Fall Series #4 Wrap-Up: Remember to Count Your Laps!

It was a busy weekend for Fleet 50, with 7 Lightnings taking part in the Frigid Digit regatta up in Annapolis and another 5 making it out for Sunday’s Fall Series #4!  For the second weekend in a row we also had great conditions for racing, with a 12-15 knot SW breeze that allowed PRO Frank Gallagher and his RC to get us four races.  One Buccaneer, one Albacore, and a trio of Hobie Cats also came out to play.  Because we had a couple of Lightning skippers/crews involved in RC duties, all of this means that we had a total of 14 Lightnings active over the weekend–a great showing for Fleet 50!

Keep reading for some more details from Sunday’s Fall Series #4, and be sure to post your own comments and observations from the day (just click the little “speech bubble” next to the title of this post, above).  You can also scroll down a bit to see a separate post with details from the action up in Annapolis at the Frigid Digit.

Sunday was a gorgeous day for racing, with a steady breeze from the Southwest that started out in the 8-10 knot range and built to about 12-15 by the time we were sailing race four.  Sailing up to the racecourse on we popped the chute but couldn’t quite get the boat onto a plane.  It was clear that we’d have plenty of wind for the day, though!  In addition to the usual suspects on Team Sinistra (Rick, Aaron, Piercarlo), we were thrilled to see Paul Maher and Laura Lake back on the water, sailing with Pat on It’s The Water.  I understand that Paul will be moving back to the area this fall, which is great news!  In addition, Team Ariel, skippered by Bruce Heida and crewed by Laurie and Thistle/Albacore sailor Cassie, was on the water as was the “college boat” with Alex, Brian, and Will (when are you guys going to name that boat?!?).  Joe Warren made it out for two of the later races on Bony Buns, sailing with Scott Cullen and new crew Erin Boyle (welcome Erin!).

Frank and his RC set up a WL course with the weather mark tucked up near the airport shore and the leeward mark out by the channel off of Hains Point.  Initially the breeze had a bit of right (west) shift in it, which would seem to favor a boat-end start and a quick flop over to port tack to get to the right-hand side of the course.  Indeed, boats did pile up at the boat end of the line, and we ended up being pushed over and having to spin a quick circle back below the line to clear ourselves.  We tried, but couldn’t catch everybody over the short W2 race, ending up 2nd behind Pat, followed by the “college guys” boat and then Team Ariel.

The breeze did have some shifts in it over the day, and the start of Race 2 took place in the midst of a big left phase in the breeze.  Pat and Team It’s the Water pulled off a brilliant port-tack start at the pin, just crossing in front of the fleet and leading the pack to the windward mark.  Driving for Team Sinistra I managed to stay close enough to Pat to attempt a pass on the next upwind leg…only to foul him on a port-starboard cross that was a bit too close.  After doing our turns we were pretty thankful that Frank had opted for a W3 given the breeze and relatively short course.  The extra legs gave us just enough distance to reel in Team It’s The Water and pass them for a bullet.  Pat, Paul and Laura were tough to catch all day long, and it was great to see them back on the water and going fast!

In between races, I saw that the college guys were doing a bit of experimentation on, um, creative spinnaker sets, new ways to fly it, and different ways to douse it!  I’m poking a bit of fun here, but the real point is that it was great to see the guys out there working through the kinks and flying the chute in conditions that were at times shifty and puffy.  As Will noted, the fact that they were able to sort out their various difficulties over the course of the day, make improvements, and get the best of Team Ariel in three of the four races is a real improvement!  For their part, I understand that Team Ariel lost a spin halyard in at least one of the races, and in these breezy conditions flying the spinnaker downwind makes an amazing difference in boat speed; not having it is pretty tough to overcome.

Race 3 saw similar conditions to the others, though we learned an important lesson on Team Sinistra: remember to count your laps!  Frank sent us on another W3 and we battled with Pat around the course, eventually taking the lead near the leeward mark before our final lap…or so we thought.  We put a loose cover on Pat and headed to the windward mark, sailing outside of the finishing pin…only to hear a horn blow as Pat sailed through the finish line!  We were convinced that we were only on lap 2 of 3, but we were also dead wrong!  Frank not only verified the legs sailed with the other boats, but also checked the overall race time (an important lesson for when you’re on RC!).  We had, in fact, miscounted.  So, lesson learned: remember that grease pencil or a crayon and some tape for the deck to write down compass headings *and* count laps!

Race 4 saw Rick take the bullet with Pat second and Bruce coming back to 3rd over the “college guys” and Joe Warren.  After these 4 great races Frank sent us in and we enjoyed hot dogs, brats, and beer in the sunshine to round out the unseasonably warm day.  Overall, I’d say that it was a day that favored mechanics over tactics.  There were a few shifts to find, and some areas of different pressure on the course.  With the short laps, though, it was much more about having good fundamentals: keeping the boat flat in puffs, sailing upwind without pinching, having good hoists, jibes, and douses, and making sure that you did these things 3 times over in the W3 races!

All in all, it was a fantastic afternoon for sailing!

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