SSA Summer Series Recap

The turnout for the first SSA Summer Series this past weekend was light, and so was the breeze.  We did manage to get a few races in over the weekend, though, and it was good practice to sail in the light air and chop that so often predominate in Annapolis over the summer.  The post-regatta party at SSA was also a good time!  Keep reading for some of the details from the weekend’s racing.

I ended up driving Sinistra all weekend as Rick was busy.  Nicole and Tree from PRSA & DC Sail were kind enough to rew for me on Saturday.  John Guth, Todd Johnson, and Collin Kirby were also out to race, making for 4 Lightnings in the series.  The day started out with a good 8-10 knot breeze as we sailed out to the racecourse and we were soon off on our first race.  Watching the Stars, Solings, & J-22s go off before us gave us a good sense of where to find pressure, and our pack headed out left for a bit before taking a hitch over to the right.  We rounded second, behind John Guth, and followed him downwind.  The wind was starting to move left, and the RC signaled a course change at the leeward mark.  Right as we hit that mark, the lefty really filled in and we soon found ourselves wound up inside of the pack pointing directly to the (new) windward mark.  We should have led the pack around the mark and back downhill for an easy win, but rounding the windward mark was no easy task.  There was a pile of J-22s and Solings stacked up trying to make their roundings, and the current was absolutely ripping as it sucked in to the Severn (something that I had never really experienced).  We failed to go far enough on our first attempt, got caught in traffic on our second, and finally made it around the mark on our third try.  In the meanwhile, Collin had sailed up and rounded cleanly inside of the pileup.  We watched him march away for the win, followed by us and then John (who had led the entire race up to that point).

The RC reset the course for the new wind and sent us into sequence for the second race.  I wish I had the GoPro running for this one, as we did a fantastic job of nailing the line right at the transom of the boat right as the gun went.  The wind had shifted back right during our sequence, so nailing the boat meant that we were once again leading the pack and pointing right at the windward mark.  We charged out ahead and had a clear lead as we made the turn.  Nicole and Tree did a great job with the jibe set — we hoisted the chute without a pole as we bore off on starboard and rolled right into a jibe as Nicole pulled the chute all the way around.  It was almost perfection…but for whatever reason the spin halyard let loose, so I suddenly found the spinnaker behind the boat just as I realized that we (now on port) were headed straight for the remaining boats coming upwind on starboard!  We shot up to dodge the traffic, reeled in the chute and re-hoisted, but not before John snuck by us.  We held our spot on the tight reach and then went right (given the windshift) on the next upwind leg, along with both Todd and John.  That should have been the right call, but Collin split far left and gained, meaning that we ended up finishing behind all of them — especially frustrating after the great start.

In race three we had a bit less breeze, but it had finally settled into a pretty consistent direction (E/SE).  I did remember to tag the GoPro this time, so the video (to be posted soon) will show us getting a good mid-line start and then working upwind with the pack.  Once again we had good speed, and this time we didn’t make any boat handling errors such that we were able to finish behind John Guth for a well-earned 2nd place.

On Sunday Kyra from our own Buc fleet along with Rebecca (an SSA local) crewed for me.  The forecast was for steady south breeze at 10-12, but I drove up to Annapolis in a rainstorm and no breeze.  The rain cleared and we headed out to the course in a light N/NE breeze.  Collin didn’t show, so there was just John, Todd, and I on the starting line as the RC sent us off in a very light breeze.  We went left with John, as we thought we saw more pressure there, while Todd split right after having to restart.  We worked left a bit, and then went right for some pressure that we saw.  John carried on left, then tacked over and looked to have gained a bit.  For our part, it initially looked like we’d be behind Todd as we converged in the middle of the course.  He tacked to leeward and ahead of us, and we entered into a slow-speed duel as we moved towards the starboard tack layline.  We were pleased to have a bit more speed and point as we dueled with Todd and worked our way up a bit towards John who was now on port paralleling us a bit farther to weather.  We all flopped over to the mark at the same time, and we rounded second following John downwind.

It was very light by now, so it was slow going.  We had a bit of trouble raising the centerboard on Sinistra and once I went to lower it again as we jibed for the mark, we found that it was jammed in the up position!  What the…???  A big left shift, combined with our fooling with the centerboard meant that Todd was able to make good gains downwind.  The board was still jammed up as we rounded the leeward mark, so we went partially sideways (and carried on right) as the other boats worked to weather and went left to take advantage of the shift.  Initially Rebecca crawled under the deck and then I handed over the helm and did the same.  Eventually I found that the turning block attached to the fore-most part of the boat (right at the bow) had broken, and the centerboard line had jumped out of the block and jammed in the sheave.  I was able to free it with some tugging and a Leatherman tool, but by now we were way behind.  The RC shortened course to finish us at the windward mark in the fading breeze.  It took us forever to get there…and once we did the breeze shut off altogether.  We all drifted around for a bit as the RC waited and tried to gauge the weather.  We watched line after line of rain showers moved south to north farther out on the bay, each one sucking up whatever breeze we might have had.  Eventually the RC abandoned for the day, and we were all towed in under dead calm.  Too bad we didn’t have more breeze, but there was cold beer and some great Dark & Stormy’s waiting for us on shore.

I haven’t seen posted results, but John won each race and I think Todd would be in second, us in third, and Collin in fourth.  The final SSA Summer Series races will be on July 13 and July 14 — don’t miss out on the fun!

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