Spring Series #8: Fantasic Racing!

Last Sunday turned out to be a fantastic day for sailing!  We had a steady 10-15 kt breeze from the south, flat water, and warm temps for the entire day!  The RC, headed by PRO Jim Graham, did an excellent job of setting a long W-L course and then sending us off on three races (each a 3-lap race!).  We were certainly tired after the third race, and happy to retire to shore with enough time to pack up our boats and enjoy a great BBQ before the evening storms hit.

Keep reading for some details (from my vantage point on John Butler’s boat) as well as for links to photos and video from the day’s racing!

So I have to begin with a personal note: this was the first time in my 10+ years of sailing at PRSA and in Fleet 50 that I sailed against the skipper and boat that brought me in to the fleet back in 2002.  Since I’ll be sailing the District Championships with John Butler on Beedoboat next weekend, it made sense that John and I sail together at least once (together with middle crew Andrea Royer) before heading to Districts. It was a bit weird to think that I’d be sailing against, rather than with, Team Sinistra!

In the first race Rick (sailing with Lisbet and Piercarlo) did what he does best — pull a horizon job on the fleet, with amazing point and great boatspeed.  I didn’t get a good lock at the starting line since we were in traffic on Beedoboat, but I do know that once we all got clear and made it up to the windward mark Rick was clearly in the lead, followed closely by Chris (sailing with Nicole and Jen) on String Theory, Frank (sailing with Mladin and Bob) on Resistance is Futile), followed by us.  Team Sinistra had a good lead, and they continued to extend for the rest of the race.  In this race, I was particularly impressed with how well Team String Theory was doing — they hung with Frank & Team Resistance is Futile for most of the 3-lap race (probably would have beat them had it been a 2-lap race) and stayed well ahead of us until the final upwind leg, where we were able to close and get position enough to pass them on the rounding and hold on to the finish.  It wasn’t easy, though!

Ultimately, geography played to our favor.  Team String Theory did a great job in covering us each time we came around the leeward mark.  Given the south breeze, though, the windward mark was set pretty close to the airport shore, meaning that there wasn’t a full-course length starboard layline.  We would race to the right (airport side) as far as we could, but then we’d have to tack back.  Eventually, we were able to carry one of these port tack lines towards the airport a bit farther than String Theory, which allowed us to both break free of their cover and (fortuitously) make the layline even as they had to make two extra tacks to make it there.  Had there been more water on the right side of the course, String Theory could have carried us all the way to the layline and then covered us all the way to the windward mark, which would have made passing them downwind (on a no-jibe reach/run) much harder.  As it turns out, we lucked out!

In race 2, we were the ones fortunate enough to have the horizon-job win.  We saw a left phase in the breeze at the start and drifted down towards the pin…and we were amazed that nobody followed or challenged us.  John was even extra careful to pull the trigger while we were well below the line, and off we went.  The rest of the fleet piled up at the boat end and then immediately flopped over onto port tack.  We did the same to cover, and it was apparent that we already had a big lead.  We were on top of the fleet, to windward, and well ahead.  Whether you are lucky or good often depends upon whether you are watching the lead boat or on the lead boat…either way, we were thrilled, and from that first tack it was an exercise in making sure we hit the fundamentals at each rounding and didn’t miss any big shifts.  Andrea did a great job on the spinnaker, especially in the puffy and wavy conditions that came up in this race (this being only her 4th or 5th time on a Lightning), and John and I managed to avoid any disasters at our respective positions so as to finish with a well-earned bullet.

The third race was the one in which windshifts played the biggest role, at least from my vantage point.  The forecast for the day had been for winds from the S/SSW, moving farther towards SW as the day progressed.  Up until the third race, though, we had seen winds that were mostly south, with just a bit of SW in them.  At times, we even saw some shifts towards the SE rather than the predicted SW.  We were in a bit of traffic towards the pin end as we started, and we couldn’t tack over to port until the windward pack went ahead of us.  Once we did so, we saw that the wind at the start was much more square, such that some of the boats that started at the boat-end had a decent advantage.  We followed Resistance is Futile and Sinistra around the top mark, and continued to chase them for a few more laps.  It was finally on the last full-length upwind leg that we were able to make a move (thank heavens for 3-lap races).  At the leeward mark we followed both Resistance is Futile and String Theory around.  The wind had moved right, such that starboard tack was clearly favored.  However, we had to clear the lines of both boats before we could tack over in clear air.  Although this meant a bit more time on the unfavored tack, it paid off for us as the wind continued to shift right, such that we were the inside boat on the continual “wind up” of the windshift.

The shift alone put us ahead of Sinistra on this leg as they were farther out in the river and had to eat a large header to come back over to the right side of the course in order to make the layline.  We were able to stay ahead of a surging Sinistra downwind, though we were nervous — the farther right the wind went, the lower it enabled them to sail.  Sinistra had done a quick jibe at the windward mark, such that they were inside (airport side, and favored jibe side) of us.  The more the wind went right, the more it allowed them to close.  Ultimately, though, they weren’t quite able to establish overlap.  Sinistra rounded right on our heels at the final leeward mark.  They probably would have given us quite a run for our money on the last upwind but for some sort of a jib problem (it looked like their cloth adjustment broke).  Even so, Rick, Lisbet, and Piercarlo engaged us in a tacking duel up to the finish — a finish that the RC had extended all the way to the windward mark area, no less!  We were exhausted, but ultimately able to hold them off on the long final leg to the finish.

Overall it was a great day for racing!  Great breeze, great sailing, and a great BBQ after the races…who could ask for anything more!  Make sure to check out the great photos that John Kircher took as well as the GoPro video from the day’s racing on the Fleet 50 Photos/Videos page.

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