President’s / Leukemia Cup Wrap-Up

Congratulations to team Sinistra (Rick Welch, Piercarlo Brunino, Aaron Boesenecker) for taking 1st place in the Lightning Fleet in the 77th Annual President’s/Leukemia Cup Regatta, and for winning the 2011 PRSA President’s Cup Trophy…!  Despite dire forecasts for both the river and wind conditions, we were greeted with a sunny, breezy day on Saturday morning and a river that had far less debris than expected.  The RC, headed by Nabeel Alsalam, did a great job of getting us four W2 races in a 6-12 kt NW breeze.  It was a good thing, too, as Sunday was also a spectacularly sunny, clear day…but one that lacked even a semblance of a breeze!  That didn’t stop us from wrapping up the President’s Cup with a fantastic picnic party, though, complete with some bocce ball and plenty of food and drink for all.  You can find the full results here and read on for some more details from the regatta.

We were especially happy to see some of our newest fleet members, including Chan Swallow (sailing with Dave Simpson & Dave Mejia) on Blue Streak and Art Harris (sailing with Larry Baun & Emma Harris) come out for the regatta.  It was also a treat to welcome Barbara & David Thompson (sailing Nabeel’s boat) back to town for the regatta.  Dave and Barbara – you are henceforth in charge of providing us with this kind of good weather for all of our future regattas!

I’ve provided some more details on Saturday’s  racing below.  Before getting to the details and results, though, I also want to extend a big “thank you” to everybody who also participated in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s fundraising efforts.  Overall, it looks like the LLS raised over $177,000 through the regatta, and our efforts in Fleet 50 and in PRSA more broadly were an important part of that effort.

As I watched the weather last week, I was starting to be skeptical that we’d be able to sail over the weekend. The beautiful day that we had on the water Saturday just goes to show you that weather forecasts and actual conditions can be two very different things, and demonstrates how important it is to just show up and take a look at the conditions on the day of a regatta.  As it turns out, we were greeted with a sunny, breezy day with more than enough wind to combat the elevated river level, swift current, and outgoing tidal flow.  The river did have some debris in it (including a gigantic stump that took most of the day to make its way south), and I understand that one or two boats may have sustained some damage.  At the same time, there was far less flotsam and jetsam than was expected, probably because the river had a couple of tide cycles as well as several days of swift flow during the week to help clear out debris.

Given the unexpectedly favorable conditions, we were all excited to get on with the racing.  Everybody got their boats in the water and off to the racecourse by 10:30, and Nabeel wasted no time in getting the first of four races off at 11:30 as scheduled.  The NW breeze fluctuated between about 6-12 kts. over the day, and generally blew from the N/NW, with some left shifts and a general leftward trend later in the day.  The windward mark was set just north of the northern tip of the airport, and the gate was well out into the river, nearly to the channel, just south of the radar tower point on the airport shore.  Overall, we had 5 fleets on the upper course (Catamarans, Lightnings, Buccaneers, Albacores, and Flying Scots) and 3 classes on the lower course (Lasers, Penguins, and El Toros), making for an overall turnout of about 50 boats for this year’s President’s/Leukemia Cup.

The wind/river conditions and the course setup made for some challenging strategic and tactical decisions.  Conventional wisdom (aka Barney’s “local knowledge”) would suggest that you should head left off of the start to get out of the swift current (especially as the tide was also flowing out) and then take advantage of the natural lift that occurs there by tacking up the airport shore.  However, as we sailed up the course prior to the first race, we noticed a clear tide/current line running north/south right along the edge of the narrow channel.  These tide/current lines are the patches of flat water where river debris tends to collect; they indicate that water is moving faster on one side of the line than the other, and the trick is to figure out which side is which.  We did a bit of testing, sailing west towards the airport and tracking our progress along the shoreline, and quickly realized that water in the channel close to the shore was moving south much faster than the water on the river or MD side of the tide/current line.  Over the course of the day we learned that getting to the left was important, but we also learned that getting too far left, or getting left too soon, could be deadly as one could be trapped in the swirling winds and lower velocity right under the shoreline as well as the faster moving current there.

Over the course of the four races, I saw other boats figure out this same general strategy, but also noticed that some made out quite well by playing the middle of the river.  In particular, Ron Buchanan won race #2 with a wonderful move up the middle of the river to take advantage of better pressure and pass the lead pack of 3 boats as they battled with one another (and generally moved south, rather than north) along the airport shoreline.  In the variable breeze, finding pressure was important in its own right, but especially important when you had to take that tack across the river (broadside to the current).  In fact, I’d argue that finding and staying in pressure was probably more important than playing shifts on a day like this.  Since it was impossible to nail the starboard layline from too far away, given the current and tide, the winning formula generally involved a pin end start and a center-left strategy that then moved you to the port layline corner as you got to the top of the course.  These conditions gave us all a chance to practice our pin-end starting strategies, and I saw Frank, Eric, Rick, and a few other boats make some brilliant port-tack starts over the course of the day.

Once you had mastered the start and the first windward leg, deciding when to jibe out into the river and which mark to round at the leeward gate became the next challenge.  The race committee did a nice job of adjusting the gate to account for the conditions, moving the mark on the MD shore side a bit farther upwind, making the choice between the two a tricky one (go to the upwind gate mark, or go to the one closer to what we thought was the favored side?).  The current also meant that we all made it to the gate far faster than expected, leading to some hurried takedowns and some crowded rounding as boats were pushed into the mark faster than expected.

After 4 great W2 races, we were all a bit tired and ready for the Saturday evening LLS party.  As noted above, we were also glad that Nabeel got us 4 races on Saturday given the windless conditions on Sunday.  This meant that Saturday’s results became final, with Rick Welch & team Sinistra in 1st place, Ron Buchanan on Deux Poissons et un Chat (sailing with Rose Gentile, Anne Jacob Tyree) in 2nd place, Eric Hakanson and team Ferris Bueller (sailing with Jack Field and John Kirscher) in 3rd place, Frank Gallagher on Resistance is Futile (sailing with Maryann Gallagher and Mladen Karcic) in 4th, and Jeff Storck on Ariel (with Bruce Heida and Becky Mach) in 5th.  These results also meant that Rick Welch and team Sinistra captured the PRSA President’s Cup Trophy, which is awarded to the boat with the lowest overall score among all fleets with more than 10 boats entered in the regatta.  Full results are available here.  Congratulations all around!

With a great President’s Cup in the books, we all look forward to the resumption of our regular Sunday fall series races next week.  I look forward to seeing you on the water (and don’t forget to bring something to grill at the post-race BBQ!).

Aaron Boesenecker
Fleet 50 Secretary

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