Spring Series #7 – Wet and Wild Fun on the Potomac!

Despite forecasts for 8-10 kts of breeze, Spring Series #7 ended up being a wet and wild affair complete with exciting starts (Chris Kozel gets the award for starting line tactics), tight roundings, great finishes by both new and experienced teams (congrats to both Mark Ewing and team Jalapeño as well as Joe Warren and team Bony Buns for a great day!), new boats on the water (hooray for Lindsay Bach!), and boats popping on a plane downwind.  We ended up with a 10-15 knot breeze that moved from Northeast to East and built (and became a bit gusty) as the day progressed.  PRO Jim Graham and his short-handed RC did a fantastic job of getting us 4 great W-L races and then getting us back to shore to enjoy the sunshine and a great post-race BBQ.  Jeff Storck has posted the scores here, and you can keep reading below for all of the race details as well as the story of Rose Gentile’s unplanned swim in the Potomac.  Be sure to add your own thoughts, observations, and comments as well!

Eight Lightnings, two Albacores, and four Cats came out to play on what turned out to be a great day for sailing.  As I headed up the river on Sinistra (together with Lisbet and Piercarlo) we observed pressure from the right (east) that seemed consistent with the forecast for the breeze to move from N/NE to E over the afternoon.  It was clear, though, that we already had much more than the 8-10 kts of breeze that was forecast.  With predictions for a breeze moving right, our tentative plan was to protect the right.  After we got up to the racing area, which was set up so that the windward mark was near the shipping channel at the mouth of the Anacostia, conditions looked a bit different.  There was clearly more pressure on the left side of the course.  We debated whether the breeze was wrapping around Hains Point as it came out of the NE, or whether the pressure line was a result of the clear shoreline on the south side of the Anacostia.  Either way, our strategy changed and, true to the name of the boat, we decided to go left and stay left!  This also made sense given that the tide was flowing out hard, so going left early in the leg meant staying out of the deeper part of the river until later in the leg.  Later in the day, as the tidal flow slacked and the wind built and became more consistent across the course, the right side paid more than the right.

Most of the fleet opted for a boat-end start in race 1.  Nabeel (sailing with Laura and Stefano) also saw the pressure and advantage of the left, though, and timed a pin-end start (on starboard tack) very well.  I started just behind and to windward of him and, after working to weather a bit, was able to cross once Nabeel tacked onto port.  In doing so, though, I over stood the mark a bit, which allowed Nabeel and Team Shadowfax to move out ahead of us and round the windward mark in first, with team Sinistra and Jeff, Rose, and Bruce on team Ariel in second and third, respectively.  We managed to stay close to Nabeel on the run, rounded behind but inside of them, and then tacked to head up the left side of the course.  Nabeel tacked to come left with us, and a great upwind duel ensued as we battled, separated by the width of a boat or less, for several minutes.  It seemed like an eternity (we have some great video of this from the GoPro, mounted on Nabeel’s boat last Sunday – coming soon!) but eventually I was able to work ahead enough to keep my air clear and work up enough to force Nabeel to tack away.  We carried on into better pressure on the left, rounded the top mark in first, and then held on for a bullet in race one, followed by team Shadowfax and team Ariel.

Race 2 was much the same story as far as strategy and order of finishes was concerned.  I was actually surprised to see most of the fleet stack up at the boat end again given how the left had paid in the first race.  Off the start Nabeel again had the pin position with us on his windward hip.  A quick look over my shoulder indicated that we could have tacked and crossed most of the fleet (confirming the pin-end, left-side advantage) but there was no reason to do so given the better pressure out to the left.  However, team Ariel came out strong from a mid-line start and was in the lead as I tacked underneath Nabeel onto port.  After ducking Ariel we were able to work to weather enough to put first Shadowfax and then Ariel behind us and thus lead the pack into the windward mark.  If nothing else, I can confirm that Sinistra goes to windward as well as any boat in the fleet!  We led the fleet around the bottom mark, extended as we went back up and down the course, and were thrilled to rack up another bullet on the day.

It was in race 3 that things really started to get interesting.  The breeze built a bit, shifted right a bit, and became gustier.  Paradoxically, the rest of the fleet decided that the pin-end start strategy was the way to go (and the left was still favored a bit…but I’d say not so much as in race 1 or 2) so we had a bit more traffic down at the pin end.  I was set up for a start in the pin 1/3 of the line and had just started to accelerate for the pin (ahead of Nabeel for once!) when I heard “UP! UP!” from my stern quarter.  There was Chris and team String Theory charging in with speed and overlap, taking advantage of their rights to take me up…  And so up I went, and I watched the pin disappear behind the boat before the gun went…followed by another horn indicating that we were OCS.  Chris was to leeward and gave no ground as I tried to figure out how to turn around and restart – nor should he!  As Chris put it later, “I was the first place boat off the line and ahead of the pack…I’d have sailed you all the way to the windward mark before I gave you room to turn down!”  Respect.  I love the competitive spirit, and of course I’d have done the same thing had the positions been reversed.  Watch out next week, Chris…

Well, we eventually did get turned around and then started to work on reeling in the fleet.  Here I have to give a huge shout out to Piercarlo and Lisbet.  It was a true team effort to work our way back into competition, and they didn’t get discouraged.  Instead, they coached me into clear lanes, helped me recognize that the right was starting to pay off (even as I was still trying to sail to the left), and worked their arses off on each leg of the W3 race.  We were last to the first top mark, but then benefited from a right shift and pressure combined with an early jibe to pass some boats down wind.

On the second upwind we benefited from Rose Gentile’s Potomac River swimming expedition.  As we went upwind I glanced under the boom to see where Ariel was, as they had been ahead, but were also to leeward of us.  At the time, they were probably leading the race (Nabeel was to windward, but a bit behind relative to the mark, I think).  I saw Ariel round up in a strong puff…and then when I next glanced I saw Ariel going slow…and I saw a little red spot of something in the water.  That red spot turned out to be Rose’s Mount Gay hat…under which I then saw a very wet and a very agitated Rose!  I hollered out to see whether everybody was OK…and I saw lots of movement and what I thought was a shriek of “get me out of this [insert expletive] river!!!” in response.  I could be mistaken, as we were a fair distance away, after all.  Either way, it was clear that Rose was fine – moving, gesticulating, and shouting with vigor – and that Jeff and Bruce had turned around to pluck her out of the water.  So we sailed on.  Alhough we weren’t able to catch Nabeel, we were rather pleased with our comeback from last place to second overall.

On shore I heard from more than one source that the hiking strap knot, tied by Jeff, might have been the culprit in Rose’s unplanned excursion into the river.  I cannot confirm or deny the veracity of that information.  I would, however, suggest that Jeff check his own hiking strap knots before going sailing next weekend. 🙂

Race 4 saw even stronger breeze and some more gusts.  Nabeel and team Shadowfax had the hot hand in the bigger breeze, but I was most impressed with the strong showing from team Jalapeño (Mark, Greg, and Rolf) in these latter races.  On Sinistra we went from “attack Shadowfax” mode to “defend against Jalapeño” mode in these final races, and especially in race 4 as they made a strong charge late in the race to challenge us for 2nd place.  Joe Warren, sailing with Cherise and Will Cummings on Bony Buns also had some great moments and finishes, which was fantastic to see!

In the end it was a fantastic day with 8 Lightnings on the line (and since Will volunteered for RC, 9 represented overall).  I was also really glad to see Lindsay Bach out racing for the first time in 14221!  Red Fehrle an his sons were also on the line and had a strong showing in race 3.  Overall, a great day on the water and a fun BBQ on land afterwards — it doesn’t get any better than that!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*