In the last week of July the RS Feva Worlds were held at Marina di Grosetto, a small Italian town on the coast of Tuscany. Three dinghies from CVLSC took part: Alice Edmonds helmed one boat with her Dad, Nick, as crew; then Cristian Edmonds/Rafe Lywood and Michael Dennis/Milo Gordon made up the helm/crew teams of the other two boats.
On Saturday, the day before the event started, the Chew trailers, loaded with Fevas, rolled down through the Tuscan hills, past fields of sunflowers and into Marina di Grosetto. Competitors arrived from all over Europe that day, and some from even further afield including Russia, Sweden, Latvia, Estonia, Malta, Czech Republic and Norway. However the British were by far the largest group making up 72 of the 171 dinghy fleet.
The racing venue was at the northern end of Marina di Grosetto where the Formula 18 Worlds had been held two weeks earlier. It was a curious spot – not a sailing club but what appeared to be a school. None of the rooms of the school were in use and the changing rooms, loos and showers were in rather dilapidated cabins, on the edge of the dusty boat park. A large white canopy provided shade for the registration/presentation area….thank heavens…. because temperatures in the boat park hovered between 30 and 35 degrees. A long wooden boardwalk led from the boat park down a short path to the beach and over the sand to the water’s edge. On either side of the boat launch area, golden sand, speckled with parasols and bronzing Italians, stretched for miles into the hazy distance.
After arriving on the Saturday morning, the Chew team unloaded their boats and rigged them ready for a practice. Hot and tired in the roasting sun, they hauled the dinghies out of the boat park, down to the beach and onto the water. Rob Partridge, the RYA coach who had trained Cristian/Rafe and Milo/Mikey in the south-western zone squad over the winter, was there to support his squad members and gave the boys some last minute tips that afternoon.
On the following day, practice races were held in the afternoon and there then followed an opening ceremony in the evening. The ceremony started with a procession: competitors gathered in the boat park in their national T shirts and set off on foot following a jeep full of Italian competitors down the sea front promenade. A few minutes after the start, an official came rushing along the road after the procession, arms laden with the large flags for each competing nation. These were quickly distributed amongst the competitors and a small contingent of British sailors, clearly emboldened by the arrival of the Union Jack, jogged off with it down the side of the procession, and leapt into the leading Italian jeep!
The procession eventually arrived at the Marina where there were numerous speeches in both Italian and English by local dignitaries including the mayor and the President of the Worldwide RS Feva Class Association. And then, finally, the event was declared open….the race was on.
On Monday and Tuesday, qualifying races were held to determine the gold, silver and bronze fleets which would then race separately for the final three days of the event. Conditions were not good for the start of racing on the Monday. Flags on the beach flew in a moderate, off shore breeze and the competitors wilted in the blistering heat on the beach, waiting for the start to be announced. The offshore breeze continued to fight the sea breeze. After an hour and a half, with concerns for the welfare of the roasting sailors, the racing was officially postponed and everyone went charging into the nearby beach café for reviving drinks and snacks. At around 2 pm a strong sea breeze finally kicked in and 2 races were held. Thankfully, the following day, Tuesday, the sea breeze started early and built to a 12-16 knot wind by 11.30am. With the wind came large waves and swell – conditions that our inland Chew sailors found challenging. By the end of Tuesday Alice, Nick, Milo and Mikey had qualified for the silver fleet in 14th and 38th place respectively. Cristian and Rafe however, had the disappointment of just missing out on silver fleet by two places, and so found themselves in 2nd place in the bronze fleet. The qualifying place was carried forward into the final fleets as a non-discardable result.
Racing was limited on Wednesday, with light patchy wind making sailing tricky. There was just enough wind for the gold fleet to complete two races but silver and bronze fleets only finished one after the second was abandoned late afternoon.
As the week progressed the Chew team adapted to the sailing conditions and the techniques of their fellow European sailors. Interpretation of sailing rules was inconsistent amongst a number of competitors and some Italian sailors were warned for deploying team racing tactics against the top GBR boats. After some near collisions Alice and Nick developed a new technique when approaching windward boats coming down the run. Nick would stand up in the boat, hold his hand out against the approaching boat and bellow ‘windward’ as loudly as he could. This seemed to clear up any possible misunderstanding over who had right of way, though one Italian helm still felt the rule didn’t apply as he was in second place! Mikey and Milo had their own challenges too, being hit hard on the stern in one race and being swamped by waves from the Dutch coach boat in another.
Thursday and Friday continued blistering hot. The Chew team drank gallons of water before, during and after races and worked hard to consolidate their positions: Alice and Nick were aiming for consistent scores in the top 15 of silver, Mikey and Milo were working towards a top 30 score in silver and Cristian and Rafe were locked into battle for leadership of the bronze fleet. On Thursday, winds got up to 14 knots enabling 4 races that afternoon but on Friday, the final day, winds were light and only 2 races were held.
For the Chew boats, which were above average weight, there was some frustration with the lighter winds of the final, but after the close of racing on Friday the Chew team were exhausted but happy with their results: in silver Alice and Nick came 12th and Mikey and Milo 49th, while Cristian and Rafe achieved a very creditable 5th in the bronze fleet. All 3 helm/crew teams had made major improvements on their 2012 Worlds results – a testament to their hard work over the winter.
The top 3 places at the 2013 Feva Worlds were won by Brits, giving the podium a distinctly red, white and blue hue at the Friday afternoon prize giving. After the final prizes had been awarded and the speeches were done there was a flurry of boat packing and the Chew team spun off to different parts of Italy for some well-deserved R&R before their long journeys home.
Post-worlds talk was all about next year’s Feva worlds, closer to home in Carnac, Brittany at the end of July 1014. The Chew Valley boats are already planning new helm/crew combinations, and there are plans afoot for a six weekend Feva training series through the winter to continue to build on the improving results. The CVLSC Feva fleet are particularly keen to hear from any helms or crews who would be interested in joining the current boats in a campaign for next year’s world championships. There are opportunities for those that would like to crew for boat’s aiming for the gold fleet, and also for those helms and crews looking to take part in their first major international competition in the bronze fleet. Suggested standard would be Sunday Topper Challenge group standard and above. If you’re interested, contact Reuben Woodbridge or Nick Edmonds, or better yet, talk to one of the Feva sailors, hopefully still wearing their tans and smiles from Italy.