The Aircalin Match Racing Cup saw the best Caledonian crews racing against crews from the Pacific region in a one-on-one duel. The boats were identical Elliott 6's crewed by three or four sailors depending on total crew weight. Each race duel lasted about 15 minutes with multiple races held in a round-robin format to determine competitors in the quarter, semi and final races. The courses were windward/leeward
(straight up and down). This year's edition of the race saw twelve teams competing. Eight teams were under 23, four teams were Open and there were three women skippers leading mixed crews across the fleet.
Day One saw near perfect conditions: 10-12 knots from the South in bright sunshine. All twelve crews competed in this round-robin phase and at the end of the day, the local crews of Tom Picot, Cyril Fortin and Tugdual Piriou were the clear leaders taking full advantage of their local knowledge on home waters. My team included Celia Willison (skipper), Josh Bull and Sevena Woodall and we finished Day One with two wins, back in the pack, and a steep learning curve ahead of us.
Day Two saw the completion of the Round-Robin phase with 11 races per team; one against every other crew in the competition. The objective was to establish a ranking of all teams (from one to twelve) before the elimination phase began. There were a total of 66 race duels completed during the Round-Robin phase with some very tight racing between all boats - the result generally coming down to the smallest of errors. At the end of the day three Caledonian crews were in the lead: Tom Picot, Yann Rigal and Cyril Fortin with our team finishing in eighth place and going up against the overall leader Tom Picot in the Quarter Finals; Tom having only lost a single duel throughout the qualifying series.
Day Three greeted all quarter finalists with light, shifty conditions and highlighted the significant advantage sailing on home waters can bring. The four local crews of Tom Picot, Yann Rigal, Tugdual Piriou and Cyril Fortin were too good on their home turf and used all their knowledge of boats and the race course to defeat their opponents and set up an all Caledonian Semi-Final. Jordan Stevenson (RNZYS) and his crew finished in 5th place overall. 6th - 8th place were all International crews ably lead by our three women skippers, winning an equal number of races, so the final positions stayed the same as at the end of the Round-Robin phase with our team finishing in eighth place overall.
The final day of racing to determine the overall winner took place in extremely light winds, often dropping to around 2 knots, and was held over a shortened format. In the end, Yann Rigal won the event defeating Cyril Fortin in the final with Tugdual Piriou in third and Tom Picot rounding out the finals.
Having had some time to reflect on the event I have come to realise that the Match Racing format (built around the America's Cup) is a world away from the Fleet Racing that I have competed in for most of my life. To start with, the Racing Rules are significantly different and an identical situation in Fleet Racing will be interpreted differently in a Match Racing format. Also, in Fleet Racing the focus is on both tactics and strategy and it is all about sailing around the course taking into consideration the fleet, your closest competitors on the scoreboard, assessing the risks and positioning your boat to take advantage of the next wind change in either pressure or direction. In Match Racing it is all about controlling your opponent and manoeuvring yourself to force your opponent to go the way you want them to go. Strategy is the plan you have for sailing around the course in the shortest time possible in the absence of other boats. Tactics are how you manage other boats on the course, which have one aim - to destroy your strategic plan. Life would be much simpler if there were no other competitors on the water!
Thank you for taking the time to read this far (if you made it!) and as always, thanks for your support. I will continue to update you on this roller-coaster ride that is My Journey.