AZAB day one commentary - by Jerry Freeman
Blue skies, fair winds and calm seas greeted the fifty eight boats taking the start for this the tenth edition of the Royal Cornwall’s AZAB; Azores and back race on Saturday 4th June 2011.
Guest of honour and co founder Andrew Bray, editor of both Yachting World and Yachting Monthly in the past, made a welcome return to Falmouth for the start, gazing down from the vantage point of Pendennis Castle to the fleet assembled along the start line to Black Rock he must have swelled with pride at the enduring popularity of this race that has grown to be a classic in the UK shorthanded racing calendar since that first race in 1975.
This race does what it says on the tin; open ocean from the Lizard to the island of St Miguel, 1200 miles of relatively safe adventure and serious racing, for many of the sailors their first taste of the wide open expanse of North Atlantic with big swell waves, steady breezes, and deep blue ocean. They will have the chance to experience a proper watch system once the ship gets organised, happy hours perhaps, dolphin torpedoes at night , whales heavy breathing in the calms, pink and deadly Portuguese man of war, fleets of tiny ‘by the wind sailors’, the green flash, it’s all there to savour on AZAB.
They have proper cannon at the Royal Cornwall, not a pop gun, and the eight inch bore civil war muzzle loader added dramatic sound and smoke effect for the big crowd gathered at the Castle to witness the excitement of the four class starts. First away were the fast boats in class 4 at 13.00. The wind, forecast to be 12 knots from the north east, flipped around at the ten minute gun as the sea breeze set in and confounded a lot of skippers who had their spinnaker gear set up, but all the boats got away for a clean start under white sails in a light south westerly, class one sedately ending the show at 13.30.
At sunset on the first day La Promesse was the leader on the water from Destination Calais by 0.8 of a mile, reaching at speeds in excess of 9 knots , Jan-Kees was looking forward to his first night of combat. Class 4 leader on handicap Jbellino was 2 miles astern of the soloists, Rob Craigie having the objective of closing the gap on Pierre -Yves overnight
Elixir held the lead in class 3 from Comedy of Errors and the solo Home of Jazz. Class 2 leader was the GK34 Growler 0.2 miles up on Ruffian and then Vela Fresca. Class1 was lead by Strategem from Franglais and Quaker girl.