Fall Series #6: A bit chilly, but some great racing!

I think that the last thing that folks thought as they watched the snow swirl down last Saturday was that we’d get in 5 races under a sunny blue sky and in temps that were much milder than the frostbiting conditions we all expected!  As it turns out, Fall Series #6 ended up being another fantastic day of sailing as PRO Ron Buchanan and his RC got us 5 races and then had us back on shore in time to enjoy some cold beers and hot dogs around the grill.  Read all about the racing below – hopefully the writeup will spark your appetite for some great racing in Fall Series #7!

Although it certainly was chilly early on in the morning, a good group of Lightnings along with a few Albacores and a couple of Bucs showed up to the skippers meeting and then headed out to the racecourse without delay.  We had a decent N/NW breeze that held through most of the day before gradually dying off and then shifting to the SW as we sailed back to the marina.  The RC gave us three great W2 races, each of which tested skippers and crews in terms of tactics and strategy.  From the start line, it looked like the pin end would have been favored, but boats that took the pin typically got pinned under the boats to windward and pushed too far to the left, into the lee of the airport shore, before they could tack.  It didn’t necessarily look like the middle of the river (right hand side of the course going upwind) would pay off, but it consistently did so for us.  It seemed that there was a bit more in terms of pressure up that way, and if you could hook into that pressure it made up for any advantage that the pin end brought with it.  Going downwind, jibing back out into the river tended to pay off as well, as you benefited from current as well as the pressure.

On Team Sinistra we were locked in a pretty tight battle with Nabeel (who had his old crew Russ Roberts aboard – good to see you Russ!) and Team Shadowfax for most of the day, so I didn’t necessarily haven the chance to take a look at all of the racing action across the course.  It’d be great if skippers and crews from a few other boats could fill in some of the details from their perspective by commenting on this post!  At any rate, I do know that Eric and Team Ferris Bueller did a great job of getting out in front in the first race and staying there for a bullet.  Team Shadowfax took second, and Frank (doublehanding with a new crew, Will) snuck in ahead of us to take third.  Once again, we (re)learned the lesson about not covering your closest competition, as we were ahead of Frank at the final leeward mark and then broke cover to try to reel in Nabeel.

In the second race, we flopped onto port tack at the boat end immediately after the start and quickly launched out ahead of the pack.  There was a bit of a shift that helped us, but once again a good number of boats were lured down to what looked like a pin-end favored line only to find themselves behind and underneath other boats.  Driving for Team Sinistra, I made sure to cover the second place boat, Team Shadowfax, on the final beat to the finish.  Nabeel tacked in to the shore, and we went in there with him, sailing to the pin-end layline and then tacking for the finish.  We stayed ahead of Nabeel, but Eric and Team Ferris Bueller took advantage of being the 3rd place boat by splitting with us both, beating up the right  side of the course, and coming across to just edge us out for the bullet (nice work guys!).  In the third race Rick again took the boat end and the river side, and this time we stayed ahead of everybody for a bullet of our own.

The RC indicated that they would hold a fourth race, and we were all thrilled about this given the unexpectedly great conditions.  However, they sent us on a W1, which meant that the start would pretty much determine the race.  This time, Nabeel also started up at the boat end, got on top of us, went right with us, and held onto first for the race.  The wind died on everybody up at the windward mark, and Frank ghosted ahead of us and stayed there to hang on to second just ahead of us.   After we finished, the RC indicated that we’d do one more race — another W1!  Now, allow me to editorialize just a bit.  I know how tough it can be to be the RC, but I think many of us would rather have had 1 more W2 than a couple of quick W1s, especially as the wind was back up and we weren’t really pushing up against our time limit.  At any rate, another W1 it was, and off we went.  We managed to get out from under Nabeel at the start and hit the windward mark first.  Up top, the RC on the 19′ skiff signaled a finish at the leeward mark, so our short race just got even shorter!  With Nabeel hot on our heels we jibed away, heading out into the river.  Nabeel and Frank stayed on starboard jibe and paralleled the airport shore.  The Bayliner was moving towards the leeward mark as we sailed downwind and anchored at about the time we were halfway down the leg.  We continued on port jibe down the leg, and were rolling right to the mark sailing nearly dead downwind.  Nabeel and Frank jibed on to port and converged with us, ending up to leeward and a bit behind, with us to the inside as we headed towards the bottom end of  the course.  With about 20 yards to go Nabeel and Frank jibed back onto starboard, away to the mark but towards the Bayliner, and Nabeel just nipped us for the bullet.  This was a bit frustrating for us on Team Sinistra, as there was no way that the other pack of boats could or would have gotten to the leeward mark first, but we didn’t get the bullet.  That, though, is just the way the ball bounces sometimes.

In any event, we had 5 races on the day and then enjoyed some stories and a few debates back on land as we enjoyed cold beer and celebrated the fact that it wasn’t too cold outside to drink a cold beer!  I hope to see you all on the water for Fall Series #7!

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