In my opinion, the most important thing about the first day of the Master Worlds is to get off the water without an opening day disaster. I wish I could report success here...
We sailed out to the starting area in a weak westerly, down to near zero a few times on the way out, a couple periods of sailing two-blocked. The good news was that, contrary to expectations, it was a beautiful day with the clouds quickly parting and the warm sun shining down. Once out to the starting area, Peter Vessella and I did the usual stuff - side by side speed tuning, then split tacks to see if a side was favored, etc. But it was clear the breeze was dying and, if patient, money said a seabreeze would fill. And, sure enough, around 2:30 the line was apparent and the RC picked everything up and shifted back into the middle of the bay. By the time the RC was setup the breeze was in, with 12-15 knots and some higher patches. Well, of course, this was the initial pulse and, true to form, it backed off a bit for the first race.
In these conditions, and with our location, the mantra was to favor the left side of the course as it should have more pressure. This works 90% of the time... I lined up and started near the pin which was slightly favored. In the full hiking breeze I (finally!) had good speed off the line and a glance over my shoulder showed that, as expected, only two or three boats up the line were going to be issues. But then the breeze softened and shifted ever so slightly to the right. I kept going thinking I was just sailing through a slight hole but things just kept getting worse so I finally decided to bite the bullet and tack out. Things just went further downhill from there with the boats having gone right now significanttly ahead and finding a lane difficult. By the time I got to the weather mark I was very deep... not how I imagined the first race would go. I started working on getting back as many boats as I could but in the end it was pretty hopeless and I ended with an opening race 18th. Ugh.
Next race the breeze seemed steadier. This time I decided to start at the the RC boat end to better protect the right. At the start there was an Italian sailor to leeward who was working hard to pinch me off but I was able to get slightly forward on him, then put the bow down and was off to the races. In short order therre were about 4 boats poked out on the front row all going significantly faster than the rest of the fleet. While I thought my speed was great I was experiencing again the new problem of good speed but not as good point so I could see that I was slowly coming down to the line of the guys to leeward. Scott Ferguson was the first of that group to tack (after about 3 minutes on starboard) and he passed behind, Vann tacked a bit later and it was clear he would also be behind so I tacked ahead and well to leeward to not screw him up, putting me parallel to Scott. After about 3 minutes on port I rolled Scott and had moved forward on Vann, and could see the Dutch guy in my window. So, I kept going on port figuring I had everyone covered. Scott went way to the left, along with Andy Pimental, and it was clear they were making a move there. So, about 50 yards shy of the starboard layline I tacked to get back over to them, just crossing Scott, who I decided to face plant as we were making the last approach to the weather mark. So, first to weather mark, then to the run. Scott worked to the left, I got a bit too far to the right and he managed to make enough distance on my to have an inside for the port gate which, unfortunately, heavily favored. So, Scott rounds first, I follow him around and then tack to go left. The Dutch guy and Andy are next, the go a bit further on port but then both also tack. Scott goes right. This race its clear the left is working so I'm going left but then decide to hedge my bets a bit and tack. I cross the Dutch guy by a healthy amount but he keeps going left. As I'm sailing up I can see the guys on the right are fading away and when the Jan tacks I can see he has lost a lot. So, tack back to the left. The Dutch guy has come back right and he has gained a lot and manages to cross me, but lets me keep going. I get to the port tack layline, tack over, he is coming back now too but I'll probably just cross so he tacks to leeward and I'm slightly faster so am able to round first at the top mark. I hold him off on the reach and we go down the run with both of us on starboard and he is slightly better at working the waves this jibe and slowly starts to move forward. Finally, I jibe to port, the "right" jibe and start to gaini back but too late and he rounds about a boat length ahead. On the reach we both open up considerably on Andy Pimental, giving some room to try to make a move on the final beat. We went into a tacking duel and I think I was slowly gaining but then dropped the tiller extension on a tack. At this point Andy had gotten close again so best to protect second. So, great race Arnoud Hummel (winner in Roses) and very encouraged to see that when hiking the boat speed is not the issue.
So... confidence very high if I can hike. Need to pay better attention in the light stuff. And, as expected, it is going to be a very tough series. Certainly cannot afford any more 18's!!!