This year the Abu Dhabi Yachting Cup included a one-design fleet of Farr 30’s. The boats, which competed in Sailing Arabia – The Tour last February, were provided by Oman Sail for charter. Emiliano chartered a Farr 30 our regular crew to sail, and recruited a crew and skipper to sail Unwind in the handicap class. He is the Commodore of ADCA this year, a great organizer, and works tirelessly to promote the sport of sailing and racing in Abu Dhabi. His Pacer 27 Unwind races continually, even when Emiliano cannot be on the boat.
Mark and I began the weekend without any expectation of doing well. We were both sick and taking antibiotics all week, still stuffy and coughing. We were also still smarting from our thrashing at the Abu Dhabi Match Racing regatta the month before, and we would be racing against some of the same sailors.
Neither Mark nor I had ever sailed on a Farr 30, but the moment we stepped on the boat, we both felt at home. It felt like a smaller version of our beloved CM1200 Raven, which we sold a few years ago.
Needless to say, the crew had never sailed on the boat together. Emiliano, who recruits Italians whenever possible, found a really good main trimmer named Giulio. Marco, the other trimmer who usually works with me, couldn’t make the regatta, but his replacement was Lucio, who told me right off that he was a bit rusty and wasn’t too good with English. Matteo, who is in high school and usually spends most of his time on the rail on Unwind, was pressed into service in the pit, with Emiliano on the bow and Paolo as tactician and floater.
As we went out to practice, there was a great deal of discussion about how things would be done. As usual, most of it was in Italian. Although we have been sailing together for almost two years, we still struggle constantly with the communication gap – although it usually just makes us laugh.
The starting line was long and square to the wind, so our strategy for the first race, and all the others, was go for a clean start. Unfortunately, nobody was calling time. Suddenly we were started, and not trimmed in or on the line. This started the first round of discussions about that happened and why. It is always important to describe in detail what has just happened and why, and then discuss. Fortunately, mostly in Italian.
Never mind. As Emiliano always finally says, “It doesn’t matter.” It seemed that we were at least even on speed and point with our regular ADCA rival Idefix, the only boat in the fleet not from Oman. There were two other boats ahead of us, and one of them was the crew from Oman Sail, the other an Abu Dhabi club. We passed Idefix, rounded the upwind mark, and put up the spinnaker.
And we were fast. We jibed early to get away from the two boats ahead of us, and rounded the downwind mark in second place. Then we held on for the second upwind leg, and finished in second closing in behind the Omanis.
After the race, the guy from Sail Oman who takes care of the boats and coaches the team, came alongside in an inflatable boat. He had talked to us before the race as well, as he did for all the boats, giving advice on how to rig them and sail them. “You did very well,” he said. “But you are not as fast upwind. Other than that, very good.” He gave us some advice and a thumbs up. Mark and I just looked at each other and smiled, a bit dumbfounded, because we have never, that I can remember, been coached like that during a regatta. He was helping us beat his Omani team! But he wanted everyone to be as good as possible. They were his fleet.
On first upwind leg of the next race, we almost hit the Omanis. Mark and Giulio saw that we might not cross, and asked Paolo to call it. But somehow there was a lack of communication, and we were getting closer. “I want to duck!” Mark was yelling. “No! No!” was the response. Then more yelling. I thought maybe we were crossing, so I stayed on the rail and hiked out. Italians don’t know what “duck” means in sailing. They heard “tack.” So they were yelling don’t tack. But it sounded to us like they were telling us to tack, and Mark was saying it was too late. We couldn’t understand what they were yelling, which turned out to be “just-a go-a down-a.” Finally, when everyone on both boats was yelling at the top of their lungs, us in English and Italian and the Omanis in Arabic, I dove for the jib and we dove for their stern.
Then the main halyard slipped down, causing us to almost not make the mark, and we had to shoot it. Which means sail head to wind – I actually had to backwind the jib to push us away from the mark – and pray that the boat had enough speed to keep going, enough momentum to pass the mark, be able to steer, tack, and get going again in the right direction after rounding. Then, the spinnaker was caught between the main and the spreader – because we were hoisting from the main hatch, which I didn’t like doing but it wasn’t my call. Plus, it had a twist. Then everyone was yelling again, and I was trying to find some words to explain what was happening. I heard Paolo say, “Caramella!” It’s what the Italians say when the spinnaker is twisted. Like candy.
But we were fast again downwind, passed the Omanis, and kept the lead to win the race. Now the Omani guys were looking at us. We were good enough upwind, and faster downwind. We apologized for the bad duck, and they were really nice to us and said, “No worries.” For the rest of the regatta, it was us and them. On the third and final race that day, they took first.
That evening, there was a posh barbecue dinner on the floating dock at the Emirates Palace Marina.
The next day, we had one more short buoy race, then a coastal race upwind to a buoy and around Lulu Island, to finish in front of the Corniche. Things were tense on our boat. We had lost Giulio, who could only get a one-day pass from the “war department” (if his wife is reading this I am sorry, please no offense) and his replacement was a couple. They were Greek. Demetrius sails a TP52 and his girlfriend Marina sails big boats as well, all over the world. Very experienced, but not much English. Now, there was a whole lot more discussion about everything. I had been struggling with Lucio, he was the first to admit that he was having trouble. He kept pulling the guy too much, or letting it off too much, or doing the opposite of what was needed. Then everyone would yell something at him, Italian, English, and maybe some Greek thrown in, I don’t know. What a guy! He never gave up, never melted down.
It was cutthroat. At the top mark, the Omanis came in on port, tacked, and called for room. They yelled, “Yalla! Yalla! Yalla!” And some other stuff in Arabic. They had plenty of room on the mark, but still wanted us to go wider. After the spinnaker set they tried to take us up, were not even close, but still yelled. I normally don’t do the yelling, but by this time, after all the yelling at each other on our own boat, and being so close in the regatta, I really got into it. I yelled right back at them. Come on up, you guys! You have room! They were all looking at our boat, watching me yell at them. It was so much fun.
We won that buoy race. So we were tied with the Omanis, each with six points.
We took third in the coastal race, with the Omanis in second. The Abu Dhabi Sailing Club team that trashed us and took second in the match racing got a good start, sailed a good upwind leg, and got away while we were duking it out downwind with the Omanis. Plus, we took our spinnaker down for the close reach along the Corniche, and it turned out that we could carry it. After the race, the Sail Oman coach came over and told us that if we hadn’t made that mistake, we could have won. It was that close.
And so it goes. We were still overjoyed at how well we did. Overall, it was Oman Sail in first, team Unwind/ADCA in second, and ADSC in third. “You need to have some girls on your boat,” I called out to the Omanis after the finish. “Yalla!” they said. Come on!
It was great to be on the podium next to the Omanis. And, in addition to the second place trophy, we will collect a sizeable cash prize for ADCA. I had brought a bottle of champagne, and we toasted our team.
It was Matteo who, at the end of the regatta, had done the most amazing job, picking up on everything and running the pit. “Matteo,” I said to him. “I think you are a new level in your sailing.” “Yes,” he said. “I think so. I liked doing the pit.” Of course, Matteo is the only one on the boat who speaks both English and Italian. Come to think of it, I’ll bet his ears are on fire sometimes!
After all that yelling, we are better friends than ever.
Another ADCA boat, the new J80 Mistress, took first in their division.
What a great regatta! Mark wanted to just keep celebrating.
Thanks to https://www.facebook.com/ADSYC for the regatta photos.