What a fantastic weekend! We were pleasantly surprised with great breeze on both Saturday and Sunday, we had tight racing on both the upper and the lower courses, and we had great celebrations after the racing on both Saturday and Sunday. The folks on the lower course got 6 races on Saturday, and on the upper course we had 4 races on Saturday and 3 more on Sunday. All told there were 61 boats on our PRSA one design courses (14 Lightnings, 12 Albacores, 10 Cats/Scows, 7 Bucs, 7 El Toros, 4 Flying Scots, 4 Lasers, and 3 Penguins). You can’t ask for anything more in a regatta!
Many PRSA sailors also supported the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through fundraising efforts and through their own contributions. As we went into the regatta weekend the fundraising total was trending towards $160,000+ and many sailors made generous donations at registration over the weekend. I’ll be sure to send along the final totals on the fundraising efforts once those figures are available from the LLS. In the meanwhile, a huge “thank you” on behalf of the LLS to all those sailors who contributed to the fundraising effort.
Keep reading for links to scores as well as for some of my observations from the upper course. Be sure to add in your own comments and recollections as well!
We were all a bit skeptical as we ghosted up to the racecourse on Saturday morning in a very light S/SE breeze. Gradually, though, boats converged and the wind started to fill in as we waited for the first warning signal. By the time PRO Rolf Zeisler and his crew sent of the Catamarans and assorted Scows off on the first race we had a decent S/SW breeze. Race 1 was an O2 course — something that the Cats and Albacores know well, but a less common course for the Lightning sailors who (if they were anything like us on Team Sinistra) found themselves going through a quick checklist on the things to remember for pole-on-the-forestay reaching and reach-to-reach jibe techniques. The course was set such that we had a fairly long deep reach on the first reach leg and then a tighter reach on the second, shorter leg.
With so many boats in our class, and on the course as a whole, I really could only keep track of what we were doing, so the commentary here is a bit Sinistra-centric (feel free to add your own comments to the post, though!) We found ourselves playing catch up for much of this race after a downspeed, second row start (never a good way to start a regatta!). We also noticed that our compass — an “old school” compass, not a tick-tack — was not working at all! Sailing dinghy style and watching the shore and other visual cues for lifts and headers, we were able to reel in a good number of boats, but couldn’t quite catch Nabeel, Jess, and Scott on Shadowfax who won, followed by Deux Poissons et un Chat (Ron Buchanan) in second, and Resistance is Futile (Frank Gallagher) in third. Climbing back up to 4th was still something of an accomplishment, though we were determined to do better.
On the upside we did have very good crew work in the first race (and throughout the regatta) with Lisbet doing her usual expert jib trim and foredeck work and with me managing not to muck up the spinnaker work too badly. We actually had great boatspeed downwind, and we did a good job of moving towards the airport shore (out of the current) and finding little lanes of pressure on the runs, allowing us to pass boats going downhill. Going upwind, helping to call tactics from the middle became a much different affair for me without a compass — lots of observation of other boats, shore landmarks, any possible cues on the water for puffs and shifts, and so forth. I was also much more reliant on the driver for feedback on his visual clues, and Rick did a great job dividing his attention between focusing on trim/boatspeed and telling me what he was seeing in terms of lifts/knocks. Rick was determined to get better starts, and for the rest of the day (and the regatta) he did just that! I think we cleanly won the pin end in races 2, 3, & 4 (each of them a W2 race), and those starts made all of the difference. It generally paid to go left (out into the river) as you headed upwind since the tide was running out hard and since there was better pressure there than what one found up under the airport shore (there was also a big wind shadow cast over the starboard layline by a large barge anchored not far from the windward mark). We finished the day in strong fashion (1, 2, 1 in races 2-4) and that was certainly fine with us.
Perhaps the greater story for Saturday, though, is the work that the RC and others did in rescuing boats. By my count I know that one of the I-Scows capsized, nearly sunk, and was then rescued by the RC after spending some time on or near the airport shore; at least one cat went over; and one Lightning capsized. The Lightning — Jeff Storck’s Ariel went over going downwind in race 3. By the time we noticed as we sailed back towards the starting area anticipating the start of race 4 it was clear that the crew was having trouble getting the boat upright. Both Frank and Nabeel had sailed over to assist Rose, Anne, and Maryann (who were sailing Jeff’s boat in his absence). Eventually Frank “took the plunge” into the river, clambered up onto the skeg, shinnied his way out to the centerboard, and started working on righting the boat. However, one person on the board was not enough with the boat fully swamped and with the spinnaker wrapped all around the top of the mast. I’m told that Nabeel demonstrated some excellent seamanship as he was able to back his own boat right up to the centerboard and deposit Scott, his middle crew, right onto the board to help Frank. As they worked on righting the boat we sailed by the mast-tip with an eye to dislodging the spinnaker. We could see that it was fully wrapped around the windex and fearing a tear we kept on going without grabbing on, though.
Together Frank and Scott were able to right the boat and start sailing so the bailers could drain out the water. After a bit of sailing they were also able to free the spinnaker (how did you guys get that thing down?!?) and head back to the marina. The rest of us, seeing that the situation was well in hand and fearing that more boats circling about might make things worse rather than better, headed back to the starting area for race 4. To be sure we were a bit bummed — it’s not the same race if some of the best competition isn’t there with you, but away we went for one final race on the day. Big kudos to Nabeel and Frank for assisting in the rescue and then helping clean and check Ariel once they got back to shore. I’d love to hear more from the “eyewitness” views on this rescue!
After enjoying the festivities on Saturday night at the marina and beyond (I hear rumor that some members of our fleet make a mean margarita…) we headed out Sunday for more racing. If we thought things looked grim on Saturday, then we had no hope whatsoever on Sunday morning. The river was like glass and most of us did more paddling than sailing in order to get up to the race course. The wind teased us with puffs from various directions as we all bobbed around for a bit…but then a solid wind line came down from the north and surprised us by filling in and stabilizing! The breeze even built a bit as the day progressed!
On Sinistra we had to reorient ourselves a bit (remember — we didn’t have a working compass on board!) so we had a sense of the starting line, laylines, and angles that appeared to be lifts and headers. The logic for the day was largely the same even though the wind had swung about 180 degrees: win the pin, head left (to get out of the current going upwind and into the pressure along the airport shore) and then head out into the river going downwind to catch the current & tide flows. Rick was able to visualize this better than I was, and he as relentless in making sure we went back left to the airport on each upwind leg, even if I thought I saw something on the other side of the course. All three races on Sunday were “O” courses, so we also had to work hard on some of the tighter reach legs, especially as the breeze built some in the last two races.
Rick did another great job getting us good starts in most of the races, and especially in the first race in which we had a great pin end start and ended up leading gun to gun. Kudos go to Chris and Team String Theory for an excellent job port-tacking the fleet in the second race of the day. We missed our hole on port approach in one of the races and ended up buried again, but patience and excellent crew work helped us dig our way out of a deep hole. We had to fight tooth and nail against both Nabeel, Jess, and Scott on Shadowfax and against Frank, Christy, and Mladin on Resistance is Futile for the entire day. Each of these three boats won one race on the day, but in the final standings we were able to edge them for the regatta overall.
On the whole, what I noticed most over the entire weekend was how much great crew work matters. This is a truism, of course, but it does merit a word or two. I’ve been sailing with Rick for 10 years now, and we all do each spot on the boat. Lisbet has done foredeck with us for most of the past several seasons. It is no surprise that time on the water — and time on the water with the same people — makes a tremendous difference. For us, this was one regatta where we were all on the same page for the entire weekend. Very few words needed to be exchanged, even in the tricky maneuvers. But I saw it on other boats as well. A bad tack, a sloppy jibe, or a fouled douse became a matter of several boatlenghts in such a competitive fleet, and we lost on a few of those at various junctures. We’re just at the start of the fall season, though, and we’ve got 9 weeks of great racing to go…so let’s get out on the water and go racing! I’ll see you all out on the water soon.