Vendée-Arctique-Les Sables d’Olonne Race – photo © Gauthier Lebec / Charal
We’ve had some great content on the websites in the past few weeks including Tom Slingsby hitting 32 knots in his foiling Moth on Lake Macquarie, the full video replays of each of the races in the 34th America’s Cup, held on San Francisco Bay in 2013 in the mighty 72 foot foiling catamarans. Yes, we’ve had more news through of cancelled and postponed events, headlined by The Ocean Race delaying to 2022/23, but sailing itself is feeling more buoyant than it has for a very long time.
Just as we’ve been forced to rethink our day-to-day lives, we can change how we sail to rekindle that sense of adventure, sparking the passion to explore not just new places, but new formats and ideas. It’s a tumultuous time for us all, but exciting as well.
Sail-World.com & YachtsandYachting.com Managing Editor