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How fast was that? Really?

Race Details

  • Wind: 15g20 SW dropping to 8g12
  • Course: 6S-1-9-1-9-6F
  • Temperature: °C
  • RaceQs Link: Visit
  • Results Link: Visit
Course Map

Crew

  1. Bowman: Squirrel
  2. Mastman: Gadget
  3. Understudy:
  4. Pit: The Cunning Ham
  5. Foresail Trimmer: Nonsuch
  6. Mainsail Trimmer: DaveH
  7. Helm: StarPort

Yes, this was our fastest race ever.  And it was a long one.  How fast?  How long?

Top speed was right after we hoisted the spinnaker the first time (before the wind began to drop): 9.6 knots!  Here’s a breakdown by each leg:

Leg 1 upwind: 6.3 knots average, 7.9 knots max

Leg 2 downwind: 7.4 knots average, 9.6 knots max

Leg 3 upwind: 6.0 knots average, 7.6 knots max

Leg 4 downwind: 5.9 knots average, 8.0 knots max

Leg 5 upwind: 5.6 knots average, 7.0 knots max

And the first two upwind legs were done with the small jib — that’s how much the wind was blowing.  And yup, we changed the foresail during Leg 4!

And the whole race as 1:44 long.  We spent about 40 minutes blasting downwind with a great big gurgle, spreading a smooth wake far astern.  And we spent over an hour fighting gusts upwind, with Big Dave keeping the boat flat as possible — I think he was trying to get PERSPECTIVE to play like the laser he has at the cottage!  This was definitely the longest high wind race we’ve ever had, but we barely noticed the time go by, as we gobbled up boats on every leg.

And it was one of the hottest nights on the water too.  30C feels like 40C, but the high wind helped, especially upwind.

Here’s how it went:

With the season half over, it was time to shuffle positions, so everyone (except me) was in a new spot.  With Lazy Sheet recuperating and Kiwi away, we recruited Squirrel from Thursday to help out on the foredeck, and Big Dave (yes, he needs a better nickname) on the main.  Nonsuch took the foresail trim, and The Cunning Ham debuted in the pit.  It’s a bit insane to switch things up like that in such high wind, but I am a bit touched and we had people paired up well:  Squirrel coaching Gadget on the foredeck, Nonsuch coaching Neil in pit and me helping Dave get the feel of when (and how) to power through the gusts.  The result?  Flawless!  Gusts, hoists, jibe and douses were managed with aplomb, and without a hitch.  Throw in a foresail change on the downwind, and you can see confidence is high.  (Still I suspect Neil is hunting around for a secret decoder ring that translates all those strange names into something memorable — perhaps he and Afterguy can start a group therapy club!)

At the outset, with the new #3 jib — the one that doesn’t point very high and needs to be re-cut — we knew that we would have to sail our own race, and not get caught up trying to point as high as the J35s.  Instead, we went for boat speed and clean air, trusting we would make up ground on the downwind.  Nonsuch asked if we would fly the spinnaker in the high wind — “Of course we will”, said the skipper, sounding far more confident than he was :-).

So with that gameplan in mind we timed our start well, and sought out the biggest slot of wind we could find and tacked our way up to the windward mark.  As expected, we fell behind three J35s (Top Gun, Remarkable and Battlewagon) as they out-pointed us by a good margin while packing on more sail area.  Never mind: we sailed our own race.

At the windward mark, we took a moment to ensure the pole was secure and the jib was away before hoisting, and then powered up with a lurch.  Seriously, I thought about naming this post after the Adam’s family, because Lurch was definitely with us when the kite filled.  I never knew that there was a risk of whiplash on a sailboat, but the way the wind grabbed that giant blue sail and through us forward was unforgettable.  We went from six knots to over nine instantaneously.  AGAIN! AGAIN!

This downwind run was dreamy.  Fast, and straight to the leeward mark: over two nautical miles in a fast straight line.  Douse.  Round. Power up. Tack back to the windy slot.  Yeehaw!

This time upwind we caught a great lift that carried us all the way to the layline — another two nautical miles on one curvy gusty lifty knocky line.  And what to our wondering surprise did appear?  An antique wooden cutter -igged two-master poking along between us and the mark, threatening to force us to deviate from our path (and put in more tacks???).  Thankfully, they made enough progress for us to dip below without blowing our chance at making the mark.

Hoist number two, and away we flew.  But three things were different now:  Battlewagon was astern, the lift that helped us upwind, hurt us downwind and the wind slackened.  So we made two adjustments:  sailed a higher course and planned for a jibe; and change the headsail (great suggestion, Gadget! Inspired by video of Kiwi!).  So, down came the #3.  Jibe.  Connect #1.  Hurry up boys, we’re running out of time! Re-route the jib sheets.  Haul up the halyard.  Oops, there goes the windward mark.  All well, stay calm. Douse.  Turn. Fly!

It was amazing to see all the hustle up front to change over the sails.  Of course, we were disorganized. Of course it took longer than expected.  As a result, we sailed about a minute beyond the leeward mark, and took another minute to claw back the extra distance.  But I wasn’t worried since by then we had extended our lead over Battlewagon.  But once we were heading upwind, we couldn’t find them anywhere. Had they caught up and snuck in behind us while we doused?  Scan the horizon.  Nothing.  Strange!

And then, as we approached the finish line, we saw them sailing downwind without a mainsail.  Something had gone wrong.  Something bad.  Something expensive.  Yes, of course we want to finish a race with them behind us, but not because something had gone wrong.  Back at the dock, we learned that they had been caught by a gust when passing below another boat (Chimo II).  The gust rounded them up (no laser sailor on their mainsheet!), and they were about to collide badly with Chimo II when the skipper put in an emergency tack to avoid them (follow the gust through the wind).  But this caught the crew off guard, the running backstay was still firm (I’m glad we don’t have those), and the mainsail caught on it and tore.  I didn’t see the rip, but I gather it was a big one.  YIKES.

So, I hope we see our friends on Thursday, with a fresh Battle scar on Battewagon.  (And I hope I see them behind us).

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