24.-26.8. 2012 Polish Catamaran Sea Championship

Well, back to Poland. The last time we raced here was in 2010. The three cities (Gdańsk, Sopot and Gdynia) welcomed us with heavy summer vacation traffic. We were not the only Czechs here this year. Jan Kopun and Jan Kratochvíl arrived here with their Hobie Tiger as well. The fact that we were here was partly due to the cancellation of the traditional Fehmarn Rund 2012 catamaran race. It was not difficult to persuade both Jans to go to the Polish Riviera instead.

The Polish Catamaran Sea Championship is organised by the UKS Navigo club and featured Jacek Noetzel, a significant personality and one of the best Polish A-Class sailors. He also works as a coach for teenagers and truly does a lot for the development of Polish catamaran yachting. Hats off to him and his work. There were following categories this year: A-Class, F18, Catamaran Open, and Hobie 16. The same course would accommodate the Polish Championship of the Finn Class along with us.

On Friday, August 24, three races were run in a weak wind. It blew from the north, i.e. from the sea to the beach, and there were almost no waves. To my horror, shortly before the start, I discovered that, while packing, I had taken the rudder connecting bar from Vítek’s Predator CZE 013, which was about 20 cm longer. Well, too late; we had to go to the start. The first race: a catastrophe. Both rudders were open like an arrow, working as an efficient brake.  The cat did not make full turns, but rather stopped completely at each of them. For the first time, our boat was both windward and leeward: whenever I pushed or pulled the tiller extension I had to overcome great resistance, as if somebody was holding onto the rudders under the water. Even still, we arrived third after both Tornadoes (there was an error in the results, which, however, had no effect on the final results).

Hectic modification of the lever took place in the starting area during the break before the second race. The previous night’s supper did not sit well in Tadeáš’ stomach and he felt sick. Then he started vomiting while I was cutting the carbon lever to make it shorter. Polish crews were sailing around us shaking their heads in disbelief… It must have been a terrible sight: one man throwing up, the other trying his best to sink the boat with a pocket saw. However, the repair worked; we aligned the rudders by sight and won the two remaining races. The two Jans at F18 did not have much luck and arrived in 7th position. It should be noted that the Polish F18 crews were not bad at all; their boats were well trimmed. Our boys have no chance to meet such F18 competitors back at home – yet.

On Day 2, only one exhibition race could be sailed in the immediate vicinity of the pier in Sopot due to very weak or nearly no wind. We all went in one go; about 45 catamarans, 13 Finns supplemented with around 5 local Optimists. It was a great fun. Then we had to wait for a while for a decision on what to do next, and learned that it would be a grill party. Referees sent us to the shore. We were the first there (due to the meat’s calling) and had to wait for the others to help us carry the catamaran from the beach back to the club building.

The club driveway was too narrow for our Predator so it had to be carried. We had left our catamaran on the beach the first night and it survived without any harm. However, Jacek then warned us that this was Poland and that someone might simply break it into pieces. Polish teenagers (Jacek’s trainees and our competitors in the Open Category) helped us to carry it. We were already a well-coordinated team with Ania, „kierowca wuzka, (the one on the right)“ being a great help by taking care of our trailer while the Predator, including its mast, rocked on the others’ shoulders. Thanks, Ania!  

On Day 3 we managed to sail three races. The first one was really cool. A cloud suddenly appeared right at the start of the F18s (where the Czech Hobie Tiger was) and the wind started to blow. It blew from the shore, which always means big gusts in Sopot. We set off in this solid wind reaching 15 m/s, in gusts as well. Our cunningham was completely down, it was raining, and I could no longer see through my glasses. Fighting tooth and nail, we arrived second at the windward buoy after the Tornado helmed by the Kondlewski father and daughter crew. We tried to overtake them downwind, but failed. They did very well, yet they did not succeed in pulling down the gennaker and got too far beyond the leeward buoy.

We succeeded in this task only thanks to Tadeáš’ fast and radical pulling down of the gennaker (in spite of a strong gust) and to our frantic heeling very close to another F18 on the leeward side. We clambered up the trapezes and set off for beating. Through my wet and foggy glasses, I could see that the Kondlewski’s problem was not over yet. Though the gennaker was down, their Tornado was high on one hull, the father was on the trapeze and the daughter was in water up to her waist, hanging onto the trapeze and hectically trying to get back up to her father. They finally made it and continued the race, but with a great loss of time. According to the Texel rating, we arrived second after one of the young Polish crews. The remaining races were under calmer conditions; we won them both and became the Champions of Poland in the Open Category.

It must be said that the competition in our category was not very strong in spite of having 11 boats. Practically, we raced only against two Tornadoes, but they were a tough nut to crack. The other boats, which were sailed by teenagers, stood no real chance under the given conditions. However, we still feel encouraged. I do not know about Tadeáš, but I will boast of this until next year – especially in Poland. Who knows if we will become the “Mistrz Polski” ever again!