Abu Dhabi is a new venue for the 2014 calendar and we weren't quite sure what to expect in terms of conditions. What we were counting on was blue skies and a balmy water temperature and it definitely delivered on that front.
We flew into Dubai and stayed the night with some friends before making the trip over to Abu Dhabi the following day. Our plans to visit the waterpark were shelved once our jet lag kicked in and we made the trip to the huge shopping mall instead in a slightly fuzzy state.
The regatta was sailed in supplied boats - the first time this has ever been done in the 49er class. Fortunately, having been on borrowed kit in Rio, we already had everything ready to piece together and we were out training pretty quickly. We had a bit of tweaking to do on the boat and managed two training sessions before the regatta started.
The first day was sailed on the inside course, which was very shifty and gusty and 4-12kts. We had an ok day, but had a poor middle race when our starting execution let us down. The whole fleet had at least one poor result, so everything was wide open still.
Day two was sailed on one of the outside courses, where we had heard there was good chop/swell running. It was a light sea breeze day and sure enough there was plenty of bump in the Persian Gulf. We had a great start in race four and were 4th to the windward mark, just behind the leaders. After rounding the mark we began hoisting the spinnaker and before it had reached the top there was an agonising yell from Dave. A port tack boat, yet to round the windward mark and well above layline had attempted to dive through a gap in the line of downwind boats. In doing so they misjudged it and the front of their starboard wing collided with Dave's heel, which was raised up slightly. The impact sent Dave into the water and we capsized. It was clear he was in a serious amount of pain and my first thought was that it was a broken ankle, as the two boats were closing at about 15kts. We got him into a medical boat and to hospital, where it was x-rayed and the wound stitched.
Fortunately, as the heel is incredibly tough, he was left with some serious bruising and stitches. Two inches higher and it might have snapped his ankle clean in half!
The next day Dave decided he would like to try and race, so we gave it a go. After a tough first race, when we were understandably a bit wobbly, we came back and scored a 1,3 in the next two to put us in Gold medal contention.
After missing all three races the previous day we went and claimed redress. They awarded it for the first two and we assumed they would award it for the third, once we completed more races, and adjust the scores to take into account the whole series. After racing on day three we went to the protest room to have this clarified and we were informed that we would not get redress for the third race and that we would only get average points of the first day for the other two. Their reason was that apparently our competitors need to know the scores going into the final day of racing and that it is not fair on them if they don't know where they stand. We argued that it doesn't actually affect their points total, but to score us 9,9,DNF for a day’s racing when we were 4th in the first race and did absolutely nothing wrong, absolutely wrecks our gold medal hopes. Also, the boat that hit us was able to sail the last two races and record scores better than us. That seems unfair.
All this left us in 6th and Dave with one hell of a sore foot. The bruising had ripened a treat after the hard day on the water and the next morning he was in considerable pain. We went for the medal race knowing that we had to probably win the race to stand a chance of medalling, so after a poor start we took a relatively high risk approach. It didn't quite pay off, but was worth a try as the prize money for medalling would have been a considerable boost to our campaign. We finished the regatta in 8th and were absolutely gutted about it!
That's the end to our racing for the 2014 season and it has been a tough year. We haven't quite got it right on a few occasions, despite showing some glimpses of great form, such as at Kiel and Sail for Gold. It's been a year of carrying DNFs, which cost us dear at Palma, Santander and Abu Dhabi, and a difficult year in the protest room.
We have been pretty unlucky at times, but we’re doing everything possible to learn from all the incidents and move on. We hope to make 2015 a great year and thank our sponsors for all their help over the long season.
Next report from Miami in January. Merry Christmas :)
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