Day one of the 2016 Hobie ®16 World Championship semi finals kicked off this morning in a solid, square breeze on the waters of Dapeng Bay in South Eastern China.
The field of 56 teams, were divided into 4 groups of 14 with 28 teams in each race. The 4 groups will shuffle over the three days of semi final racing, making up different combinations of 28 boats, a method designed to make the series equal for all competitors.
The first race of the day (1A) was a short and sweet 1GO course to 090 degrees at 0.7 nautical miles. As the hooter sounded for the start, all was looking very clear until two boats, that had set up in good positions to leeward, crossed early and were given individual recalls (OCS). The rest of the fleet were off and rolling with equal numbers to port and starboard.
At the bottom mark boats were flying coming in from both directions with Bates (AUS) leading and heading to the offset with Darmanin (AUS) and Peterson (AUS), who was (OCS), followed. In the pack, some boats were single and double trapping, heading to the mark in a tight bunch, when one boat flipped.
The pressure built and the course was extended mid race to 0.9nm on the same bearing. At the Gates Bates was still in the lead with Bjornhout from Denmark now in second.
Boats were scattered all over both sides of the course and as the leaders rounded the A Mark steaming in with spray flying up from the bow they were double trapping, the same was happening all over the lengthened course.
At 10:55 as rain came in the first boat to pass through the orange flags and greeted with the winner’s siren was Bjornhout from Denmark with a fantastic lead ahead of Bates from Australia who tacked down the middle of the course to take second followed by Phillip Epps also from Australia.
In Race Two (1B) we saw a new set of 28 fired up international teams take to the water after a boat swap on the beach. As teams jostled for the pin end of the starting line, in white caps, some boats were causing havoc, shouts came from all over the fleet and some boats bailed out of their positions. On the siren a large proportion of the fleet crossed the starting line early, and as all offenders couldn’t be identified a postponement was called.
The sequence for a “Black Flag” restart began with any offender crossing the line early to be disqualified. In 14kts at the start of the 1GO course, the same as the previous race, the black flag start was all clear and got underway without incident. Thomas (NCL) who had to pinch the mark, got around and led from Waterhouse (AUS) with Chan (HKG) crossing in third.
Some boats went to the right but the majority went to the left, really spreading it out across the course. Heading to weather there was a lot more pressure than the previous race and competitors were double stringing.
At weather the course was extended to 1 nautical mile with plenty of squirt blowing up to 18kts. The first boat, Park (KOR) rounded the mark double trapping to the offset. In second Borcherding (USA) flew along, chased by Warren-Myers (AUS) having a great sail. The fleet rounded the weather mark and headed back to the Gates in rain with patches of blue sky.
The first boats through the Gates were clear leaders, double trapping on the beat up wind, with most electing to go to the right hand side of the course. Boats approached A Mark at high speed slashing through the chop.
At the finish Rob Andrews (AUS) crossed in first place followed by Darmanin (AUS) with Thomas (NCL) in third place.
Race three of the day (2A) had an all clear start with Thomas (NCL) crossing the line just ahead of Renouf (FRA) and Darmanin (AUS) as all boats smoked across the line double trapping on the first 2GO course of the series.
At the A Mark the pressure was up to 16kts with bumpier conditions than we have seen so far. Thomas continued to lead at the top and the congested field charged around the offset for the run downwind.
At the Gates for the first time Brown (USA) rounded in 14kts with a 10 length lead and Waterhouse (AUS) followed. At the A Mark for the second time with just enough wind to be trapping Duchatel (AUS) came in from the left side of the course in front of Brown and Waterhouse.
With the breeze at Gates at 7kts the course was shortened and Duchatel held his lead over Waterhouse who moved ahead of Brown. A fresh breeze blew half way down the next leg and teams were again double wiring down the left side of the course. At the A Mark for the final time positions remained unchanged in the top three as they headed for the finish line Duchatel retained a 6 to 8 boat length lead over Waterhouse to win the race with Brown holding on to third.
Race four (2B) turned out to be the final race of the day. After the boats departed the beach the race moved into sequence at 2:25pm. Boats settled and waited for the Blue Peter to go down with a 1GO course heading to the A Mark at a 095 degree bearing at a distance from the Signals boat of .7nm.
In 8kts at the siren some teams were single trapping but once again it was Thomas (NCL) who continued his great starts and led the fleet across the line. Nevertheless, by the Weather Mark it was Borcherding (USA) in the lead over Warren-Myers (AUS) and Roulant (FRA).
Most teams were now sitting on their tramps with an occasional light crew with one on the wire, most going to the Gates on the port side with Warren-Myers now in the lead over Roulant with Andrews (AUS) now in third. At the A Mark teams were again single trapping as they approached the Offset Mark.
In a quickly lightening breeze Fletcher Warren-Myers from Australia crossed first for his second win from two races and a 1m40sec lead over second place finisher Benjamin Roulant from France with Australian Rob Andrews in third place.
The wind had blown itself out and racing was halted for the day. It was an excellent start to the series with some heavy pressure across the course from early morning and averaging around 12kts.
Tomorrow the battle continues.
Full results at www.hobieworlds.com/results/