Duck Challenge Wrap-Up: Great Racing in Havre de Grace!

What a fantastic weekend!  After 7 great races only 4 points separated 1st place from 5th place in the regatta.  Who could ask for more than that?  Three Fleet 50 boats made the trip up, and we all had a great regatta.  I sailed with Nabeel and Barb Hill on Shadowfax; Bobby Astrove sailed with Brian and Kirsten Burk; and David Fehrle drove Two Little Birds with Red and a Havre de Grace local as crew.  For us on Shadowfax holding on to 2nd place came down to the last leg of the last race, and it turned out a bullet by Bobby in that last race (along with a great 2nd day overall for Bobby) helped both Fleet 50 boats to trophy positions for the regatta!

The folks up in Havre de Grace did a great job in putting on a top-notch regatta, as they always do.  Moreover, the weather cooperated with wind on both days, even if we did get a bit of drizzle and some very challenging light air and chop on Sunday.  Links to the results and a ton of amazing photos are posted here, and you can keep reading here for some of my observations from the regatta.  As always, please feel free to add your own comments to this post!

Saturday was a bit overcast as we set up our boats.  We all expected a bit of drizzle, but there was no forecast for severe weather.  More importantly, there was already a NE nice breeze filling in as we sailed out to the racing area.  My biggest recollection from the first day of racing is how tempting the right side of the course would look at the start, and then how deadly the starboard tack layline turned out to be!  No matter how many times you tried to come in from the right, you sailed into a big header and watched your competition from the left go right across your bow at the mark.  After learning this lesson the hard way early on, we made a point of protecting the left and approaching the windward mark on or around the port layline on Shadowfax.  This, combined with good crew work downwind and some a couple of great starts, landed us in 2nd place after day one, trailing Trevor Prior and with Pat Phelan close on our heels.  After the racing we we feasted on a nice steak and salmon BBQ and found ourselves wondering whether we hadn’t somehow been magically transported to October as temps sunk and some chilly evening rain started!

Sunday dawned sunny and warm, and with a bit of wind.  It took a while for the wind to settle down as it shifted from the NNW to NE to E and back towards NE, but the RC did a great job of being patient and eventually we were off racing.  Once again it generally paid (for us, at least) to protect the left when going upwind.  We managed to stay ahead of Pat in a tight race #5, and then grab a bullet in race #6 after leading most of the race after a fantastic start by Nabeel.  We had kept track of the math, and knew that we were 2 points ahead of Pat (for 2nd place) after the throwout.  We had breeze and time, though, so the RC sent us off on another race.  No complaints there, as we came to sail, but we knew we’d have to hold off tough competition one more time to hold onto our spot!

The wind had shifted a bit right and faded a bit, and I think Pat’s local knowledge paid dividends in this final race.  The entire fleet headed off to the left again, but Pat split right — far right — off the start and proceeded to lead the entire pack into the windward mark by a good margin.  Afterwards Nabeel and I wondered whether the right shift was a bit of sea breeze finally making its way up the Bay.  Either way, Pat nailed it, and was leading the race with one boat between him and us.  We could lose to Pat, but we could not afford a boat between us, especially if Pat won the race, since he’d win the tiebreaker.  We couldn’t make the pass on the downwind leg, but we kept things close.  Upwind both boats ahead of us were careful to cover and we didn’t really have a good chance to challenge them, especially as the advantage of getting to the right meant that we soon found ourselves close to the starboard layline.  Meanwhile Bobby Astrove was sailing quite fast (and smart) in the light breeze.  He sailed past us and the 2nd place boat, meaning there were now two boats between us and Pat and just the last downwind leg to go!  As we went around the top mark for the last time we also had two boats right on our heels in the light air, so we rolled right into a jibe as we set to head for clear air.  We were able to hold off the boats behind us and extend a bit.  When I snuck a glance away from the spinnaker, I saw Pat’s spinnaker collapsing while Bobby continued to make his way down the middle of the course.  Pat jibed, but couldn’t cross Bobby, so now we found ourselves behind Pat!  Bobby led the last bit of the last leg for a win, Pat finished 2nd, and we worked as hard as ever to keep our air clear in the very light breeze and stay ahead of the boats on our heels.  We managed to do it, so just narrowly took 2nd place for the regatta…with a little help from the conditions.

All around it was a great regatta and, as you’ll see on the score sheet, there was only 1 point separating 1st from 2nd…1 point separating 2nd from 3rd…1 point separating 3rd from 4th…and a tie between 4th and 5th.  It can’t get any closer than that!  Thanks once again to all the folks in Havre de Grace for hosting a great regatta.  I can’t wait until next year!

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