Published on 2017.01.31

The Bol d’Or Mirabaud of Flying Buzz

  • With the first small catamarans participating in 2016: C1s make their debut in the Bol d’Or Mirabaud. Nacra F20 Flying Buzz crew Marc Cheli and Marcus Wahlin remind us of that edition with an exhiliarating story. It will inspire those hesitating to come see the 2017 Bol d’Or Mirabaud. Enjoy!

    “Here we are, there’s no turning back! C1 sport catamarans (18 to 21 feet with two-person crew) may participate in the greatest and most prestigious lake  regatta in the world, the Bol d’Or Mirabaud. More than 500 boats competing in a race on 580 km2 of water, known for a dozen different main winds, with victory as the goal for some, and simply crossing the finish line as the goal for others. I don’t yet know what to expect and although mentally prepared for anything, I don’t doubt the challenges the lake will offer, having apparently decided to offer a full palet of winds, temperatures, weather conditions and possibly thunderstorms!

    Before registering boats and crews, we had a first challenge to overcome: admission, after verification of our nautical CV by Yoann Lelièvre, our guardian angel during the Bol. Preparation at the level of such an event was necessary: getting the boat and equipment in compiance with security regulations, then optimizing the catamaran for a long distance ordeal.
    Thursday 9, boat assembly at Port Noir. The organizers installed a launch ramp, parking areas for boats and trailers, and gas lamps to light up the launch platform at night. Everything is tip-top. Friday, the tension rose and the launch platform fills up with numerous foreign competitors who made the trip.

    Saturday: wakeup call at 5:20. Solid breakfast, making energy bars. Marcus prepared our provisions: 6 liters of water, a thermos of coffee, a thermos of sweet tea, 6 sandwiches, 14 energy bars and 4 marzipan cakes (“biberli”). That seemed like a lot to me, but Marcus will be proven right. Thanks again the the two volunteers who helped us launch the boat.

    We are on the right side of the multihull starting line, between the starter boat and the first buoy. The first operation consists of marking the starting line on our GPS, which we had to do several times since the buoy separating us from the “big” multihulls was moved several times in order to line up perfectly. We decide on our start strategy, the middle of the line, spinnaker flying, full attack. 
    It’s 10:00. The starting gun goes off, our strategy works perfectly allowing a successful start but we discover the lake agitated by crossing waves prohibiting stable sailing. Once we pass the offset mark, the lake is ours with our only goal being the Bouveret barge and a multitude of routes to choose spread over 500 km2.

    The wind, blowing at 12 to 15 knots, allows us to fly. Unfortunately, the absence of positive pitch on the foils makes it impossible to stabilize the flight so we need to slow down to correct this error. Restart, this time with the right tuning. We begin to dream about an entire Bol on a cushion of air. We neglected to consider the wind changes that Aeolus would provide, one of which caused us to capsize outright. We start up 4 minutes later, our morale in dumps, convicned that we can’t make up for the delay. Wrong!

    Between Gland and Rolle, the Jura gets unpleasantly cloudy and we notice that most of the fleet is stuck in the middle of the lake. We decide to take the long way around what appears to be a bubble of dead air, then continue in the direction of the Bouveret. The next half hour proves us right, but the following half hour proves us wrong. At 19:00 we round the Bouveret barge in close step to Black, which caught up to us after Evian. We then choose to take advantage of a mild Vaudaire breeze to slide along the shore. We find ourselves close to Evian two hours later, with a magificant view on the stormclouds hanging over Geneva, lit up by lightning every few minutes, which does not foretell good things for the remainder of our trip. We prepare by eating our second-to-last sandwich, we drink, we put on dry sweaters and we prepare Buzz: tightening the shrouds, adjusting the rudder to zero pitch, pitching the foils to -2 degrees and raising them 1 meter, curving back the mast fully, and tightening the cunningham to the max. I tell Marcus who’s still in “win” mode that I don’t want to cross the storm in the dark. When the storm hits us, we decide to tack back and forth along the quays of Evian, which are lit up with streetlights. Ten minutes later, another lightning bolt strikes the extreme west of Evian, just 500 meters from us. Visibility eventually becomes satisfactory. And we attack. 25 to 30 knots of wind, 20 to 23 knots of boat speed on a downwind run. Buzz is simply regal, balanced, staying above the surface. The pure speed is intoxicating and the structure underneath is very reassuring. One hull is lit up green, the other red, and the shorelights are our target. These are our only visual references. We’re nonetheless careful of the monohulls crossing our path. The crews we crossed must have thought they were hallucinating when they saw our bright hulls, a meter above the dark waters, slicing through the dark at 15 knots.

    At Thonon, the magic was over. We begin our long, very long, too long return to Yvoires, then Geneva. Our peak speeds reach 6 knots, but most of the  time, we’re dragging along at 4 or even 3 knots. We’re soaked and dealing with the cold occupies most of our thoughts. Marcus insists that we drink warm tea. We take turns at the tiller because the fatigue is intense and we tend to nod off unexpectedly. But the cloud cover over the lake leaves no doubt that we won’t be warmed by a stray ray of sunlight. We remain in this state of mind for hours on end.

    Finaly, the Geneva harbor comes into view: the start cabin and the red ranking board are now visible, even though it will still take a good sixty minutes to reach the finish line. During the last mile, a ten knot wind gives us a little bit of pleasure and allows us to sit on the trapezes. Even at 6:00 AM, the finish announcer is still there and we cross the line after 20 hours, 7 minutes and 21 seconds, which is equal to 23 hours in handicapped time. We finish last among the C1 finishers. Among 20 registrants, 19 started, 13 finished and 12 qualified.

    Bravo to Robin Maeder et Félicien Ischer who, at an average age of 20, show us that talent doesn’t wait for years and that if well helmed, the Eagle 20 XXL is in play for first place. In summary, this Bol d’Or Mirabaud is a sport challenge for all participants, regardless of the type of boat used. Lake Geneva offers us a fantastic playground, which transformed our regatta into an amazing adventure. The 2016 edition is over… now on to the 2017 edition!”


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