My name is Andi Kinnear, and I am a CODA worlds team member. Recently, I was fortunate to get the chance to sail at the biggest sailing regatta on the face of the earth – Lake Garda Meet, which hosted 1100 people. My friends Max and Kai Ramsay, Theo Chapman and Brodie Sorensen and I were a part of the four day regatta, sailing in the tough conditions as Canadians who have only a 6 month sailing season. This was something I had only dreamed about for a very long time.
Before the regatta started, Brodie, Theo and I sailed in Scott Norman’s group for three action packed training days. On the first day, I was overwhelmed by all the organizing I had to do. Wheeling my charter boat 600 meters down to the beaches where all the Americans were setting up their boats with us. I knew the charter boat wouldn’t fit my needs, so with a tool box I brought from home, I took off the charter mainsheet block and replaced it with mine so I could use my four-to-one system with clip. This would make it a lot less of a hassle to sheet in my sail in the forecasted heavy winds for the week. I realized that after I was done customizing the boat to my needs, everybody was already geared up to head out on the water. I hurried up and made it in time for Norman’s briefing of the group. I learned there that the lake had a very special geographic effect. The “Ora”! The alps just north of Riva Del Garda blow strong cold wind in the morning right over the town to the south end of the lake, close to Verona. From the evening to morning, the wind is usually completely dead, and the lake is flat. Throughout noon though, the wind spreads through the lake, reaching where we are at around 12 to 1 o’clock, lasting until around 4:30pm. This is what the locals call the Ora.
At twelve we launched before the Ora started, and we got towed along the rugged west mountain coastline of the lake by coach Norman’s boat. Once we got to the beautiful waterfall in the protected area, we all ate Italian pizza, and relaxed. Many of the 25 kids sailing with us did not pay enough attention to the briefing and rigged for the light air that was visible to us at the time. But at 12:45, I began to see a very dark shadow casting over the lake quickly. I was so excited. When the Ora hit, I cranked my spirit and immediately started hiking out and testing my speed. Our coaches had us do drills in which we sailed upwind on port tack, towards the west wall. I knew why they made us do it. Around 20 meters from the rocks, the wind picked up about 3 knots (from 14 to 17) and shifted 20 degrees to the right. Until 4, we kept testing our speed on our upwinds, and later on down winds back to the beach.
On the first day of the regatta itself, I had a bad first start. I started the second row, and I quickly fell back in the ranks. By the upwind mark I was around 100th, but I caught up on the second upwind by playing the right side and gaining on the shifts, to finish 46th. In the second race, I had an amazing start on the committee end. I was second at the upwind mark, but the top kids quickly caught up to me on the reach. I held my lane and I finished 4th. In the third race, I had a decent start and I finished 13th. By the end of the day I was 42nd overall.
On the second day, I didn’t get any super flashy results, but I was consistent. In the first race I had a good start but picked the wrong side. I did a great job catching up from the upwind to finishing 25th. The second race on day 2 was a bad one, finishing 49th. The third one though, was a race I was proud of. I started decently, but I couldn’t keep up with the top kids. At the upwind mark I was high mid fleet, but I caught up on the second upwind using the lake effect’s right shift. I ended up finishing 15th, catching up about 50 places! I was 67th overall at the end of that day.
I made gold fleet! On the third day all of gold had received GPS trackers on our boats for the race committee and the spectators. My first race in gold was pretty good, finishing 56th. Second race was absolutely terrible. On the downwind I hit a gust and by the time I reacted my boat was submarined. I tried bailing as fast as I could, but my back air bag fell out! Half of my boat was a foot underwater, so I couldn’t put the airbag back in. I ended up retiring, exhausted and frustrated. Once I got rescued (by coach Nick Tosi!), I bailed quickly and reached the start in time for the next race to start. I was angry and embarrassed, but I knew the past was in the past. I sailed my best, and finished 100th, so around mid fleet.
The last day we were capped off on 10 races, so only one race left to go. The most obvious place to start was the right side, but I couldn’t bring myself to start in the large clump of boats barging or double tacking on the very right, so I started mid right. I had a good start with a clear lane. Good news and bad news – almost everybody started right and I was on top there, but around a quarter was still middle and left. All of them received a strong left shift that stayed for the whole rest of the upwind. I was still top quarter by the upwind, but I was pretty unhappy. I held my spot for the rest of the race. Finishing 69th. By the end of the regatta, I was 66th overall. That was not what I expected, I didn’t even think I was going to get top 100. I am very happy with my result, but something more important than a number was the amazing experience that will help me greatly in worlds. I felt as if I learned more in a week than I did in a whole summer in Canada. I’m missing Italy more than ever right now. I want to go back!