This race report is dedicated to Lazy Sheet…get well soon, bro, we missed you!
Heading out to the bay this evening, I thought there would be no race at all. Â The lake and the bay were shimmering like smoothly undulating mirrors, with nary a whisper to push a boat. Â But the optimist in me saw the cloud cover rolling away propelled by a westerly gradient wind up high.Â The sun started shining on the land; perfect conditions for a sea breeze to establish. Â And sure enough, near the western shore we saw ripples on the water that spread across the bay as the breeze filled in. Â We hoisted sail nearÂ the start line in 5+ knots of easterly sea breeze. Â Brilliant!
With Lazy Sheet getting some health care, and Skootch on a trip, there were four of us on board. Â There were definitely times when we missed the extra hands (I thought of using my teeth once, and then changed my mind), but I think we can honestly say that it wasn’t a problem in this very pleasant, steady breeze. Â We are definitely learning how to handle the spinnaker smoothly — every maneuver went off without a hitch. Â Special shout out to Four Hands alone on the foredeck, but of course, having four hands, he has an advantage over mere mortals! (Truth be told, SquirrelÂ helped with the douses)
We are also learning how to trim the sails and tune the boat. Â Reviewing the raceQs feed, I can conclude that we have found our light wind settings: cap shrouds at 68mm and mids and lowers nice and floppy. Â Tacking angles were 87 degrees on average (evenÂ better when I didn’t over-steer: Â best was 83 degrees, which would put us right on the theoretical minimum)!
The other evidence that we’ve got our tuning correct for these conditions came right at the start…
Timing was great, as we had a chance to reach alongÂ the line at full speed before hardening up at the gun. Â Eclipse started coming up from below us, pointing just a hair higher. Â On other nights, they’ve been able to luff us up and climb through our dirty air to smother us on our lee bow. Â But tonight they couldn’t catch us, and we crawled away from them, giving them our dirty air as we slipped intoÂ their lee bow. Â What a victory! Â Credit to the guys for trimming the sails exquisitely. Â Next came a tack onto port. Â We were even with our fleet, but didn’t have right of way, so we had to put in three tiny dips in a row, shaving the stern of Eclipse, Take Notice Again (Yes, “Big Yellow” is back!), and finally Battlewagon.Â No worries, we were heading into better air over near the Hamilton shore. Â Sure enough, by the time we tacked again, we had consolidated a lead over everyone except Sabotage (That’ll be the day!), and rounded the mark in firm second place.
Next came a strategic error: Â we had noticed that the wind was stronger over on the Hamilton shore, so we should have put in a jibe-set at the windward mark, to sail over into the better air. Â Instead, we kept with the bear-away set, which is easier and faster, but it sent us to the weaker side of the course. Â Even though we sailed hotter angles downwind than our competition, we didn’t really gain any ground. Â We did this twice. Â Looking back, I think it cost us quite a bit. If we had sailed hot angles in the better wind on the Hamilton side, we would have added distance on our competition.
But then came the tactical error, and this one definitely cost us dearly: Â approaching the leeward mark with Eclipse in pursuit, we entered the infinite black hole of their wind shadow and they began to close the distance rapidly. Â With other traffic around and no experience to guide my decision making, I made a big blunder. Â I should have stayed in front of them, claimed the inside lane at the mark and forced them outside — never mind that they would have almost caught up, at least I would be ahead and could choose which side of the course to sail (ie: the Hamilton side where the wind was better). Â Instead, I put in a jibe late in the leg, so that we could get boat speed. Â it worked, but it also opened an inside lane for Eclipse. Â So, when we doused, we were beside them, and we rounded we were to leeward, and as they pulled away we were smothered the entire time in bad air. Â By the time we got up to speed, they were five boat lengths ahead — out of range for us to overtake. Â Then we did the sensible thing, tacked away to clear air and split the course — but this pushed us to a zone of lighter air. Â Rather than catching them, we gave some ground to Big Yellow, who overtook us at the windward lay line, and to Battlewagon, pressing on from the windier side of the course. Perhaps we should have footed off and gone for speed and clear air?
I think I have learned my lesson!
Next hoist was great, same strategic error downwind, which brought us to a very tight finish. Â Eclipse got away from us, we overtook Big Yellow, and so did Battlewagon. Â In the end, we crossed ahead of Battlewagon — a moral victory — but after PHRF correction, they beat us by THREE SECONDS….(sigh). Â But Big Yellow was well astern of us, finishing last.
So the sailing was great, the boat speed was awesome, the pointing was fantastic, the maneuvers were flawless — we have learned so so so much of the fundamentals.
But the strategy was flawed and the tactical error was painful — and so opens another chapter of our learning. Â Great fun!
(Later that night at the awards get-together I talked with Ken Denholm, skipper of Eclipse. Â He was so surprised we gave him room at the mark. Â We had a laugh and then he and Doug Folsetter taught me what we should have done — great sportsmanship from our competition)
So that was the race. Â Reading this, you probably think we were sad about the mistakes. Â Not at all! Â We had a great time out there, thoroughly enjoying having the boat zooming along in a steady breeze, and savouring the triumph of smooth maneuvers with a short-handed crew. Â The only thing that cast a pall on our time was our concern for Mark.
Post Script: Â Four Hands has installed a new innovation in PERSPECTIVE to aid in packing the spinnaker bag — plastic hooks in the forepeak to hold the spinnaker clews. Â There’s one on each side, just forward of the bulkhead. Â We can hang our clothes on them when cruising :-):