Spain driver Diego Botin recounts how the young team secured its first ever event win in LA, beating Canada and Season 3 champions Australia in the three-boat showdown.
Heading into LA
Ahead of racing in LA, we were lucky to have an extra training day sharing with the French. It was windy the whole day and we spent three hours training full on with very clear goals to improve on. We made big gains that day.
Practice race day
Before LA, we’d only had one practice race day in the new crew configuration (Sydney was my first event and practice was canceled in both Christchurch and Chicago). The conditions we practiced in were very light and we were expecting foiling conditions for the weekend, so it didn’t change our confidence levels, but we felt that if we sailed well, we could fight and come back in some races. It turned out the Final was in those exact conditions, so practice day was very useful.
Race Day 1
We went into the event with no expectations for winning - we were just expecting to fight. We thought if we did a good job, we could be in the mix, but we never thought about the win. We had a good day on Saturday and at the end of the day, we were just outside the podium. A good thing about that day was that we climbed up in every race, we didn’t lose positions and we were always going forward and that’s a really important feeling to have - to be able to fight at the top.
Race Day 2
We went into the second day with no expectations. We weren’t feeling like we were going to make the Final. In our minds, we just wanted to do the best we could and take everything as it came. That’s what we did - and we did it until the end of the day.
We discussed our starts overnight and we had a clear plan. We managed to pull that off in the first race of the day - we were first to Mark 1 and we just kept the boat foiling and in the right direction and we managed to win it. In the last fleet race, we picked up two penalties for port-starboard situations with the French. The first penalty was because we didn’t anticipate well enough what they were going to do. We were both going downwind on port, they gybed and we didn’t keep clear.
We then went through the favored mark at the bottom and they went through the other one, and that meant the meters we had to lose were just going up and up so we ended up having to tack and go behind them. Then we had a problem with the jib track and on the next cross with France we were coming on starboard and the track was completely loose. We felt that we were going to make the cross on them, but they were foiling again and managed to get another penalty on us. It took us ages to burn that penalty and meant that by the time we reached the top gate, we were in last position. We knew that if we finished last, we wouldn’t make the Final. We knew we had to pass at least one boat and at the leeward gate we managed to pass the Swiss.
Heading into the Final, we just wanted to win the pin end of the start line. We felt we were going to be late to the start and ROCKWOOL Denmark was actually in a better position. But then a gust came, which meant the Danish had to kill some time and we got the best angle to Mark 1 to be able to pop up on the foils. We were able to extend quite a bit, but there was a hole at the leeward gate and Australia and ROCKWOOL Denmark were foiling. We went through the gate off the foils and the Danes came through foiling, so they were approaching us.
We just managed to tack on the boundary, which meant they had to tack beneath us and from there it was just about matching them. We were super thrilled when we crossed the finish line first. Everyone on the team has been putting in heaps of work and, as a team, we’ve been going through a hard time. Winning an event is amazing, but it’s more about having the feeling that we can compete against the other teams. As a group, I think we work very well together and that’s the key to it.
Now we just need to keep doing what we are doing and keep the momentum going. That’s the key for us this season.
The F50 fleet will next meet for battle at the France Sail Grand Prix | Saint-Tropez on September 9-10.