My regatta Cor Caroli 2017

This text was written in August, but it was not published / I had only sent it to a few close friends and participants in the described regatta / because Furia site was closed shortly after her sinking. I found it convenient to publish it now, though chronologically after the very first post of my new blog, written much later.


As you know my Furia sank 300 miles from Newfoundland. Mihail and Dian survived, but their victory in 2017 Twostar (Plymouth-Newport) was stolen. As you can see from the picture below Furia was sinking with a crown!

And she could keep carrying it on to the finish line in Newport! It din’t happen like that. Furia did not hold and betrayed the crew, she betrayed me as well. I remained without a boat. Two weeks before this unfortunate event I had sold the old Olianta boat (Etap 21i). Obviously, Neptune sends me signs: either to give up or to start over. “Starting over”, as John Lennon was singing shortly before they kill him. To quit sailing?! No, impossible! To buy a new boat? And this will happen! Here is the place to quote E.B.White, a little-known American journalist from the middle of the last century. “If a man is obsessed with something, I suppose a boat is as good as anything, perhaps a bit better than most. A small sailing craft is not only beautiful, it is seductive and full of strange promises and the hint of trouble. ” But I need a little time to catch up with what happened. (I remember the saying that “such bad things happen in the best families”, but that does not reduce the pain and the disappointment that the “family” was not good enough). And while I was thinking about new boat concepts, Mihail invited me to the regatta Cor Caroli 2017 – in his 80-year-old sporting Peterson. Naturally, I accepted without thinking.

On August 12, Saturday, I stepped on the gas to Bourgas and at 11:30 I arrived at Yacht Club Port Bourgas, which is located in the harbor near the lighthouse of the Northern Breakwater. It was a wet, hot, almost windless day. The restaurant Jolly Roger has already expanded and has become fashionable. Working on the British system – you go to the bar and order your drink and food – you bring the drinks yourself and then your food, when announced on the loudspeaker that it is ready. Not my cup of tea. Where is the good old waiter, even that one from the communist years ?! If it is to be a self-service, I liked the van behind the pub with an open charcoal grill outside with pork ribs and skewers – an appropriate menu for such a hot summer day. We, Bulgarians, even when we are at sea, go for the meat. And what else to eat, except shellfish and anchovy, and the rest is deep frozen from the supermarket. Most of the participants in the regatta were there, sitting on the benches enjoying an early lunch before the first race. There were my friend Mihail Kopanov, the skipper, and the rest of his Peterson crew – Nasso, Stoicho, George, to whom I joined.

A few words about the Peterson boats for those who never have sailed them and do not know them. LOA of 25 ft (7.65 m) and 6.96 m LWL, 2.73 m beam, 1.750 tons displacement, trapezoidal fin keel with draft 1.56 m, mast height 10.65 meta, 7/8 fractional sloop. The designer is American, Doug Peterson (who passed away recently) and the boats were manufactured in Poland until 20 years ago. There are two versions – sports and cruising. The first ones are with open transom and below deck there is nothing more than stringers and beams, one locker and one electric switchboard.

The cruise versions have some amenities below and are with closed transom. I think they even have a sink with water. Hence, their handicap number is more favorable. Totally robust, Spartan, intended race among the cans and generally for coastal sailing. Neverthekess, a Bulgarian architect named Vassil Beyazov with a crew of two crossed the Mediterranean Sea and then the Atlantic ocean via Cape Verde to the Caribbean 10 years ago. Chapeau to them!

All Peterson sailboats have their own class Conrad 25, popular in the former Soviet countries. They are no longer produced, but because their keels do not fall, they continue to be sailed thanks to their loyal fans, who race with them in a devoted and merciless way for more than forty years on the cobblestone of the Black Sea short wave.

At 13:30 was the start of the first race, but we were late. Still, this race was not important for the final ranking. The more interesting was the next day, where the route started from the start line north-east of the lighthouse of the Bourgas port to the island of Saint Anastasia (“Bolshevik” for those of us who had spent their youth during the communist years). The island must be rounded to remain to port and then the race course goes directly to Marina Dinevi at St. Vlas. The first stretch to St. Anastasia was a 6-8 knot upwind sailing in light breeze (there were no wind instruments on the boat therefore all indicated figures are approximate). There is neither a depth sounder, there is only one magnetic compass. Mihail, skipper and helmsman brilliantly steered the boat keeping a close hauled course on port tack (closer than the rest of the fleet) and we made the tack to starboard much later than the other boats, sailing very close to the island, squeezing between it and the anchored cruise boats. None of the other boats dared this risky sail course in the shadow and shallows of the island. We shortened the distance by half a mile and screwed almost all the other boats. Over the next few miles, we watched in the distance behind our stern all the big ones, except Wind Walker, Petra, and Extasy. Almost the entire fleet was behind us. It took a long time for them to reach and overtake us, demonstrating their much longer waterline. The little ones in our class remained in the tail. From the island St Anastasia to St. Vlas, flying a spinnaker under Mihail’s skillful steering and Nasso’s precise fine tuning of the spinnaker we finished half an hour before the second Peterson boat. If there was an overall ranking, not just by classes, I think we would have been the first boat to finish on corrected time. But this is another topic. Because in this regatta were applicable two handicap systems – ORC with the majority of boats divided into four classes and IRC with fewer boats divided into two classes? Taking an IRC certificate is more expensive, but is 200 BGN that much? In my opinion, IRC is the more appropriate system for us, Bulgarians because it requires a precise measurement of each boat by a licensed person and therefore the possibilities of abuse and voluntary or involuntary cheating are less probable. Comrade Lenin used to say that “verification was a highest form of trust”, and then the Soviet KGB had paraphrased that “suspicion was the highest form of trust.” Another point on the handicap rules of this regatta – why there is no no overall ranking? Do the big ones worry if a smaller boat of another class beats them on corrected time?! It would be also appropriate that the organizers use part of the sponsorship money for implementing IRC as a uniform handicap system for all keelboat races, instead of spending so much cash on “kebapche” (sausages) and alcohol drinks for the parties accompanying the races. Naturally, large and expensive yachts should bear the cost of obtaining a certificate themselves. If the organizers of Cor Caroli declare early enough that only one uniform handicap system will be applied to the regatta, I think that eventual boycotting the race will be a minority.

That evening in St. Vlas a big party was organized with free “kebapche” and drinks, and a lot of noise. St Vlas is, in my opinion, a terrible place post-communist pricey and snobby in Russian style and the human crowds, not enough however to fill the dense cluster of apartment houses, have spoiled that beautiful place, which boasts the best climate on the Black sea. In the past nobody could own even a small villa on shore, let alone blocks of flats. As a friend of mine (long settled across the ocean) noted “why don’t they build an underground from Bourgas to Sunny Beach and Vlas?”

Despite these critical remarks (or precisely because of them) our crew as well as the female crew (no offense to their skipper Bogomil) we all got drunk – beer-whiskey-wine-rosé-whiskey-beer-and sweet sailor’s talking. We went to sleep on the stationary ketch belonging to Venid yachts, docked permanently. The next day was supposed to be the longest stretch of all races: St.Vlas to Varna. During the night, the wind was whistling fiercely and in drunken sleeplessness accompanied by the smell of old wood, I was shivering in anticipation of the long heavy weather passage in the morning. The forecast was Force 6 with gusts to Force 7 northerlies but for some strange reason the organizers somehow downgraded it to Force 5. Mihail decided that we will rig genoa no.1. In fact on the start line we hoisted the spinnaker! And because of this glorious start it was the first time that we were ahead of Wind walker (Swan 46), Petra (Bavaria Match 35) and all the other big ones (Xc 42 of Krassimir Marinov, X-35 by Lachezar Bratoev, Hallberg-Rassy of Stefan Nikolov, Elan-46, two Benetou 40.7 and others). Shortly before cape Emine, we dropped the spinnaker, and there started the long beat to Varna. It was blowing Force 6-7. Some of the boats preferred sailing closer to the shore hoping for less seas – that nasty Black Sea short wave. The sea surface was white.

On this race we changed a crew member – instead of Stoycho, who had some work to do, came Stanislav Viktorov (Nautica.bg), a big fellow and in kilograms equal to Stoycho, which was good because we needed bigger meat on the windward rail that day. He was sitting silently beside me, enduring the heel and the sharp hard deck edges of the boat. Somewhere between village Obzor and village Biala, Mihail finally made his mind to replace the big Genoa with number 2 Genoa and maybe we had to hoist number 3 Genoa ? The change took fifteen long minutes, most difficult for George, the bowman, who had to perform this operation on the slippery bashing bow “encouraged” by the commands of Mihail and Nasso “Come on, you’re so slow” and he, the poor boy, was struggling on the bow stoically stressed with the pliers in hands unscrewing the shackle pin of the Genoa tack. Still, we did not lose our lead over the other Peterson boats. With Genoa No.2, we sailed much better. Otherwise, the big yachts have long ago overtaken us. Some of them quite often changed tacks. We sailed predominantly on port tack heading us to cape Galata (our goal), but due to frequent wind shifts we also did several tacks. The starboard tack was much easer on the waves, however not so good for our course. And each one of us had a dedicated job to do when tacking. I was handling the back stays. The Peterson boats are with in line spreaders perpenducalr to the mast and they have two backstays, which need to be changed with each tack. First you release the windward back stay and during the tack you must quickly tension the new windward back stay, which was the leeward one before the tack. If you fail to do so, you may even lose your mast, especially downwind in a fresh breeze. In these wet and windy conditions with the heel angle exceeding 30 degrees, the operation was not quite smooth. You tend to slip if you are late with moving to the new windward deck (which was the former leeward one and for that reason was totally wet) and you do not have enough support to pull the rope end of the back stay firmly and to lock it on the cleat. And in a few hours, your bottom, hips and tail hurt terribly. I was a big fool, because I did not wear my heavy weather trousers. “If I’m going to get wet”, I thought, “why should I put them on?” Thus I did not have enough cloth material to buffer the sharp edges of the deck. Late in the afternoon, the wind was constantly blowing over 25 knots. With the stronger gusts, we just stood in one place and the boat heel exceeded 35 degrees.

Then I told them about that old joke, where the Anatolian “manaf” (meaning the active partner of gay men sexual inter source) sexually abused the male captives. Whoever off the abused was not able to endure the penetrating pain and cried “O-o-oh”, was subsequently beheaded. After a lot of fallen Britsih, French other European nations’ heads, “Bai Ganyu”, the Bulgarian guy, stood up for some time, quenching his teeth and keeping his mouth shut, where at one point he could not bear it any more, but instead of “O-o-oh” he screamed frantically: “Breh-Breh-Breh!” And thus his life was spared because he did not cry “O-o-oh”. So did we, when a gust of 30+ knots was coming, we were struggling to keep our asses on the wineard slippery deck and shouting frantically “Breh-Breh-Breh”! It has become our habit.

So we gradually passed the visible signs on the shore that gave us an idea where we are. We did not have any GPS and using my iPhone considering heel and clenching your hands on the rail, was to risky to lose it overboard. But we did not need GPS – the shorelines were sufficiently understandable – after cape Emine we passed through the bay of Irakli, the village Obzor, the village Byala, the bay Kara Dere, cape Kara Burun, village Shkorpilovtsi, the mouth of the Kamchia river, cape Galata. After cape Galata the wind and seas became even nastier. Neptune played the role of anatolian “manaf” and not giving us a chance for a relief until the finish line. We were the first in our class. Fatigued and without enough sleep the night before in St. Vlas, we went to bed early to Naso’s villa in the village of Priselci.

The next day, the 15th of August, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and, moreover, local fest of the city of Varna, the wind kept on blowing and had even become stronger. The race was from the port of Varna to Aladzha shallows upwind and then back to Varna port downwind. Stoicho returned as crew for this race and substituted Stanislav. With two races already won, Mihail said, “Today we are going to be conservative!” Then, after a small argument with Nasso, he decided – “We’re starting with Genoa No.1”. Partly the reason for this very wrong decision, were again the organizers’s announcement on the VHF that it would blow 8-10 meters per second (Force 5) with a tendency to weaken. It turned again wrong. As we left the bay, the sea was completely white. The wind was blowing Force 6 and above. The big Genoa No.1 was like a brake for us. Exorbitant heeling, “Breh-Breh-Breh”, and a very small progress ahead. We were surpassed by the Petersons Blue Eagle and Phoenix with the female crew (skipper Bogomil along with Yordanka, Rositsa, Vyara and Eva), and some of the cruising Petersons, Nord and Sundown, were not far away from our stern. Mihail was devastated, “We lost the race and the overall regatta” he said gloomily. When we reached the Aladzha shallows, Blue Eagle had a significant advantage, Phoenix less and Nord was breathing literally in our necks, and on corrected time all of them would beat us. Then Mihail said, “We have no other choice but to hoist a spinnaker, the smallest one – the storm spinnaker.” Said, done. It was perhaps the culmination of our performance in this regatta – the only boat flying a spinnaker in these Force 6-7 conditions and close to the shore exposed to sudden wind gusts. The burden of this glorious spinnaker sailing was carried by Mihail as helmsman and Nasso handling the spinnaker. All the rest of us we were careful to keep our weight in the proper place in the cockpit in order to keep the boat flat, without heel and without any movements. After about half an hour we surpassed Phoenix, and we reached Blue Eagle before we entered the bay, where we dropped the spinnaker. Initially, we hoisted Genoa No.2, but then Mihail said, “No, give back Genoa 1,” the culprit for our fiasco when sailing upwind to the to Aladzha shallows. Now the Genoa No.1 had to make up for it. Somewhere after the middle of the bay we managed to overtake Blue Eagle and finished 15-20 seconds before them. So we won the regatta despite the Mihail’s “conservative” skippering!

Later in the afternoon was the prize giving ceremony. On both handicap systems we were the first in Conrad 25 class.

The next day, Nasso drove us to the harbor and Mihail and I )only the two of us) at 9 am set off sailing on the return passage to Bourgas (70 nm). The wind was from the north, with a tendency to shift from north-east, but it did not happen until after midday. We sailed dead downwind only with mainsail secured by a preventer. I was at the helm most of the time. To be honest it was not easy for me at all. Unlike Mihail who has sharper senses for the wind, I was sticking my head up looking at the windex indicator on the top of the mast and very often was catching myself sailing dangerously by the lee. After three days of sustained north-west and north winds, the waves were 2-2.5 meters. And steering a Peterson requires skill and great attention. At 17 o’clock we arrived at the yacht club in Bourgas, and besides the strong wind there was choppy seas inside the port. It took us 40 minutes with the efforts of four people (Stoicho and George had come to meet us) to tie Peterson bow to to the quay secured to a stern mooring. Then I stepped on the gas back to Sofia – it is so inconvenient to live far away from the sea. Someone had said that every non coastal city is a provincial city.

In conclusion, I can qualify my first participation in the Cor Caroli regatta on Mihail’s Peterson boat as “It was a delight to be so awfully uncomfortable!” Still hurting my bottom and tail, but only when I sit on a soft seat. I suppose I’ll have to change my couch with a scrapped Peterson if any … and as an armchair sailor instead of holding the tiller and staring up at te mast top, I will hold a remote control watching sailing movies on Youtube.

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