Fall Series #3: Wacky West Winds!

Driving down the parkway last Sunday I wasn’t sure that we’d get any racing in at all.  The river looked like glass, and there wasn’t a breath of air to be seen in the treetops.  As it turned out, though, a nice west breeze filled in (a wacky west breeze…but breeze nonetheless!) and the Buccaneer RC got us 4 races for the day.  Five Lightnings made it out to play, along with a few Albacores and some Catamarans.  As per usual, we also enjoyed a fine BBQ after the racing.

Keep reading for the details of the racing (including a “Bungle Bucket” nomination!) as well as links to Jeff’s summary on the PRSA site and to scores for the day.  Also, don’t forget to add in your own comments (or your corrections if I’ve missed your crew names or other details!).

In addition to Rick, Piercarlo and me on Team Sinistra (the first time we’ve sailed Sinistra with a full crew of 3 in a couple of weeks!), we also had Frank, sailing with Bob Gotthard and Ann Tyree on Resistance is Futile; Jeff, sailing with Chandler and Rose on Ariel; John Kircher & crew on Chessie; and Lindsay Bach on the water.

As the wind filled in from the west, it became clear that it was going to be a challenging day for the RC.  In our pre-race tune up, we found ourselves sailing a course of 270 on port tack…only to go back up wind a few minutes later and sail 270 on starboard tack!  The RC really did a great job with the shifty west wind, though, adjusting the course a few times before the first start, and then sending us off on an O2 race as the breeze settled down for just a bit.  As is typical with these west breezes, though, the velocity was up and down and the wind was shifting left and right throughout the day.

Rick, Piercarlo, and I picked the left side in the first race and quickly learned that it did not pay to get trapped in that left corner as you tried to make the windward mark, even if conventional wisdom would have you go left (into the direction from which the puffs were filling).  We rounded the top mark either dead last or next to last, watching Lindsay and John lead the fleet on the first reach leg.  Making it around these short courses required excellent crew work at all of the corners, though.  We were able to pick up a boat on each reach leg and then the rest of the pack on the second upwind leg.  Once out front, we were able to extend and win the first race, followed by Jeff, John, Frank, and Lindsay.

The wind really moved left in race two, favoring a pin end start and a quick tack over to head up to the windward mark.  Driving Sinistra I was able to engage Frank and push him towards the pin as we sailed down the line…I pushed a bit too hard, though, as I was still a second early to the pin after Frank bailed out and jibed around.  I had to duck under the pin and do the same, though this wasn’t a bad strategy overall.  Team Ariel really had a smart start in this race, hanging back a bit near the pin and then punching off on port tack after the cluster of early boats had gone by the pin (and them).  Jeff & crew got squeezed out between Frank below them and us above them on the one-tack windward leg, though, and rounded third after Sinistra and Resistance is Futile.  The first reach leg was so tight that we couldn’t carry our ‘chutes, but we were able to pop ’em as we sailed downwind on the second “reach” leg, which had become more of a run by the time we were on it.  Frank managed to get inside of me by the time we got down to the leeward mark, so we worked hard to stay close as we went upwind.  They had set up for a jibe set at the top, which took them to the inside lane on the run early on, but as the wind shifted back a bit we were able to run down on starboard while Frank had to jibe back and sail some extra distance to get to the leeward mark on the run.  We managed to sneak ahead of him at the rounding and hold them off to the finish for another bullet.

Frank, Bob, and Anne were the team to beat in the final two races, jumping out to early leads in both races and then doggedly covering us as we tried everything we could think of to get by…including an attempt at using an Albacore as a “pick” boat during one of our upwind duels.  Credit to Resistance is Futile for flawless crew work on the short course (no spinnaker halyard knots like we had, and like I saw on other boats; no spinnakers in the water like Team Chessie experienced) as well as careful covering tactics in these last two races.

Before I wrap this up, I do have to point out that we have another nominee for the “Bungle Bucket” Award.  Partway through the day (I think this was between the first and second races) I noted team Chessie parked over in the shipping channel, drifting towards Hains Point.  I could see a splash of blue alongside their boat and then I noticed that Tom Apker had gone swimming next to Chessie.  Jeff Storck alerted the RC to the fact that Chessie was having a bit of trouble.  The RC sent the 16′ skiff over to stand by as team Chessie sorted out the difficulty — a spinnaker that they had not only run over but had wrapped around their centerboard!  Apparently pulling up the board only pulled the ‘chute up into the centerboard trunk…but tugging on the spinnaker was also a bad idea given that it was tangled on the board.  Tom’s swimming efforts eventually paid off as he was gradually able to work the spinnaker free of the board and help the crew get it back into the boat.  A Bungle Bucket nomination, for sure, but also one that I am happy to write about because the team was safe and careful in the way that they handled the situation (particularly in terms of watching out for fatigue on the part of the swimmer), and the RC did the right thing in terms of standing by to provide assistance if needed.

We all enjoyed some cold beer, hot dogs, and potato salad after the racing as we traded stories and enjoyed a sunny afternoon!

Jeff’s summary of the racing

Fall series #3 scores

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