Well, boys and girls, what have we learned this week at the Polish Nationals? - Wind is a fickle mistress.
Nobody can be sure of knowing what Sopot will come up with next. The daily forecast is really just a sort of general guide as to what you possibly could expect, not a menu of what you will expect. Of course, this is true of all forecasts, the UK Met Office always says that if you gave yesterday’s recorded weather as today’s forecast, you’d be at least 60% correct. Not so in Sopot. So far we have seen races with 12 kts at the top mark and 5 kts at the bottom. We have seen the wind swing sending all sailors to the right of the course, then back so they all have to go left on the next lap, and those who don’t will get murdered in the positions. We have seen the sea breeze win over the 180 deg. prevailing wind. We see boats 50m away foiling as others are sitting in a hole. This is a place to challenge the best of race officers.
However, for those who can manage to join the dots of wind around the course, big gains are made. But the ‘snakes and ladders’ sailing game continues for those less able to read the wind with Albatross like skills. And even the local sailors can be beaten by the conditions. It is the best wind reader who will ultimately be the 2017 World Champion.
Waves can be another interesting aspect to this place. As it is quite shallow, a short chop can develop quite quickly and make falling off foils a distinct possibility. Luckily, so far the wind had not got above some 12 kts, so not much excitement in that direction yet. But the nice thing is that there is no tide to speak of, so at least they don’t have to worry about that as well.
So, who is now in the frame. The current Champ, Mischa Heemskerk likes the heavier stuff where his physical sailing style pays dividends. But this place is really taxing him. So far, we see no leading the fleet every race for a clean sweep. However, he may be trying a few things out to see if they work or not, so maybe we have not seen the best of him yet. Stevie Brewin looks in the groove though. He is still to decide what mast height to use, but looks like plumping for the full 9m rather than his 8.3m he uses in the windier stuff back home with devastating results. Manuel Calavia is on fire though. After a poor (for him) first day, he stormed the other races. His ability to read the shifts and pick the fast side, hopping from gust to gust is what gets him to the top. He also seems to use an ‘out of the box’ boat, no fancy mods or systems for him, he just keeps it simple. Kuba Surowic is another top one. Built like a racing snake, he seems perfectly suited to these conditions and can hop onto the foils in the lightest of gusts. Tymuk Bendyk is another to watch. He is a longer version of Kuba, with similar skills.
So, it looks like this year will be a really exciting fight. The best all round sailor will be the victor, that and the one who has the most luck. But to quote Mischa, 'I'm going to really defend it, and I'm not going to give it away easily!'