Fall Series #1: A Great Start to the Season!

What a great way to start the fall racing series.  PRO Frank Gallagher (supported by Maryann, Willa, Lindsay, and Bob) did a great job of setting a course in a somewhat finicky wind and in getting us three great O2 races.  It was fantastic to see 8 Lightnings on the racecourse (including John Kircher in his new boat!), and some Catamarans, Albacores, and Bucs also came out to play.  We’ve got some great photos posted to the photos page, and some fantastic video taken from on board Team Jalapeno is coming soon.  In the meanwhile you can keep reading for all of the details from the day’s racing.  Enjoy — and be sure to add your own comments and observations!

It was certainly a bit light when we all showed up at the marina, but with the help of a few RC tow assists most boats were up to the racecourse by the time that the committee boat dropped the RC flag and sent us off on our first race. In general, the breeze puffed and filled from the left (west), though there were times when the north or northeast side of the course was favored.  It certainly did pay to fight for the pin end of the starting line, though.  It turned out that the wind was in a left phase at the start in most races; if it wasn’t then there was still more pressure along the airport shore such that going left off the start generally worked well.  After the start, it was a question of staying in clear air and finding the patches of pressure that came down the river more than anything else.

My summary here is a bit “boat-centric” given that Piercarlo and I were sailing double-handed, so we didn’t have much time to observe the wider scenario or stop to admire the flowers.  Please (please!) make sure to fill in the details that I’ve missed — including the names of your crew or your fun observations from the racecourse — in your comments on this post.  I was very thrilled to see John Kircher & Crew out racing on John’s new boat.  By my count, we also had Mark Ewing (with crew Greg & Rolf) out for the first time this fall; Jeff (sailing with Bruce & Rose), Will, Laura, & Scott sailing on the “college kids” boat;  Joe Warren (sailing with Rene Ward & Chris Wiedmaier); Red Fehrle & crew; and Nabeel (also double-handing) with Scott Bradford.  Bobby Astrove was also all set to go racing when the gooseneck separated from the mast on his wooden mast rig, so he wasn’t able to compete.  Given than Frank was running RC with Lindsay Bach’s help, this means that 11 Lightnings were represented on the course, which is great!

In the first race both Jeff and Nabeel got great starts at the pin end.  Piercarlo and I managed to work out in front of them over the course of the race.  Being shorthanded made it tough to sort out a spinnaker twist on the second downwind leg, though, and with the wind moving right a bit, Jeff was abel to jibe first and stay inside of us to retake the lead and win the race.

In race two I thought I had forced Nabeel and Scott up over the line such that they had to dive back deep as we approached the pin in a left phase.  A nice puff came through right at the start, though, and that puff, together with some great boat handling by Nabeel and Scott, meant that they squeaked out a *great* (repeat – great!) pin end start with just millimeters to spare against the pin.  Going left of the start was again the secret to success, so Nabeel led the pack around the O2 course and ended with a well-deserved win.

Having watched Nabeel & Scott win the pin twice, I focused on timing a start for the pin…and ended up about five seconds early.  We hit the gas, circled around the pin, ducked a pack of starboard-tack starters, and headed off to the right side of the course.  Given that the left had been paying off, we didn’t go too far before tacking back to consolidate.  We found that we gained, though, and were actually able to lead the pack around the top mark.  The first reach leg saw us get pinned a bit to the outside as we approached the jibe mark — something that I was initially concerned about, but that turned out to allow us to jibe wide of the mark and cut inside of the boats who had been close to the mark and pinwheeled around it through their jibes.

So we went from 1st to 4th to 2nd on the reach legs, and then headed back upwind with Nabeel ahead of us.  We both stuck to the center-right part of the course at first, with Nabeel eventually tacking over onto starboard and heading left as we passed the committee boat in the middle of the leg.  We were getting ready to cross his line and tack when Piercarlo spotted a patch of pressure coming down the right side of the course.  You can’t win by following the leader, so we decided to risk the split and continued to head right.  Before long we could tell that we were definitely in more pressure than Nabeel, and as we dug into the pressure we saw that it was also a shift — a knock to us on port tack, which enabled us to tack and then wound us up to the windward mark on starboard.  Nabeel was stuck inside with less pressure and a couple of additional tacks to the mark.  After a nice downwind run during which we were also able to grab a few puffs, square down, and fetch the leeward mark without jibing, we went back up to capture the win in the last race of the day.

After 3 great races Frank and the RC sent us home so that we could enjoy some of the sunny afternoon with beverages and BBQ after the racing.  There’s no better way to start the fall series racing!

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