March 2, 2014

We had a very early breakfast today. Our team (Vojta and me) was up until half past midnight preparing the runners. The opposite team (Martin and Roman) went to bed like pros long before we did. I call them the opposite team, as their bedroom is opposite to ours. Both team bedrooms are very small, though the opposite team says ours is larger. Roman bursts into our room in the morning calling us to look out of the window. It’s snowing. A big disappointment, as we have tuned everything for black and smooth ice. We haven’t seen snow since last year (well I did – on TV in a Christmas story).

We are on the ice at 9 am for the first skippers meeting. Led by the one and only Stan Macur. We are supposed to be on the starting line in an hour. That’s because we’re divided into three groups. Usually there are four groups. The ice is large enough to hold bigger groups of about 60 people here. This way the race will take less time. There are about 185 registered contestants. The first 12 of each group qualify for the next round. Group C, including Vojta and Roman, is to start first.

We struggle a lot on the way to the track. The wind isn’t strong enough for us to reach the track with heavily loaded yachts. We push, like on a scooter and get running again.  There is 3–4 cm of snow on the ice. It keeps sticking to the runners like crazy.  After a short break we right away start testing the runners and setting up the trim. I’m a little scared; nothing seems to be working for me. Eventually, I try 440 C inserts, as if the surface was smooth, and they go just as fast as Martin’s.  Meanwhile, Vojta and Martin stand ready on the starting line and me and Martin hurry to cheer them on.

Vojta on snowWe watch their entire heat. The weather conditions are extreme, it’s foggy and the upper buoy is not visible. Roman starts quite well, falling behind just a little after the start. The boat seems to be sailing just fine. After a while we lose the sight of everyone because of the fog. They appear again at the lower buoy. And Roman is entering the second round in a great 11th place. We keep watching out for Vojta, but nothing for a long time. Eventually he emerges from the fog, among the last contestants. He is pushing and running. Before the heat, he was unhappy about his speed on snow. Roman enters the third round in 15th position. He’s lost a little ground, but he’s still keeping in touch with the 12th position necessary for qualification. At least Vojta is sailing into the third round; he doesn’t have to push any more. Impatiently, we’re waiting for the results of the third round. A group of the first ten contestants is reaching the finishing line together. Roman is not among them. The last two qualifying position are still open. Other sailors are still far away and we can’t recognize who is actually approaching the finish line. Here they are, and me and Martin are counting the positions. Eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth…sadly, Roman is not among them. He finishes in 19th position. The first 12 qualify for group B and Roman will be on 7th position for the first heat. Vojta, like some of the other contestants, didn’t manage to reach the finishing line within ten minutes after the winner.

Roman on snowMeanwhile we’re preparing for the group B start.  The wind is getting weaker and turns sideways. We keep waiting. And waiting. The fog is getting heavy. We’re cold. We’re going for a short sail. Martin is doing quite well but I feel really bad about the whole thing. I can’t start properly as the wind is too weak. Just about everyone keeps overtaking me. I change the yacht settings, but I really doubt it’s going to help. This is going to be really bad. Eventually, the fog gets too heavy so the committee puts an end to today’s racing and sends us all back to Haapsalu harbour. I feel relieved as I’m packing up. I’m almost certain it wouldn’t work out today. But even so, does it really matter?

We will see what tomorrow holds for us.