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Being offered a steak sandwich for breakfast aboard Mike Kearney’s Oyster 56 ‘Sionna’ was certainly very welcome. So too was the invitation to trim the mainsail for the day – there’s nothing like a defined role to focus the mind. But perhaps I should have twigged that there was a potential catch and that the two were linked.

As we headed out to the start, a glance around the aft end of the cockpit to familiarise myself with the control line layout revealed that the mainsheet was a double-ended system with a winch on each side of the cockpit coamings, perfect.

“Ah, I see you’ve found your place already,” said Mike. “That’s grand. You’ll be needing this.” 

With which, he offered me a handle. 

Winch handles are a rare sight in the Oyster fleet, but the reality struck home immediately. Only the primary winches aboard Sionna were powered. 

Fortunately there was a saving grace. Day 3 was another passage race, a return from Andratx to Palma and with the breeze coming out of the north the bulk of the race would be a downwind affair with light sheet loads, at least for the mainsheet trimmer.

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Class 4, in which Sionna is racing, may have the smallest boats in the fleet but the racing is intense. The start alone proved that.

As the first class to start there were no markers or guides as to the best route to take up the first leg. Instead the decision was all ours for the short beat to the north, before turning the windward mark and heading southeast and downwind. But in the final 60 seconds before the start it was clear that the entire fleet had figured out the best place to start and their time on distance to the line. No one was giving any quarter.

Indeed, according to the race management team, throughout the start sequences that followed it was clear that all of the classes had locked into the event and raised their game, getting more competitive with every start.

 

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But, while the starts and the first beats were important, the story of day three was about the long downwind leg back to Palma. With 15-17 knots of breeze from the northwest and a sea state to match, the downhill slide was about tactics and boat speed. 

The tactical side came with planing where to put in gybes to make best use of the shifts and wind acceleration zones around headlands. Avoiding the lulls and wind shadows was key too. On top of this there were also opportunities to surf down the face of a few waves as the sea state kicked up in various places.

The net result was that while the downhill component of the day’s racing accounted for around two hours of sailing, concentration was key and the tactical calls came thick and fast. Aboard Sionna there was barely time for an ice cream.

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Interestingly and as another mark of the steady uplift in performance across the entire fleet during the week, the leaders among the smallest boats were only overtaken by the biggest two boats, the 885s ‘Guardian Angel’ and ‘Lush’, who had started 30 minutes behind, in the closing minutes of the race after three hours of racing. 

While the intention had not been to create a pursuit style race, the result was just that in that the bulk if the fleet finished at around the same time. The downwind style course also threw up some interesting results come the finish. 

While Vasily Senatorov’s ‘Olanta’ took another win in Class 4, the Oyster 575 ‘Irene III’ took the top spot in Class 3 for the first time in the week.

In Class 2 it was Henrik Jansen’s Oyster 655 ‘Blow’ that stood atop the podium, while in Class 1 the Oyster 82 ‘Starry Night’ went from a frustratingly slow race the day before, to taking the overall win in this class today to help mix up a set of results that have so far been dominated by Guardian Angel.

Friday is the final day for the event and after a day in which the pack got shuffled the pressure will be on in several of the classes. 

And with a forecast for a decent breeze and with the prospect of a bit more upwind racing around the cans, there may well be a few more teams offering steak sandwiches for breakfast.

GALLERY

CLASS 1
ENTRY MODEL POSITION
STARRY NIGHT 82 1
SATORI 745 2
GUARDIAN ANGEL 885 3
INTREPID 725 4
LUSH 885 5
PITANGA 745 6
BARE NECESSITIES 82 7
ISNL 825 8
CLASS 2
ENTRY MODEL POTISION
BLOW 655 1
RUTH II 625 2
AMPHORA 675 3
KALIA 625 4
TIGER 625 5
METEORITE 655 6
DELICIA 625 7
ROCK OYSTER 655 8
CLASS 3
ENTRY MODEL POSITION
IRENE III 575 1
PANTHALASSA 565 2
JANUS 575 3
LISANNE 575 4
MISS TIGGY 575 5
PACIFICA 575 6
MASTEGOT 575 7
CLASS 4
ENTRY MODEL POSITION
OLANTA 56 1
SIONNA 56 2
OSTRA 53 3
YATTARNA 49 4
MOY TOAD 53 5
SABA OF HAMBLE 53 6

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