Right Side Up And Upside Down

On Friday, the second day of competition for the 11th St. Barth Cata Cup, the weather conditions made life difficult, not only for the race committee, which had to adapt the schedule in relationship to passing rain showers, and as a result could not start the day’s race until 3:30pm, but also for the racers who had to cope with winds between 20 and 25 knots and chaotic seas during the only race of the day. In these challenging conditions, basically similar to the previous day, logically the same teams were at the head of the class. And the triple stars of the day? Greeks Iordanis Paschalidis and Konstantinos Trigonis (St Barth Assurances), Argentinians Pablo Volker and Sergio Mehl (Paraboot by Maxwell & Co), and Belgians Patrick Demesmaeker and Olivier Gagliani (Les Perles de St Barth). These three duos engaged in a remarkable battle right up to the last tack, and if the current world champions finally won the Grand Prix “EDEN ROCK VILLA RENTAL,” the South Americans held on to their first place in the provisional ratings for the regatta at the end of day two. These ratings are a bit upside down at the moment, due to a large number of boats that were forced to abandon: only 29 of the 51 that started actually crossed the finish line in the regatta’s third race.

all images ©Michael Gramm

The weather forecast was not promising today, especially this morning. That proved to be true, with the arrival of several rain showers that quickly caused the race committee to delay the starting time on this second day of racing. Even so, the conditions were still pretty rough for the sailors in St. Barth Cata Cup. “Clearly there was enough wind—even more than yesterday. At times, it was almost too much. I am especially thinking of the little tack after the first marker, at which time there was so much wind we all crossed our fingers to avoid flying off the water and we all hung on as best we could to stay put,” explains Olivier Gagliani, who actually proved his mettle out there today, battling from start to finish with the duos of Iordanis Paschalidis—Konstantinos Trigonis and Pablo Volker—Sergio Mehl. “It was quite a battle between the three of us. The Argentinians at one point led the fleet, before being passed by the Greeks during the second upwind tack. They had started out gently before accelerating the cadence at the end of the race, conversely to Patrick and me, as we applied the brakes as we approached the finish line to ensure our place, as we had a good lead over the fourth-place boat,” points out the winner of the 2015 Cata Cup, who actually had Pierre Le Clainche—Antoine Joubert (ODP) hot on his heels at one point. “They passed the second buoy with us, but after that they must have had a problem,” comments Olivier.

“Challenging but fun”

Those in the race agree: “When we were battling with the trio in the lead and had a bit of an advance on the others, after a jibe, I didn’t even have time to get back in the strap and I was projected forward before I had time to ease the jib. Result: we capsized,” points out Antoine Joubert, who evidently lost a few places in the battle, but who came back and climbed up a few spots to finish sixth and as the first French team. “Today, as noted Trois Pommes (Olivier Gagliani), it was a bit challenging, but it was fun,” declared the Frenchman from the department of Morbihan in Brittany, who was the winner of the 2016 St. Barth Cata Cup and who hopes to repeat that performance this year, even if the task will be a little more arduous in light of the competition, starting with Argentinians Pablo Volker and Sergio Mehl who took second place this afternoon, as they did in the two races on Thursday. “We are happy to place second, but we know we can’t just sit back!” assure the F18 sailors sporting the colors of Paraboot by Maxwell & Co, and who still hold the leader’s spot in the provisional standing this evening.

Out Today, Back Tomorrow

“Obviously we are satisfied but we are especially pleased as we once again had a great day and a great race, even if we honestly clenched our teeth two or three times, as to not capsize. We occasionally found ourselves facing a wall of water and it’s true that scared us a little. In any case, we had a great time,” relates Sergio Mehl, who was not very surprised to learn that only 29 boats finally finished the race of the day. In fact, between those who preferred to not brave the bad weather and decided to stay ashore, and those who encountered damage to their boats, the number abandons almost set a record, and not only with the least experienced sailors, as witnessed by the problems met by some of the heavy hitters, and in particular two favorites who broke their masts: Enrique Figueroa and Ruben Booth (Nikki Beach St Barth), as well as Christian Vilate and Lucas Smith Gonzales (Transit by Maxwell & Co). In short, this was a rather unusual day, but tomorrow good weather is expected (winds at around 15 knots and seas a little more well behaved), and once four races have been completed, each crew can erase their worst performance from their average and that might make things look a little different…