French Masters Championship



Welcome to the 1999 Tempest Worlds from an American viewpoint


En Route
Sights along the drive to the south of France.


Waterspout heralds high finish in warmup series


French Masters Championship.

It's Friday. We've completed measuring and launched our boat, and now we're slicing upwind through deep blue Mediterranean waves in a 15-knot breeze wearing nothing but t-shirts, with both the wind and water at perfect "room" temperature.
     The shoreline is beautiful: rocky forelands mingle with beaches, spectacularly-sited homes and an occasional medieval fortification, while

Faces …

cliff-faced mountains loom in the background. The sailing conditions are as perfect as we've ever seen and once we tune up, the boat feels light, responsive, and quick. We're jubilant.
     It's Saturday. We take the favored pin end at the first start of the six-race French Masters Championship and, to our delight, easily cross the fleet when we tack onto port. An American on the jury boat times our lead at the first mark to be 14 seconds, and watches it widen to 30 seconds over the next four legs. We feel fast and we can point, but as we begin the third weather leg of the triangle-windward-leeward-triangle-windward course, our outhaul breaks and four boats go by before we can fix it. Arrgh! Surely we had that race won.
     The second race of the day offers the same wind velocity, but a murderous chop which makes boathandling very difficult. We don't realize until the last weather leg that our new jib won't pull us through the waves unless we loosen our forestay, and in the meantime we've been fouled and pushed outside at a leeward mark rounding, losing many places. Some of the boats that beat us were premature starters, but we still finish a discouraging 14th. It's been a long day.
     Now it's Sunday. Three races are scheduled, but as we arrive at the course, the whole vista is dominated by a towering cloud offshore to leeward, underneath which forms a waterspout as we watch. Other competitors and the race committee see it writhe and grow for a full ten minutes before it dies out. The starting sequence begins and we forget this drama, capturing the pin end again. But other boats have found their speed, too, and we're only third to the weather mark; dropping to fifth in a lightening breeze, and then squeezing out fourth at the finish.
     Meanwhile the storm is re-forming over the land, so the race committee sends us into the harbor. For the rest of the afternoon we are treated to a spectacular electrical storm that seems to sit right over us. One lightning bolt hits a mast on a boat in the marina, sending up a shower of sparks like a giant  fourth of July sparkler. This enthralls all the sailors, who stay huddled together in the clubhouse until racing is abandoned for the day.
     This leaves us fifth overall for the series! Old friend Rolf Bähr from Berlin certainly had great speed in these conditions and deservedly won all three races. We could've finished as high as second overall without our mishaps … but we also could've finished a few places worse if some other good boats hadn't started prematurely in that second race. So fifth it is, and we're content.
     The world championship starts tomorrow.