North Sails LOFT NEWS

FIRST & SEASCAPE CHALLENGE

Race Debrief

I can’t explain sunrises on First & Seascape Challenge. When we visit the boats that have just spent the night on the water, the feeling in the air is so delicate that it dissipates into thin air when I try to catch it. The small, speedy RIB has a massive advantage of making it possible to visit more than one set of sailors in the dawn, giving us an exclusive chance to feel the overall atmosphere. We see everyone’s tired eyes looking at the support boat with depth you don’t get sleeping with a roof over your head and a pillow under. They have changed for a tiny bit of wisdom, which now quietly shines out of them, while they casually tease you with a famous line; „Do you have coffee?“

It has been more than a year without this kind of events, sunsets and sunrises (except for the Silverrudder 2020) – things we mostly took for granted have begun to show their actual value. It was only Friday, a whole week before the race, when I was ready to sit in any given car to take me to Jezera as soon as possible. Full four days later, or what felt like an eternity, I finally got there, only to see that many have had a similar itch. When I ran into Lukas and Philipp, they proudly exclaimed that the two days sailing in the Kornati they already had were so spectacular that the trip has paid off, even if we cancel The Challenge right now. But cancellation was finally not an option.

We did have to postpone it. The original idea of The Challenge was to make the long-distance race, in the Kornati archipelago, in early spring, which will give sailors ‘challenging’ conditions to sail in, quite some miles, and stretching their comfort zone. However, we live in interesting times, where we often have to adapt. This mid-June edition didn’t come with the usual challenges, but some new ones – at the forefront, patience for low, low wind zones and the power of the summer sun.

By the time of the start, on Friday at 11 AM, everyone was fully aware that the race will be a battle of nerves. Nonetheless, at 11:00 sharp first twenty-nine of the 18s started marching through the inner bay of Murter, closely followed by the 24s and 27s. It took only fifteen minutes, and the aquatorium became richer for 44 sailing boats. I know it sounds like a lot of numbers, but just imagine 44 of anything moving harmoniously through some of the nicest places you have ever seen, and you still won’t quite get the right picture.

The race itself was a windy road. Soon enough, the wind died out, and sailing skills came secondary to the navigational ones. This year the marks in the race weren’t set to close a narrow passage for everyone but had more of an open character, which allowed everyone to choose their fate. All of the teams chose the wrong path, at least once, apart from the 27 Czech Mermaid. While the leaderboard on the tracker was changing rapidly for everyone else, Czech Mermaid seemed to be the only constant in the race, always sailing in front of everyone else, somehow avoiding the frustration others might have felt. Still, when we passed through the fleet at sundown, no one was in a really bad mood.

I dare you to be in a bad mood when sailing in the sunset in the Kornati. The yellow islands with small dark green spots served as a mirror for the light show that was going on in the sky. There wasn’t only one epic red-pink side of the view to look at, but 360 degrees of „oh wow“. Still, once the night has fallen completely, and the glorious scenes remained behind, and no wind appeared with sticky moisture in the air, the high spirits have fallen. More than a sunrise, the fleet needed wind. But first came one, then the other.

The second day of the race started with a slow windless part for many but turned for better after the Blitvenica lighthouse in the middle of the day. The wind finally picked up, and the barely moving boats lifted and started flying to the finish ahead. Once again, many of them arrived simultaneously, with the first three 18s – Blue Sardina II, Corna and Lenčina being a minute apart. The winners in the 24s – Franz and Falko –  were actually debuting on First SE boats, which didn’t stop them from having a spectacular race. The Czech Mermaid won the 27 category by such an advantage that the others decided to pretend they were sailing in a different class. And some came later, but just in time for the ceremony and party we had on the pier.

Official results

It’s a funny thing that party. Keep in mind that people who participate in it didn’t sleep more than short naps last night, and the organizers had the luxury of stretching that to a couple of hours. But nobody wants to go to sleep.

The next morning I woke up, many hours after the dawn, the usual shore life was already up and running and the stillness of yesterday replaced by plans, obligations and what we tend to call normal life. Still, another Challenge sunrise got locked up in every single person, building a different code, a different look, and something else I can’t really explain.

Ana Šutej

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