Defi Diva – A Final Run

#803Amber standing next to American flag

When Philipee Bru got up in front of the crowd for the last Skipper’s race, he could barely speak. With a warm scarf wrapped around his neck, it became apparent that he had given his all to put on such an amazing event. But even through his horse voice, he still managed to provide the daily instructions. “Derriere, Bouee, Derriere, Bouee, Arrivee!!”  After the instructions had been provided, they announce that they would be delaying the start.  The winds were still too unpredictable, and the race committee did not want to start a race until conditions had steadied.  In particular they were concerned about a significant increase in wind speeds after the race had already started. By delaying it, the sailors would be able to rig a more appropriate sail for the conditions. So we waited…By noon, the winds had done just as predicted. They were now significantly stronger from the morning, and they had filled in.

I repeated my plan of action – I got to the venue early,  rigged the 111, 4.7, and weed fin and stationed my board and sail on the beach, fastened to one of the front row flags.  After the ceremonial “GOOOOOO!!!” I was off to take care of some final preparations, eat my last power bar, and get into my wet suit.  With 30 minutes to spare I tugged on my pink shirt one last time, and signed out.  It was like a DC rush hour on the outer loop once I got into the water.  Only instead of texting or talking on their cell phones, everyone was trying to get their last bit of gear sorted out and tweaked. I dodged and maneuvered around sailors and finally made my way north along the shore away from the starting line.  I eventually melted into a large group of sails, as this is where many were staging to start their run up toward the starting line.  Eventually my watch ticked down and it was time.  Once again, I saw the sails converge on the start line, and once again I raked back my sail and headed out.

This time, I lined up perfectly.  I was just where I wanted to be in the pack, and I was stoked  as it looked like I finally got a good clean start…until that is, I got too close to one of the committee boats… “bloop”, there I went in the shadow of the boat.  “Of course” I thought, “of course…” I scrambled back on the board uphauled my sail and got past the boat back into the wind. I caught up to some sailors and again looked for wakes to ride. One by one I started to slowly pass a few sailors.

Following the plan that worked well the previous day, I tried to keep close to shore. But with two solid days of strong Tramontane winds the water had been pushed out and conditions were significantly more shallow. In addition the wind had shifted so that it had even more north in it and as I made my way south to the first mark, it became increasingly more apparent that I was doing a proverbial “down winder”. This time I made the first mark in a little over 15 minutes.  The down winder had take a bit of toll on my shoulder so I  took a break in the shallows and had some powerade. After a few minutes I psyched myself up and got back on the board and rounded the mark.

The ride back pushed me way off shore. I had tried every trick in my book. I dug in the rail and road the chop fighting to get back upwind, I shot up on a plane and tried to curve it in, I played with the sail position, nothing worked. I was crabbing, sliding sideways in a straight line.  My little weed fin, did not have enough “gluteous maximus” to drive the board upwind. By the time I made the second mark, I was about 400 meters off. I saw a few sailors on the same course as I had been on keep going.  They were calling it quits.  I thought, “Yes, that’s what I’m going to have to do, I’ll never make it back to shore like this.”  I talked myself into one more attempt at the mark, I turned my board around in a “splash jibe”. As I water started in a starboard position, my shoulder let me know one last time, that it was done.  I road about 2 kms back trying to find the shore again before I turned around.  I once again missed the mark, and this time kept going back to the venue.  That was it… two legs and done.

Once I got back into the waters near the venue, the wind was strongly off shore.  I watched as rescue boats pulled various sailors into shore one by one. “No!” I thought, “I’m going to do this on my own.” What if I was out here on my own, its not like I haven’t done stupid things that might put me into situations like this in the past. And so I sailed back and forth trying to get back into shore. After about 45 minutes and lots of water starts I finally gave in…. “TAXI!!!”

One last time I pulled my sail and board from the water and placed them on a the little bit of beach that remained open. I signed back in, but this time under the “Abandoned”. I sighed heavily and turned to walk back to the staging area. As I was walking I was stopped by a French woman and her daughter. Her daughter sported a pink racing shirt.  (I would find out later that day that she would place third for women!! Amazing and awesome! )  The woman told me how much she admired me for sailing in those winds. I smiled weakly to her and her daughter saying that “I didn’t get to finish. I only did two legs. The winds were too much for me today.” She insisted, “But you went out! That is amazing!”   Her kind words heartened my spirits and I thought to myself . “Yes, I did go out today. I went out today, and I raced in the Defi! How awesome is that!??”

<br /><a href=”http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xzp9gg_itw-philippe-bru-defi-wind-2013-j-0_sport&#8221; target=”_blank”>ITW Philippe Bru Defi Wind 2013 J 0</a> <i>by <a href=”http://www.dailymotion.com/Wind_Magazine&#8221; target=”_blank”>Wind_Magazine</a></i>

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One comment

  1. Simeon Warner

    Amber – I have so enjoyed reading your reports from Defi, you did good! Sounds like an amazing adventure and I thank you for letting us live it vicariously. Hope the trip home goes smoothly. Cheers, SImeon

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