OK, let me get this out of the way right away: Â we finished second in the green fleet, hunting Top Gun to the finish line! Â (Sandpiper and Battlewagon were so far behind there was no contest). Â It’s a huge result after aÂ full season of near last-place finishes last summer. Â And it feels great!
Here’s how it went.
We spent quite a bit of time at the dock getting everyone familiar with the rig. Â Kiwi took the foredeck ladsÂ through the details of setting the pole, hoisting the spinnaker, jibing and dousing. Â Once all wasÂ set, we headed out, hoisted sail and enjoyed a little cruise over to the committee boat. Â On the way, the foredeck lesson continued and we all enjoyed the beautiful but crisp May evening: pale sun in a cold sky, pastel lemon and peach clouds, fresh light breeze. Â And many boats came out to play — most ofÂ our favorites were there — Coyote, Pandora, Battlewagon, Free Spirit — but some were missing — Badger, Induljence, Sonic Boom.
As everything felt new again, we minimized: no camera, no calculation of starting time/sequence, no measurements of wind angle, no timing of the line, no estimation of favoured end, or preferred side of the course. Â For the start, we just went on instinct, and our instinct was spot on! Â A few short tacks near the committee boat and we approached the line on a beam reach, with Top Gun coming up beneath us on a close haul. Â We were able to slip beneath their stern and were trying to get a hook on them, but couldn’t get an overlap. Â With 20 seconds to go we hardened up and went for the line, timing it perfectly, to windward and ahead of the entire fleet! Â A perfect start to kick off 2016 🙂
Upwind was tricky in the light breeze, but the new jib was marvelous! Â Last year, we would have quickly fallen behind the fleet using our #3 jib (100%). Â But with the new #1 jib (155%), we had all the pace we needed, and it was a matter of sailing a smart race to stay ahead. Â The new jib car track and fairlead system worked perfectly (thanks Gadget & Squirrel!), and once we firmed up the jib halyard, the foresail was perfectly shaped and all the tell-tales were streaming (all that winter reading paid off!). Â OK, another key to success was the rig tuning (more reading paying off): we have a straight mast (no pre-bend, no backstay tension), with maximum rake. So far that seems to be the right mode. Â Time will tell. Â And let’s not overlook the mainsail, which was perfectly trimmed the whole leg by Gadget.
So with the rig working for us, we could focus on sailing a smart race upwind. Â By watching other boats, we avoided a few dead spots, and approached the windward mark well ahead of Sandpiper and Battlewagon, and only 4-5 boat lengths behind Top Gun! Â Compare that to last year, when might win a start, but then quickly fall behind the bigger boats with their bigger jibs.
Spinnaker went up quickly without a hitch, thanks to great work on the foredeck from Kiwi, The Cunning Ham (that’s Neil’s new nickname — think Ron Howard), and Pete (still to be nicknamed), withÂ Nonsuch mastering the lines in the pit better than an octopus could. Â It took a bit of time for us to find the right angle and mode downwind; the key that unlocked things was when we noticed that the lazy guy was caught on something. Â Once freed, Lazy Sheet trimmed the spinnaker like an old salt, and the distance between us and the boats behind just continued to grow. Â Top Gun chose to sail hotter angles downwind and put in two jibes instead of one. Â Looking back, that choice won the race for them, so we will need to build our downwind polar table to pick the right angles for different wind speeds. Â But our jibe went well! Â Not perfect, but we can blame that on the light wind, which makes these things tricky. Â Never mind, compared to last year with the asymmetrical spinnaker, it was night and day — we would have sacrificed our entire lead on the downwind leg. Â We are safety boat no more!
Crossing the finish line second in the fleet felt like a personal victory after all the thinking,learning, time and energy that we put into improving our rig. Â A special hats off to Gil and Calvin, without whom I wouldn’t have dared to drill 70 holes in my boat. Â This ‘personal best’ is dedicated to you!
So there were many improvements over last year, but the most important thing stayed the same: Â lots of laughter amongst a great crew, and a shared joy of letting the wind blow our cares away.