After ten straight days of consistent breeze, the wind deserted the beach at Weihai, China, and with light rain falling, the Race Committee abandoned racing for the day.
Thursday's racing at the Hobie 16 Worlds in Weihai China brought in the heavy hitters, with the pre-seeded teams from around the world joining the sailors who made the cut through the Qualifying round which concluded on Wednesday.
The addition of the seeded teams certainly added to the pressure on the start line with each of the three races of the day taking three attempts to get away cleanly. PRO David Brookes
set a square line with plenty of length, but with adrenalin running high, everyone was up on the line early, and eventually with the tide running towards the weather mark, by the time of the start the majority of the fleet were over the line setting the tone for the day with a general recall. Each subsequent race for the day followed the same pattern with a Blue Flag attempted start, then an "I" flag attempted start (around the end if you are over early) followed finally by a Black Flag start (over early and you are DSQ from the race). Jason Waterhouse
, a pre-seeded sailor as a result of his win in the Youths, commented that "The line was long and pretty square, but everyone was just racking up on the line way too early.
Once away, the conditions were perfect with teams double trapezing on each upwind leg. With the current assisting the sailors upwind, many competitors overlayed the weather mark resulting in some high speed footing off to round the weather mark. Downwind the order of the day was working the waves to obtain the most out of the short chop across the course. During the earlier days of the event held in the offshore gusty conditions, sailors had been looking to find the puffs as they came down the course, but today the emphasis was clearly on making the most of each wave.
On the first race of the day, one of the pre-event favourites Jerome Le Gal and Enrick Obert from New Caledonia and representing France was caught in dirty air near the Committee Boat. To clear themselves, they tacked off early to the right hand side of the course, sailing all the way to the starboard layline before tacking back to round the first mark. This proved to be the way to go and Le Gal led the race from start to finish to get off to a perfect start for the event.
Not so fortunate was defending World Champion Mick Butler with new crew Yu-ting Chan who had a horror start leaving Butler to wonder if had run over a black cat on the way to racing this morning. With a ninth place finish in the first race, they were subsequently disqualified for an collision at the first weather mark. If that wasn't bad enough, while waiting for the start sequence to begin for the second race of the day, they and the boat of Korean Donggyu Lee were not concentrating and had a collision which saw Lee's rudder ripped off the back of their boat. Both were at fault for not keeping a lookout, but as he was on port and clearly in the wrong Butler offered to swap boats with the unfortunate Lee, which they did. Lee then raced on Butlers original boat while Butler sailed the damaged boat back to the beach and once ashore picked up a spare boat. On the new boat they then sailed back to the start line, managing to make it in time as a result of the two subsequent General Recalls, eventually finishing the race in ninth place. An excellent example of good sportsmanship from Butler, but incredibly unusual and a nightmare for the scorer to work out who finished where.
The overall results show some of the pre-event favourites at the top of the leader board, with Le Gal and Obert (FRA) and Aaron Worrall
and Worsty (AUS) both with a first and a second, and all other top contenders with the exception of Butler, having two solid top ten finishers. With only one drop allowed over the entire series, the most important aspect in the semi-finals is to not have a bad race as the competition will only get tougher when sailors progress to the finals on Sunday and Monday. With three groups of 25 sailors, each team sails two races and then sits one out, so overall results during this phase of the competition are only meaningful after 3,6,9,12 races have been completed and all sailors have completed the same number of races.
Racing continues on Saturday in the semi-finals before there is another cut and the top 56 sailors continue on to the finals on Sunday and Monday.