Round Texel 2012
Third time at Texel. Monday: arrival and accommodation. Tuesday: tractor with a trailer to the beach and assembling the boat. This was more or less a routine, upset only by the fact that I’d be sailing with my son, Jáchym, this year and that it would be his first race in the sea’s waves. It wouldn’t be easy. We wouldn’t be the only Czech boat. Other than us, the F18 Hobie Tiger, with Honza Kratochvíl and Honza Kopůn aboard, would go for the main race around the island on Saturday. Martin Šedivec, another Czech sailor who sailed with me last year, would make an appearance on his Tekkat boat. Martina Barnetová, a photographer, couldn’t miss this either, and we were looking forward to great pictures.
Dutch Catamaran Open
The first racing day at the Dutch Catamaran Open proved that it would not be easy for our crew. Wednesday: winds from 7 to 10 m/s, waves around 1.5 m. Nothing dramatic for Texel, but not easy for us. We were slow in turns and frequently not completing them in the waves, as Jáchym was just getting used to wave hits. In addition, we had technical problems with the “dolphin striker,” a bar reinforcing the bottom of the front beam. Its reinforcement fell off and we had to sail the whole day without it. The boat was rather soft crosswise and the mainsail could not be completely closed. If we’d had a different boat, we would have had to drop out immediately due to the risk of breaking the front beam. However, I had previously tested the beam without the reinforcement, so I decided to trust it, and it survived.
Our untested prolonged trapezes were another problem. We ended up with Jáchym falling into the water twice during the race. “When I went overboard the first time, I started to hate the race. Then I gradually started enjoying it again – until the trapeze came off and I plunged in there again,” Jáchym said, after we had given up on the first racing day and returned to the beach. Never change anything right before a race!
The second day (Thursday) at the Dutch Open looked like calmer wind. Having fixed all of the faults, we set out for the sea. We managed to do four races. The lighter wind of 4 to 7 m/s was ideal for us; it died down further in the afternoon and the waves disappeared. I had never seen this here. We finally managed to overtake a few boats, especially on tailwind. We were exhausted in the evening after six hours of sailing.
The races on Day Three (Friday) were cancelled. The wind blew at a constant 15 m/s with gusts up to 20 m/s. This was not good for catamarans, so only a few kiters went on the water. Bit by bit, the wind covered dozens of catamarans on the beach with sand.
Will Round Texel happen?
The forecast for Saturday, the main racing day, was the same as for Friday – and it proved to be correct. The second day’s wind had already made waves nearly 6 metres high. The sea wash did not look that scary as the wind blew parallel with the tide flowing along the coast and the waves did not grow to such extreme heights. But further on in this shallow sea it seemed that the larger waves would inevitably capsize each and every catamaran. I did not believe that the race would take place. And if it did, we would not join it even with our smallest sail. The organisers would surely cancel it – as they had done two years earlier.
We agreed to do our own race on Sunday – against the two Honzas on Tiger and Martin Šedivec on Tekkat. The weather was supposed to be ideal again on Sunday. Late in the evening we learned that the organisers planned to move the race to Sunday! That had never happened before.
Round Texel 2012
And so it was. The announcement at the Saturday morning briefing made it all clear. We decided to go for the Sunday race. Only 24 crews gave up. We, together with another 229 boats, went for the adventure.
We were on the beach rather early on Sunday. Willing spectators helped us with raising the sail; there were thousands of them there. “Look, these are Czechs,” could be heard all around. We may have looked rather exotic there. I was worried about overcoming the coastal surf. It was not that bad, but still foaming after two days of wild winds. We had to use spare rudders and they were not very suitable for crossing the surf. I breathed a sigh of relief after 100 metres when we were safely in deep water. One of the catamarans behind us, however, was not as lucky as we were and capsized.
We were at the starting line in time, rather towards the front. After a while I realized that we were at the wrong end – the end more distant from the coast. The Czech Honzas’ Tiger started right behind us. It was followed by a large cluster of boats that were shielding us from the wind (the race started with tailwind), preventing us from gaining speed – unlike the boats closer to shore. They were gaining on us the whole way to the lighthouse. Later on, we managed to speed up; Jáchym went in the trapeze and we finally started overtaking the smaller boats around us.
Smooth water behind the lighthouse. We sailed very close along the beach, which was crowded with spectators. We had to go rather sharp against the wind, both going into trapezes to balance the gennaker out. The lee side of the island featured weak winds, but frequently alternating with gusts. One had to be alert. Boats cruised at a speed of 15 to 18 knots, close behind each other. A gennaker rustled not far from us: one of our competitors could not handle the gusts and capsized. Another one succumbed after a while, as well.
We continued dashing on. The gennaker had to go down in order to sail through the Wadensee shallows. This was followed by a side wind course. Both of us had to go into the trapeze again. We normally do not sail on this most dangerous side wind in round-track races. It encourages the highest speeds while providing very little time for correcting for gusts. We could not avoid it here. Our Velocitek showed 20 knots. Our average speed per kilometre reached 18.5 knots. The water was smooth there, but what if we were to stumble over a shallow? It was better not to think of this…
The course changed into a beating at the next check gate. People at the gate were shouting at us to raise the daggerboards due to the shallows. We did, but started losing both height and position relative to the others. Like them, we pushed the daggerboards down to the maximum and went on. We sailed through Molengat, around the island’s southwest tip and found ourselves in the waves again. They were not terrifying, but our boat was visibly slower in the weaker wind and the waves. A large crowd of F18s was nearing again, with the last 10 km to go. We raised the gennaker. It was still rather sharp against the wind, so the boat sped up by only 1 or 2 knots, yet it was enough to start gaining on the cloud of F18s, which were getting closer and closer behind us. We overtook several more of them before reaching the finish in the 77th position after 3 hours and 57 minutes. This was the 138th position when recalculated using the Texel rating. The boys on F18 finished only about 5 minutes behind us after recalculation. It was a great experience for Jáchym. We were not up for more – and we survived in good shape.