Spring Series #4: Go where there is wind

After the cold, rainy,¬† blustery wind of Series #3 Spring Series #4 gave everyone a chance to showcase their skills in light air with clear sunny skies and temps in the 60’s. Six Lightnings came out to race ( along with a few Albacores, several Buccaneers, three catamarans plus a neat looking little trimaran).

Competitors this week were:

  • Sinistra with Rick, Aaron and Lisbet
  • String Theory with Chris, Bob and Liz
  • Shamrock with Mark, Greg and Rolf
  • Ariel with Jeff, Bruce, and a new crew
  • Bobby Astrove with crew on his woody
  • Questionable with Will, Jeff, and Laura
  • 3 Little Birds with Red Ferhle and his two sons
  • Ferris Bueller with Eric, Bill, and …

We left the dock at extreme low tide with a light north wind. After sailing most of the way down the channel we could then cut across and make our way back up river to race off of Hains Point. I made the decision to sail off of the airport in the hope of catching a thermal up to the course only to sail too close and have the wind blocked by the shore.

Race Committee was forced to postpone racing initially as it was too light to start a race. When the air came back it was out of the west forcing them to set a W course  east west across the river. The catamarans were set loose on race one with a W3. PRO Mike Heinsdorf wisely switched the Lightnings over to a W2 before starting us off on race one. Thanks to the entire RC for doing a good job getting races off given what you had to work with.

Race one the majority of the fleet went left and north while a few of us went to the south layline. I watched as the north boats cluster together and lost speed. This allowed us to catch up to round the windward mark. We started to put the spinnaker up only to have to stop to make a rigging adjustment (oops) which once resolved the wind had lightened up and it made more sense to continue on the jib. On the leeward leg Eric took me out to the south but when he went back to the middle of the course gave me a chance to stay out and come into the leeward mark on port in the greater breeze and work around. This gave me a chance to stay inside and forced him to go south in the hopes of the breeze filling in for the finish. Congrats to Red and his boys on 3 Little Birds taking the bullet on race 1.

The second race my timing was off on the start. I found myself at the committee boat looking up at horn to watch most of the fleet head left up the river in visible breeze. I then tacked to port to head south and catch the air on that side of the course as what looked so great at the start on the left side of the course began to die out. This allowed me to get back into the hunt since I was in clear air. Only to sail too close to Kyra in her Buc stalling us both out near the windward mark. Eventually, we gybed away and slowly rounded the mark while battling the wake from the boat traffic and promptly went back south giving us clear air for the rest of the race letting us finish third behind Bobby and Rick. The second leeward mark rounding was a bit of challenge as it was driven close to shore by the boat wakes before finishing.

Sadly, after the second race we all headed home in the new breeze out of the south . If only we had been patient we would have been rewarded with the best racing of the day. All in all it was a pleasent day to be out sailing. It was a great chance to work on light air skills like boat heel and was easy to teach how to look for breeze on the water. Key to success on the day was to keep clear air because boats that clustered together quickly stalled allowing other boats who could keep moving to slip inside or circle wide. It was also important to pick a side to stay in the breeze as much as possible. Boats that crossed from one side of the course to the other quickly stalled. Conditions were so light that boats that opted to only use the jib were not a great disadvantage to boats using a spinnaker. The spinnakers had to be up to catch the breeze when it hit otherwise they would quickly collapse.

Lightnings will be racing this coming weekend in the annual Doc Gilbert Potomac Cup at Leesylvania State Park. The NOR and SIs are here.


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