2014 Dixie District Championships Recap

I had the pleasure of sailing in the 2014 Dixie District Championship Regatta with Nabeel and Will on board Shadowfax.  It turned out to be an action-packed and challenging weekend on the Susquehanna.  As always, it was great to see all of the other sailors from the District and to celebrate with them after the racing.  The folks from Fleet 253 did a fantastic job hosting the regatta (and I’m already looking forward to the PA Gov Cup & Oktoberfest Celebration).

One of the wonderful things about sailing in Susquehanna is that it is so close.  We left for the regatta at around 7am on Saturday.  On the drive up we joked about having only brought spray tops and no bibs given the mild weather we’d been having and what was predicted for the weekend.  Even Saturday morning nobody really believed the forcast for 10-15 kts.  Everybody knows that you don’t get breeze in Susquehanna, right?

Well, we were all in for a bit of surprise as we sailed out to the racecourse in a N/NW breeze that was already kicking up whitecaps on the river!  Day 1 was four races that pretty much boiled down to “strap yourself in, hike hard, and de-power in the puffs!”  It was a bit wet and a bit tiring, but it was awesome.  The breeze ranged from 10-18 kts all day, which meant for some great downwind runs (fortunately there weren’t major directional shifts) and then some bruising upwind slogs.  We thought we had a strategy to go right and for a while it looked really good on that side (across the river from SYC), but things soured as we tried to cross the river (and current) to get to the windward mark.  We caught a number of boats, though, and after that race we had good starts, better strategy, and very good speed up and down the course.  A couple of our best races in the 16-boat fleet – a 2nd (just losing to Geoff Becker by 1/2 boat length) and a 4th – came on this first day.  After the racing, we enjoyed a fantastic steak BBQ and lots of soothing drinks with all of the other sailors.

Sunday dawned very still and quiet.  We camped right on site on a fantastic, cool summer night (another great “plus” when one sails at SYC!) so we woke up ready to go at the sailing site.  Predictions were for next to now wind, but gradually a N breeze started to fill, and there was a good 6-8 kts for the first race on Sunday.  On Saturday we had learned that going left (in towards the SYC shore) really paid when going upwind in any sort of north breeze, so we did this again on Sunday.  We were OCS in the first race, so it was a game of catching boats after we restarted.  We managed to reel in a good part of the fleet for a 7th place finish — a feat made more difficult as the breeze started to fade towards the end of the race.

Things then got really tricky in the final (5 leg!) race on Sunday.  We had breeze at the start but then things went all over the place.  The breeze shut off, filled in again in spots, went away again, and started to shift all over the place.  Boats and positions were shuffled around as we searched for breeze and tried to keep moving.  We were somewhere mid-fleet on starboard tack near the windward mark on the second upwind leg as a huge left shift came through.  Suddenly we found ourselves on nearly the same heading, but on port tack!  The shift meant that we were suddenly way overstood on the windward mark and we found ourselves nearly bow-to-bow with boats on starboard as we reached down to it and as they struggled to make it up to it on a starboard tack that just turned into a huge header.  The RC did a great job of organizing a course change and resetting the gate, so we headed back downwind in light and spotty breeze.  We all worked to keep the boat moving and we found a channel of pressure along the shore side that allowed us to extend on boats out in the river (a place that had paid off before due to pressure and current).  Happily, we found ourselves in 4th at the leeward mark as we made the turn for the last upwind leg.  We managed to “connect the dots” as we sought pressure in the new breeze and kept our position in this very challenging race.  We were quite happy with this finish, and with 4th overall.  We were equally impressed, though, to learn that Geoff Becker (sailing with Colin Kirby) had gone from dead last to 2nd in that final race!

Overall it was a great regatta.  As the lone Fleet 50 boat, we were proud to represent and we felt rewarded for all of our hard work with our 4th place finish overall.  Complete scores are posted here: http://www.lightningclass.org/racing/results/2014/dixie%20districtChampionship.asp

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