Europeans 2011, Preparation, Part 1/8
Last year, I put down a few observations and impressions of the Czech racers from the World and European Championship in DN ice sailing. The great acceptance that this mini-series of articles generated surprised me very much. It made me feel really good. This year, many people encouraged me to write again. So, while I’m nervous about not having any ideas, well, you get what you asked for.
However, this time I will not make the basic mistake of calling the first part “Day 1”, as this would make people expect “Day 2” and “Day 3” to follow. Why not? Well, what if I become tired and fall asleep in the evening? Anyway, I will do my best.
A brief reminder: in 2010, after many years of absence, Czech DN sailors took part in the World and European Championship to gain experience. They returned with these results:
83. Jakub Zobač, CZ 99
135. Martin Vacula, CZ 92
140. Libor Vacula, CZ 97
142. Josef Mareček, CZ 101
148. Vladislav Ptašnik, CZ 112
108. Jakub Zobač, CZ 99
139. Vladislav Ptašnik, CZ 112
141. Martin Vacula, CZ92
146. Josef Mareček, CZ 101
147. Libor Vacula, CZ 97
This year, they are going only for the European Championship. The reason is that the World Championship already took place in the US in January. Perhaps one day… It was not easy in America, anyway. Racers had to move 400 miles south from Lake Michigan to Senachwine Lake. That was where they managed to run 2 racing days in mild wind. The championship was then terminated prematurely by the snowstorm of the century, which covered the whole place with 60 cm of snow.
Winter has been helpful to ice sailors in Europe so far. Many regattas and national championships have taken place, which is not typical. This includes the historic first UK Championship! Locally we managed to organise the Czech Republic Championship and to run 4 regattas. However, we have also spent several weekends just waiting on the ice and not moving at all. We have also invested a lot in new gear, plants and boats. It has been a lot of time, work and money. Our wives, children and garages could tell stories. Actually, only the garages, as the wives and children have not seen much of their men, who have been constantly shut-in in their garages…
I myself wanted to do the Championship of Poland at the Masurian lakes and then to continue directly to Siauliai, Lithuania – the site of the European Championship. I planned to test the new CompoTech masts together with Polish racers who were among the world leaders at the lakes. Unfortunately, heavy snowfall heralded my arrival. So the week-long testing shrank to a single-day of “hardcore training,“ as Lukasz Zakrzewski called it, for the fact that Lukasz, his brother Tomasz and I did our best not to kill ourselves in up to 25cm-high snowdrifts. When the boat hits such a snowdrift (even though it’s made of the softest powdery snow), it slows down from 60 km/h to 30km/h. It is important to push the heels firmly against the boat, otherwise the body slides down as far as the tiller due to its momentum and it gets buried in an avalanche of white powdery snow. Well, it would be more accurate to say that it is like being hit hard by a feather pillow right between the eyes. At the same time the yacht tilts on two runners due to the seeming sudden wind change and wants to kick you out. As you are blinded, you have to release main sheet to get the yacht back on the ground, spit out that cold, white pigswill and to try to get a glimpse of anything around, although nothing can be seen anyway in the 8-13 m/s wind.
In spite of all this, my boat, which is equipped with a new plank and a new mast, seemed not to lose much on the Zakrzewski brothers, but rather kept their pace. Shocking bad news came after the training: the Polish Championship had to be cancelled, as racing at the Masurian lakes would be too dangerous. It was not better anywhere in Poland and the weather forecast for the next several days was snowfall, snowfall, and more snowfall… The same was in Lithuania. What to do?
Testing at the Máchovo Lake
Nature rules and we must conform. I felt disappointed, mainly for the wasted opportunity to test the new masts. I was deciding whether to go back to Máchovo Lake, which was, paradoxically – according to all the news – one of the best places for ice sailing in Europe at the moment (well, apart from Finland, which was really a bit too far for me). If had set off right then, drove till late at night and then early in the morning again, I could still be there for the weekend races.
It worked in the end; I unexpectedly won the domestic races at Máchovo Lake. I was really happy because all the Czech top racers were there. I stayed for three more days, testing the CompoTech masts together with Jakub Zobač – and we loaded them really heavily. The masts are fantastic on smooth ice. I am surprised that they have not broken. Jakub and others confirm that they are fast and behave dynamically. They act as catapults in wind gusts, absorbing their energy while bending and releasing it immediately afterwards into the whole yacht’s acceleration. Sometimes I feel that the acceleration is pulling the helmet off of my head during turns around windward buoys or in wind gusts while running downwind. Gust-bend-acceleration-helmet down… Simply a wonderful feeling…
We gained valuable experience through comparing each other. Obviously this comparison included only the small Czech fleet. In high time a decision would be made as to where we will finally go to the European Championship. We kept checking the European IDNIYRA website but learned only about the potential locations still in the game: Poland, Lithuania, Finland, and Sweden. This sport is really for madmen only. Finally, a new message on Wednesday, February 16: Estonia, Saaremaa Island, in the town of Kuressaare. Jesus Christ, where is that? And how far is it?