By Gery Atkins
Last month was the Vela Classica Menorca and myself and the rest of the Viveka crew were absolutely delighted to take part again for the second year in a row and try and defend our first place in the big boat class. The lack of boats in this class, there being only three, did not matter a bit as the other two boats were none other than our old rivals the mighty Halloween and new rivals the majestic Mariska, both of which are great competition for Viveka to race against.
Day 1 saw a two hour delayed start due to very unstable weather conditions over Menorca with a series of isolated storm cells blowing through. For safety reasons, we did not get away until 3 pm. On the start line the wind had settled into an ENE direction of about 10 knots. The course was a loop around Bravo mark on the south side of the island leaving Isla del’ Aire to port on the way there and port on the way back.
With a short upwind leg to the offset mark we hit then line a bit too early and were forced away to the pin end leaving us as the most leeward boat. Halloween were in the middle and Mariska had a perfect start at the committee boat end. Once around the windward mark our giant A2 and Golly were set, we were ahead on Halloween and set about hunting down Mariska. Once through the gap between Menorca and Isla del’ Aire we gybed in shore whilst Mariska took a more offshore route. This paid off well and we got down to Bravo mark ahead of Mariska. However, the wind had lightened to 8 knots and with the big Jib, staysail and fisherman back up we could not hold on to Mariska who points like a hunting dog and loves the light airs. She increased her lead on us to Isla del ‘ Aire and all the way back up the harbor into Mahon to take line honors and beat us by roughly 1 min 30 on corrected time. Halloween bought up the tail very closely.
Day 2 began with some tired arms after a late day 1 finish. The wind was forecasted relatively light at 10 knots and building from a more easterly direction. The race committee set the same course as before except rounding a mark further along the south coast past mark bravo. Overall, it was 27 miles.
Halloween got off to the best start with us slightly to leeward of them. Mariska was quite late on the line. However, she made up for it by her extreme pointing and got to the offset mark first again with us right behind her. At the mark all boats were ready to ease sheets and reach down to the gap between the islands but a quick shift in wind to the south east saw us all upwind again and charging for the lead. Mariska and Viveka were neck and neck having close port and starboard crossings. However, a good call from our boat to stay close to the rocks saw us gain slightly on them and reach Isla del’ Aire first with Mariska 1 minute behind and Halloween 2 behind them.
The wind continued to haul into the south so no kites were set and Mariska clawed her way back into the lead as the wind dropped in her favor. Some time later at the bottom mark we decided to peel to the A3 and come back reaching with that. We also switched our J2 out for the J1 in case we were to be overpowered on the A3. Try as we might we could not regain our lead on Mariska and she pulled comfortably ahead. At the bear away with Isla del’ Aire to port we peeled from A3 to A2 and set the gollywobbler as well. I feel we regained a little on Mariska but the damage was done on the earlier light reaches and she sailed up the harbor to win by 3 mins on corrected.
Day 3 saw a predicted forecast of 10 knots from the south east and a new course to the north was set leaving a mark to port close to Isla de Colom and beating back to Mahon. If we could get a first today, then there was still everything to play for on the final day. Myself and the rest of crew were very optimistic.
On the start line Mariska’s helmsman carried out a perfectly executed hook on us forcing us into a quick tack to get back into a favorable position. This paid off as Mariska were a little early on the line and had to bear away with Halloween underneath them leaving us with clean air to get away fast. With two tacks up to the offset mark Halloween was able to hold off Mariska much to our delight and get round the buoy in second place, behind us. With our A2 and golly flying well we now had to keep in the patchy breeze that blew us northwards. But Mariska again was able to haul down both Halloween and us in the lighter airs. She pointed lower and faster than both Halloween and Viveka. We were able to hang on to our lead till the buoy rounding it to port in first place but as soon as we were upwind we again watched our hard earned lead slip away into the distance as Majestic Mariska outpointed and outperformed our own lovely schooner. There was a small gate that we had to pass through on the north side of the fort at the entrance to Mahon. I timed Mariksas and our passing and did a quick calculation taking into account the shortened course and by my dodgy maths we were still 20 seconds in the lead on corrected! I raised the crew and helmsman’s spirits and spurred them on for one final push and bit of fortune….. but alas, once again Mariska sailed off into the port of Mahon to take first over the line again and a victory of 3 mins on corrected. The trophy was theirs!
Day 4 we awoke to some stronger wind form the east of 20 knots. We on Viveka were raring to go as this was surely better conditions for us to beat Mariska. After a delayed start the race committee decided to cancel the racing for safety reasons. The regatta was done.
The big boat class stood third place Halloween, 2nd place Viveka and a well-earned first place for a beautiful Mariska! Congratulations to Dan and the crew! You sailed very well and deserve the glory!
Thank you to Jono and Sandra and the rest of the VCYC team for your continued perseverance and hard work in what is a great club that we are happy to be part of!
See you in Cannes everybody.
All images & videos: Gery Hatkins & The Viveka Crew