It all came down to the finish. We got a knock heading for the pin end of the line. TopGun and Sandpiper were to windward. Without that knock it would have been a photo finish for all three boats, but as it happened, we needed two tacks to cross the line for a third place finish. But never mind, I’m all aglow with the satisfaction of hunting Top Gun to the finish line. Fantastic!
And it didn’t come easily. Twice, we lost enough time to make all the difference, and even so, it came down to that last wind shift. Fantastic!
It was a chilly night on the bay, especially upwind into the northeastern breeze. Wind was 8-10 knots away from the burlington shore, but there were some deep holes near mark #9, and we were almost becalmed at times. But the western sky was beautiful as the sun lowered into fluffly clouds down at the end of the bay.
Here’s the play by play:
Our start was tragic. I’m totally out of rhythm. The lads kept the boat moving fast, and our tacks were really crisp, but I wandered around too long to far below the line, putting in too many tacks. In the end we managed a port-tack start near the boat end of the line — and that is sort of what I think I wanted — but we were at least 20 seconds late, passing just astern of Battlewagon.
On port we raced out toward Hamilton, where we believed the stronger wind was, and at times we were crusing along at 7+ knots with tons of clear air. Eventually the breeze began to slacken so we tacked to cross the bay and rejoin our fleet. It was really cool, all the boats tacked onto the same line as us, and we were all really close, but we were trailing them all — Battlewagon was really flying with brand new mainsail and genoa, and they had pulled quite some distance away from us. At this time, we could clearly see that we were pointing higher than Top Gun. In fact, I think we were pointing as high as anyone in the fleet — Oh what a feeling! But I didn’t like following on the same line, so we tacked away, and this was our second mistake: I didn’t account for the freighter at anchor, and tacked too soon to clear him. When we ran out of room and tacked back, we fell into a huge lull, while the rest of our fleet carried on without delay.
Combine those two errors, and we were the last to round the weather mark, at least a minute behind everyone in our fleet. But then, as so often happens, we hoisted crisply, filled the spinnaker in the light breeze and began to reel everyone in. After a quick jibe it did not take long to overtake Eclipse and Battlewagon, who didn’t raise their spinnakers. Sandpiper had put in a jibe set, and sailed high over toward Hamilton in hopes of catching better air more quickly. Top Gun had jibed earlier than us and were sailing very deep. We gathered speed and then turned downwind following Top Gun’s track. Flying the kite in the light breeze was tricky, and it changed directions a bit — but we were really sharp, and made small adjustments to our trim to get the most from the wind. Slowly but surely we closed the gap on Top Gun, but not quite enough to steel their air — that would have been dreamy!
As we approached the leeward mark, all three of us converged, with Top Gun rounding first, Sandpiper getting by us and just a few boatlengths separating each boat. Our douse was slick, and we waited to the last moment, rounded and began to power up.
Decision time. Top Gun pushed toward the Hamilton shore before tacking onto the layline for the boat end of the finish line. Sandpiper tacked at almost the same moment, aiming at the middle of the line. We tacked too, hoping for the pin end. It was looking really good as we powered up and it looked like the pin end was nearer — had we cut off a corner and shaved precious boat lengths? Alas no! Just before the line, we got knocked, and had to tack twice to finish.
I guess you could call this the one that got away!
What a fantastic start to the Spring Series.