We left the motorway and came up the hill. We had a long driving from Viareggio. We were three in the car with ITA 62, Fetch the Dragon, meekly following us on a tow, all packed and wrapped up for her 800 kilometres road journey. It was mid afternoon. We had left Italy early in the morning, but had been delayed by a ruptured tire on the trailer. We had found a new spare one in village in Germany bordering the highway from Italy.
The view of Lake Attersee was glorious. The lake was at its best with its emerald green surface, green pastures and hills gently sloping down to the lake east side shore, and wooded mountains on the west shore. Why were we driving all the way from Viareggio? Lake Attersee will host the Dragon European Championship next year in June, and we wanted to train and get used to sailing conditions there before deciding to participate in the Europeans. With just one and a half year experience in sailing a Dragon, and very mixed results so far, we felt we had to log as many hours at the helm and sailing our Dragon, and as many races as possible, to get all the experience we need.
We felt elated and happy as we arrived. The Attersee Union Yacht Club, UYCAS, was to be home to our boat for the next two months and a half. As we drove to the yacht club, we felt the surge of adrenalin: a few Dragons of the expected twenty four were already on the grounds either rigged and ready to launch or just being rigged. We managed to find a space, park the trailer, rig our boat, launch her and moor her. Christoph Shindler, the President of the Austrian Dragon Association, Christian Scheinecker, and Dietmar Gfreiner, were there to kindly help us. The club house and restaurant welcomed us and two friends of ours for dinner that night with a well-deserved dinner and a glass of white wine or a good bier from the region.
The start day of the Litzlwurm Pokal Saturday 18 June, the sky was low over the lake, the wind was from the south and rain was in the air. At 11:00 sharp, there was the sailors’ briefing. At the end, Christoph took the floor to welcome us as the team who had travelled the longest distance and gave us three small packets of mozartkugeln, a world famous Austrian delight made of chocolate and marzipan.
The first race day, we were in the lower part of the fleet with a 20 and a 19th place over some 24 boats. The second day of racing we rolled up our sleeves and with a stronger wind, first from the South and then from West, we had two times 11th to then finish 16th overall. Both days wind was very shifty, demanding great boat handling. With wind from the South, it is difficult to say which side of the lake is favoured, and it is best to stay in the middle of the racing field. The second and last day, the last race of the series had to be abandoned soon after the start as the wind from the West started blowing well over 30 knots whitening the lake surface with sprayed foam due to an approaching rain storm. Just a question to wait half an hour and then the PRO gave us another start with a strong but sailable wind. There were a few spis broken though!
Upon return to the club, we hauled out the boat and managed to cover her despite a downpour of water. Later, beer and wine and a hot meal were waiting us and other sailors. At the prize giving ceremony, crew were given a bottle of locally made snap as an aurevoir gift to the 2012 European Championship.
We left that afternoon to go back to Viareggio, where we arrived safely after eight or nine hours.
We drove back to Attersee and Hotel Alpenblick, our rear base, 28 July. This time, Franziska my wife, and Otto our Irish terrier, were with us. We were there to race in the Entenpokal where some 28 boats from 4 nations were expected. We launched the boat at UYCAS on arrival and sailed her the whole day Friday to train for the event splendidly organized by the Segel Club Kammersee, or SCK. We joined the SCK on Saturday on a tow with few other boats. First day of racing, conditions were not easy, at least for us. The first two races were sailed under dark low clouds, the SW wind was strong, the race field was in the north part of the lake, and we were not at our best with a 24th and 20th place on the first day. Then the second day, we discovered we had broken our right runner and the boat needed expertly done repair. Yachtservice Gebetsroither was ready to repair the boat for the following race at the end of August. Once the crew left to Italy by train, Franziska and I stayed one extra night at the hotel and left Monday to stay a few days longer with friends in Unterach, a tiny and charming village in the southwest shore of the lake, and go to the opera house in Salzburg, knowing that our Dragon was in good hands.
We returned for the last time 23 August, to train under the expert eye of Chris Winter, an experienced coach and passionate Dragon sailor, and participate in the Austrian Open Championship 25-30 August. With a new set of sails, and some adjustments to the rig, under sunny skies and a steady northerly breeze, we sailed the first three races of the series of six in the first day. We were happy with a 26, 20, 11 place as we felt the boat had good speed and pointing ability. The right side of the racing field was favoured, and with this in mind, we managed to get a 12th and 11th place the following day. For the last race on Saturday, conditions changed: wind was from the west, very shifty and unstable. After a good start and very good first rounding of the windward mark, we only managed a 20th place due to a wind shift, but finished with an honourable 15th overall.
At the harbour, we packed the boat ready for travelling back to Italy. After a hot shower, we were ready for the gala dinner. The atmosphere was joyous and there was plenty of beer and wine. Back to the hotel, we realized the temperature had plummeted some 15 degrees centigrade. The following day we left for our long drive to Italy, passing through Salzburg airport to leave Christ there.
Here comes my second part. First, I would like to say thank you to all fellow Austrian sailors for their warm welcome.
At the same time, I would like to invite them to join the Italian Dragon races. As Austrian Dragons end their sailing season in a few weeks, here in Italy we sail our Dragons well into October with balmy days and predictable breezes. Imperia waits eagerly for you dear Austrian sailors. The occasion is the first Ernesto Quaranta Memorial Trophy and Partnership regatta 29-30 October.
I do really hope to see as many as possible of you down in Imperia! Do take care and see you, arrivederci till the European Championship June next year!
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