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10 May 2003, 07:25 pm
Fresh Breeze and Fresh Hope
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Mistral European Championship
Palermo, Mondello

Sailors awoke today to fresh breeze and high hopes for a break to the light wind pattern that had plagued the event so far.
The Men's course was located just east of Capo Gallo and competitors arrived to find a beautiful 12 to 15 knot northwest wind. As the start time approached things began to take a turn for the worse.

The wind slowly began to die and after one general recall the blue group started in a shifty wind that was sure to frustrate even the most level headed sailors.

Almost immediately after the start, the wind shifted 10 degrees to the left and died to less than 6 knots. Local legend and 20 year veteran Paco Wirz taught the fleet a lesson with a near drifting pumping technique. While most of the sailors pumped powerfully and began to fatigue, Wirz took a different approach and gracefully flung his rig back and forth, barely breaking a sweat.

While Wirz led the Blue group, the Yellow fleet started in three to five knots. After sailing upwind for nearly 13 minutes and the mark still far from the leaders, the Race Committee smartly abandoned race 4 for both groups. The wind had died to almost zero with less than 3 knots and the occasional mystery puff was the only way sailors could make any progress.

Meanwhile on the women´s course after one general recall the second start went at 11.15 AM in about 8-10 knots breeze.

Whereas Australien´s Allison Shreeve started at the pin end and banged the left side, local Alessandra Sensini after a bad start was forced to tack and took the right upwind side of the beat - still both women came in top 5 at the top mark.

Leading Faustine Merret had good start at the pin end and pumped her way to round the top mark first, 12 minutes after the start and well ahead of the fleet.

Her secret according to her statement was to pump ahead to catch the approaching gusts.

Just as she went onto the downwind she reported a massive windshift to the right which favoured the leaders and guaranteed a difficult catch up for the main bulk of the fleet.

The wind maintained this direction for the remainder of the race which was cancelled during the second upwind as the wind died down to almost 4 knots and competitors could reach the top mark in one straight tack.

Afterwards the exhausted women were sent onshore as well as the male fleets.

Full results are available on the event website at the address below.
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