It was a bit of a tricky end to Sail for Gold Regatta for Frances Peters and myself. Having had Wednesday abandoned due to heavy winds it looked like the final day was going to go the same way after waking up with the windows rattling and seagulls getting blown off their nests outside our house! But the wind subsided around lunch time and they managed to get medal races in for all classes apart from the Catamarans.
Having lost a place in the previous race day dropping to third overall we were looking forward to having the opportunity to gain the place back. The programme was for three windy races on a very short course where we knew our great boat handling should pay off. However as we got out there they only had time to squeeze in two races.
The first race started off well, from a solid starting position we were second to the windward mark close behind the leading Australians who had lead from a great start position. Unfortunately we made an error on the downwind layline bring us up short at the bottom so we had to do another gybe into the mark where we lost some precious boat lengths and allowed the other british boat to get to the left side of us where there was more wind and they beat us around leaving us in 3rd position for the first race.
The wind then increased for the second race and coming around Portland Bill the wind was very gusty. One of the hardest parts of sailing the 49er is controlling the boat at slow speed especially when its windy before the start, because it becomes really unstable. Just before the start in an attempt to create more space to accelerate into we hit the boat to windward of us. We then did a penalty 360 degree turn which involved a tack and gybe which was very hard to do in these conditions and then were starting behind the whole fleet, watching them sail away from us. Unfortunately the umpire boat that was watching the incident felt that we hadn’t completed the gybe quickly enough after the tack to complete our penalty so they came up behind us waving a red flag which meant we had to do another turn! We completed this as quickly as possible but all the time the fleet was getting further and further away from us. At the time were were pretty unsure about what the penalty was for but we had to ignore it and sail as fast as we could to try and take some places. We managed to catch right up with the fleet and even overtook three boats finishing in 5th. However the australians who were just behind us going into the day won both of the races and pipped us into bronze medal position, left us in 4th!
After the incident we complained bitterly to the umpires about their decision and I think they will hold back in future from penalising 49ers taking turns quickly in windy conditions because its just not as easy as it looks!!!! But there was nothing we could do about their decision and no redress could be gained.
So a pretty sad end to our regatta but plenty of learning points to take away and improve on!