Fall Series #5: If you went home early, you missed some amazing racing!

I’ll admit, I was the first to think that we’d never sail on Sunday.  Having seen the forecast, the glassy calm river on my drive along the GW Parkway, and the somber faces at the marina, it seemed clear that we’d postpone a bit, then end up grilling and going home.  Well, let me just say that if you went home early, you missed some of the best racing that we had all season.  The wind filled in around noon, we headed out to the river, and Mike Heinsdorf and his RC did a great job of getting us 3 excellent races!

Jeff, Becky, and Bruce on Team Ariel won the day with two seconds and a spectacular bullet in the second race, and Jeff has sent along an excellent writeup of his “view from the front” – a view that he enjoyed far more than most of us on Sunday!  I highly recommend that you click the “continue reading” link below to read Jeff’s reflections on Sunday’s racing; as always, I’ve learned something from Jeff’s account of the racing, and I’m sure that you will as well.  Before getting there, though, let me just point out that we were also pleased to welcome a number of new faces to the racing on Sunday, including Bill Kruse who sailed with Eric on Team Ferris Bueller (along with Palmer from DC Sail) and Will Summers, sailing with Frank (and “new returnee” Trey Goggins).  It was also great to see Nicole from DC sail out sailing with Joe on Team Bony Buns.

So, without further ado, here are the details from Sunday’s racing!   Be sure to add your own comments and suggestions after reading the writeup!

What a great day it turned out to be yesterday. When we showed up at the dock for the skippers meeting, it was looking grim. The river was glassy with not a puff of air in sight. Mike Heinsdorf, our PRO, wisely postponed on land and told us he would go out on the river looking for breeze and would report back with a decision on the day no later than 12:00 noon. That worked for all of us who were in no mood to bob around on the water waiting for something that might never appear. We all hung around waiting,and figuring that there would be no racing at all, when some of us noticed a little puff making its way into the cove. Upon walking out to the end of the dock, you could see that there was some definite breeze slowly coming up the river. Mike came back and took a vote on who wanted to go out and take a chance, and who wanted to call it a day. The vote was almost unanimous in favor of getting out there. I say, “Almost unanimous” because I abstained. While willing to go with the majority, I was not at all excited about the prospects for any kind of steady breeze. I shelved my misgivings and Bruce and Becky and I got Ariel wet and sailed her up the river. Boy am I glad we did. It quickly became obvious that the breeze was filling in nicely and we were in for a good afternoon of racing.

Mike and the Albacores set up a nice long windward-leeward course and since the #2 flag was missing, made it a 3 lap course. The breeze was out of the south @ 5-10 and was oscillating about 10 degrees, although occasional bigger shifts did occur during the afternoon. The line was pretty square and we decided we could start almost anywhere as long as we found a clear lane. In the first race, we started a little further than midway down the line, and had nice room and clear air. We took off with good acceleration and head out to the left side of the course. As soon as we could we flopped over onto Port and headed towards the airport. Now the RC had set up the course well out on the river, so we did not think that going all the way to the airport was going to work as it often does. We worked our way up the middle right area of the course, and pretty much did that all day. One of the things we did that I think made us fast was do a good job of working the shifts. They were not big, for the most part, but they were key to getting up the course quickly. In the first race it seemed we were really duking it out with Rick Welch and Eric Hakanson for the lead, with Joe Warren making an appearance at the front of the pack as well. It was a long race which Rick lead for most of the way. We finally put Eric behind us for good and ended up second.

By now the RC had made a #2 flag (They should get a Mcguyver award for that) and shortened the next 2 races.  In the second race we again got a good start, this time down by the pin end. We followed Barney out to the left for a while and tacked away when we started really getting gassed by him. Once again, we generally worked the middle right side of the course. Again, Eric and Rick and this time Frank were the main competition going around the course. Rick lead for a while, but we had a great moment on the first down wind leg that put us in front. Now I should backtrack here for a moment and describe our down wind strategy. This was another thing that I think made us fast on Sunday. We decided that we wanted to work the same side of the river down wind that we had been going up wind, so we quickly jibed after rounding the windward mark and headed that way. We went for 2 reasons, clear air and inside rights at the leeward mark. On the leg in question we had done just that. Jibed over onto port and went to the right side of the course. We got inside of Rick and Frank, and while Eric was inside of us he was a little behind. We quickly got overlap on Frank and the 4 of us cruised towards the leeward mark together. We all then jibed over onto starboard about 2/3’s of the way down the run and headed for the mark. At that point we thought Rick would round first, but if we held on to our overlap on Frank we might just get by him. All of a sudden I noticed a really nice puff coming off the airport that represented a big shift that way. We quickly jibed back onto port to catch it, and motored out in front of everybody. What a stroke of luck. We rounded the mark first and never really looked back the rest of the race. We again did a great job working the shifts up the course and extended our lead all the way around again and across the finish line for the bullet.

In race #3 we did not get off to a good start. We were down at the committee boat end of the line and were taken over the line early by an Albacore. We made a quick decision to bail and restart, making us dead last across the start line. Never-the-less we found clear air and headed up our chosen middle right side of the course. By the time we got to the windward mark we were 3rd behind Frank and Rick who was leading. Unfortunately we then hit the mark and had to take a turn. DOH! After our turn we hoisted and headed right. We clawed our way back up into the top three by the time we got to the leeward mark. By this time the 3 of us, Rick in the lead, Frank, and us were all alone out in front. We sailed upwind and turned around the windward mark in the same order to head down wind. We jibed around the mark and managed to get inside of Frank, although we were clear behind him. We caught nice breeze over there and slowly overtook him and, giving him a wide berth, we managed to pass him. I think he was a bit surprised by that as were we. I think we just had a little bit better breeze – whatever the reason we sure were fast on that leg. We flopped over to starboard for the Leeward mark and ended up rounding clear ahead of Frank. We had a great mark rounding, and motored away from him a bit. He then tacked away, and we covered him all the way to the finish for the deuce.

Back on land Rick commented that we seemed to just be “Ignoring everybody else and racing our own race out there”. He was right. We did not really ignore everybody, but we did stick to our plan and did not let what others were doing take us off of that. At times going upwind I would look around and think “We must be out of phase” because everyone was consistently on the other tack. But I knew we were riding the lifts and did not let those doubts stop us.

I would be remiss if I did not give credit where it is really due for this good day, and that is with my crew. Becky came out with a bad injury to her finger (She cut the tip off her index while chopping veggies at home) and sailed all day and never made a mistake or let it get to her. Bruce was just awesome as usual. Our tacks were crisp and our jibes were snappy. The only mark rounding faux pas was mine when I hit the windward mark. Oh well.
See you guys next week.

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