Squid are cephalopods of the order Teuthida, they can be caught by pescafondo and different kind of fishing nets. In the GPI (Gran Premio d'Italia) we found out another way of doing it.. But lets start from the beginning..
It's 2017., the year of the Mini Transat! What does it mean? It means we are entering the final prep stage, we are testing the final versions of previous versions, we are getting eager to get to La Rochelle on October 1st... Our first race of the year is the Gran Premio d'Italia, organized by the oldest Italian sailing club - The Yacht Club Italiano. After the endless packing of the boat and myself in Losinj, we start our trip from Losinj to Genova on a nice evening, driving through the night and experiencing different truck driver like emotions - some of them nice, some pretty disgusting. But we arrive safely to the YCI the next morning and we find the Mini crowd preparing their boats for the longest race of the Italian circuit. I must say this is the first time Eloa's assembling goes according to plan and after two days we find ourselves race ready with plenty of time to prepare the routing, weather analysis and of course, trying out some sweet Italian cuisine. Our partner for this race was Alessandro Suardi - Alex, a guy I first met the evening before the race.
We click immediately after dinner, and in the morning we are pushing our way to the printer for some fresh weather routing material. Pavel, our good friend from the Czech Republic, accepts our bet and we are now racing against his Pogo3 and his crew - Komar - for dinner, a steak. The one that comes first buys the steak to the other, so the bitter taste of coming in second tastes a little better. The race is on, at noon on April 7th we start a race that will later prove to be the longest we have ever sailed. There is a change in the race course, we don't have to round the first waypoint at Gallinara Island, but head straight to Bocche di Bonifacio - Giannutri Island and back to Genova - a total of 540 nautical miles. I guess I'll have time to get to know this Alex character pretty well, seeing the forecast showed only light winds with some puffs after the Bonifacio straight. We start well, after the last advices from Jure, we head west following the coast for some thermal breeze in the evening. We are sailing with the Code0 and full main, staying on the tail of the brand new Bertrand proto No. 931 - Sideral.
With the Sun setting off for the first night in the race, we tack towards Corsica. Eloa is pretty fast, her new Ullman sails are letting her fight opponents more fierce, she's fully stacked to the bow, and Alex and me are chatting and listening to some music from his ubercool MP3 player. Seeing I agreed on some targets for this race with my psychologist, I decide to do my 'staying awake for 20 hours' target in the second day of the race. We are nearing Corsica and the west pays! We are tacking in front of the whole Mini fleet and the morale is high. We are fast enough to control all the fleet, even the Pogo3s that can't use their scow bow power in light air. A day's sailing along the western Corsica coast and we approach the Bocche di Bonifacio. It's getting dark, we are sailing the big spinnaker and full main, and seeing the Venturi effect in the straight, around 10 PM we change to medium spi and put a reef in the main. We are pretty confident that this sail configuration is the best for the forecast 25 knots westerly in the Bocche. We are sailing bow to bow with Koati, the 446 Pogo2 which we will be dueling for the whole race. They broach, and we sail on happily seeing there's only one proto ahead of us. But the happiness disappears as we start broaching in the sharp waves with Eloa diving all the way up to her mast. Alex is pretty sure we are overpowered, but I ensure him it's fine, just fine. Well it isn't, we are definitely overpowered and the next time we go bow down, it's over. Knock down! We let go the spi halyard and now we are literally fishing with the medium kite. The jib is up, but the Code0 that was blasting along the hull into the waves (it fell in the water minutes before) is wrapped around the keel. Well, something had to break, fortunately it was only the bowsprit lever (fork) used to pull out the bowsprit. For the next couple of hours we continue along with just the main and the jib. There are 25-30 knots of wind, but that's not the problem.. I breakdown, I'm pissed off at myself and the whole world. This situation was manageable, it wasn't supposed to go this way. I feel like crying, but there's an optimistic voice in my head saying pretty cool stuff. Wait, it's not in my head, it's Alex - explaining the "Calamari Lesson": "Never, especially in the Mini Transat, should you get into a situation like this!" - he says. "It's a complete waste of energy and time.. It could have easily been avoided by reefing or simply putting down the medium and hoisting the Code5 on time. There's no need to break things.. Take off half an hour and try to understand what just happened.." His voice is extremely calm and I feel like he's right about everything.. But why the Calamari Lesson? Well, it's at that time we caught a small squid with our kite, so it's got to be a Calamari Lesson!
I soon realize the idea behind the Lesson: predict - stay safe - stay fast. We rest a bit and in the morning we are back in the game with the kite trying to understand how much we've lost. Not that much, it's a miracle - only the two Pogo3s (908 Pavel and 868 Remi) and a Pogo2 are ahead, but not far away. We put our warrior masks on, and the battle goes on. It's light winds all the way to Giannutri Island so we repair all the damages and Eloa is fast again. We round Giannutri after 931 and 868, head to head with 446.
But the Race Committee isn't shortening the course, why??? There's a huge high pressure system all over the Tyrrhenian Sea and we are still sailing the whole course? Oh mama, it's gonna be a long one. Just remain calm, it's the only way. We sail a good leg to the tip of Corsica, and than we come to a complete stop. The huge SW swell is forcing us to sail towards the coast, we simply cannot tack the other way. We eat some cous-cous, chat and listen to music. But the other boats are sailing further offshore in some sea breeze, we are not fully aware that our choice is the wrong one. The next morning some breeze fills in and we start our ascend towards Genova. We soon realize that the time limit is pretty near, we are not sure we will finish in time?! God damn the masochistic Race Committee, we are racing against time now. On the VHF we hear some competitors melting down, it's not easy.. It was supposed to be a nice race, and the RC made it difficult. But Alex and me are pretty convinced it was supposed to be this way, it's a pretty brutal yet effective mental preparation and I learn that all the winter sessions with my psychologist Davor, psychotherapist Neno and life coach Sanja make sense. It's all about staying in the moment, staying focused. In one way, it's pretty easy, just sail..
In the end, we finish 6th after six and a half days of sailing on a 540 nm course, just 50 minutes before the time limit. The only bad thing about this race - we have to buy a steak dinner for Pavel..