The boys are back on the bay, and the marina was full of our laughter as we huddled down below out of the chilly breeze for our traditional snack. Four hands was sitting on the Ottoman (Spinnaker), Lazy Sheet was spooning salsa onto our lime chips, and Afterguy (Mr Clean no longer), spilled it on his precious clean cabin floor. Wait — I’m talking about snack — I think I left something out. Yes, I did — we went sailing and put in a solid race for the first time out.
And for those of you who might doubt whether we sailed or just gathered to share a beer and few laughs — here’s proof: Squirrel snapped these from Merlot. That’s us with the spinnaker up, hunting down Sandpiper to the finish line.
The breeze was perfect — a steady 10 knots or so. We don’t really know because our instruments weren’t installed yet, so we were running on instinct. But it felt strong and the boat powered up wonderfully. Here’s how the race went.
Our start was pretty good, especially considering that we didn’t have a big timer counting down our start — I was using an app on my iPhone strapped to my wrist, and could only check every once in a while. We were maybe ten seconds late for the line, not quite fully powered up but in a good position near the committee boat and well to windward of the fleet. (Umm, this is the point when I should admit that only Sandpiper and Battlewagon came out to play with us).
Upwind we pointed as high as Sandpiper. Let me repeat that: we pointed as high as Sandpiper! Shortening the forestay has had the desired effect, and we sailed parallel to them, on a line to windward. Wonderful!!!!
We fiddled a bit with our sail trim, trying to find a good mode that didn’t have the mainsail backwinded. As we did so, we lost a few boatlengths to Sandpiper, so that they crossed in front of us before we tacked to the windward mark. I’m not used to pointing so high, and we almost overstood the windward mark as a result. Instead we came at it on port tack, sawing off a nice bit of distance. Great — next time, tack earlier! The downside is that we didn’t have the usual time to prepare our spinnaker hoist. Usually we set the bag on port tack, then set the pole when we are on the layline, and there is often plenty of time. Nonetheless our hoist was fantastic and we began to gain on Sandpiper who was now about 6 boat lengths ahead of us.
We tried a few different ways to set the spinnaker pole and managed to close the gap on Sandpiper. They jibed and then we put in our jibe. Yup, this maneuver needs practice! Nothing went wrong, but it wasn’t satisfyingly smooth. But looking back at last year, jibes were usually a bit rough. As a result, Sandpiper got us by 36 seconds, or about ten boat lengths at this speed.
And Battlewagon? nearly five minutes astern. Interestingly, they sailed without a main sail, and didn’t fly their spinnaker. I believe they have a new mainsail on the way.
Since the race was short, we stayed out for quite a while and put in ten jibes with the spinnaker before dousing. With enough repetition, we started to get more organized and put in several nice smooth ones. We should do that again. Upwind we played around with the mainsail controls and finally found a mode that removed the backwind from the genoa: outhaul tight, traveler up high and mainsheet backed off so that the boom was centerline and the mainsail had plenty of twist. Once we got there, the sail looked great and the cunningham and backstay adjuster did their jobs perfectly. This will definitely help us upwind next time. Oh, and let’s remember to get our halyards nice and snug!
Thanks for a great start Tuesday! Thursday, here we come!