There’s a chapter in Walker’s book on advanced racing tactics that talks about the perils of greed. Tonight, yours truly learned the hard way that Walker was indeed correct!
It was a very chilly night on the bay. Temperature was 11C, feels like 8 on land, but with a cold Northeasterly breeze off the frigid lake it was much colder out there. Add a layer of fog spreading out overhead, and it was spectacularly cold, especially upwind! Before the race, the cold was seeping into to me despite thermal underwear, but once we were in our start sequence, that all faded away, and we were warmed inside by the action and the fun.
The breeze was really perfect. An almost steady 8-10 knots, a bit lighter near mark 8 (close in to the Burlington shore), so there was plenty of power, but no stressful moments. And that was a relief since we were a little short handed with both David and Squirrel doing double duty on our first Thursday race of the season. These guys flung away their cobwebs quickly though — just compare hoist 1 and hoist 2 in the highlight real and you will see the crew leap up the learning curve!
And our old friends on Big Yellow were out to play today. So what did I do? You bet, we tangled with them! And I got greedy at the leeward mark. And it didn’t pay. And after the race, Skootch pointed out that I missed an opportunity on the approach to that mark — we would have been in our rights to push them up and cross their bow to claim the inside lane to the leeward mark. In summary, a missed opportunity and my greedy blunder cost us about 15 boat lengths — probably enough to claim second. Instead we’ll settle for a third.
But enough yammering….let’s have the play by play!
Today the start was well timed. The rest of our fleet went for the pin end, and we took the line near the boat. It seemed like we were first across the line, and crossed well ahead of Eclipse who tacked to port early. Upwind we found a nice mode after a bit of sail trim adjustments to get speed, but tacked a bit early for the layline. An easy correction and we headed to the mark behind Top Gun, Eclipse and Take Notice Again. But not far astern at all. Our first hoist was fair, but we took our time to make sure everything was set. We almost immediately put in a jibe and had a great run down to the leeward mark, overtaking Eclipse and making up ground on Big Yellow and Top Gun.
Approaching the mark, we converged with Big Yellow. We were both on port and PERSPECTIVE was the leeward boat, sailing a hotter angle. I might have been able to push them up and pull clear ahead before the 3-boat-length circle around the leeward mark, but I didn’t recognize the opportunity until Skootch pointed it out later. Instead, since I wanted to give us all lots of time to douse, I gave Big Yellow the inside lane. The douse was no problem, but we lost a lot of speed as Big Yellow’s enormous wind shadow smothered us.
And then I got greedy.
“Stall, David, stall”, I whispered, and we let our sails go slack, slowing the boat as Big Yellow passed.
“Calvin, let me know when I am clear of their stern”, I whispered to the bow.
Once clear I began the turn, planning to sneak into the gap that I expected Big Yellow to leave as they rounded the mark. I had this picture in my head of slipping in to windward of them, and stealing their air. But they were onto us, and shut the door at the last second.
I had no choice, but to bear up, miss the mark, and put in a 360 to get around it. By then, Big Yellow was 10 boatlengths ahead and flying away at full speed. We never caught them.
Greed…one of the seven deadly sins. Starting to sink in. 🙂
Never mind! We just had to try 😉
Back up and back down we got more chances to practice our tacking, our trim, our hoist, our jibes, and we made up some of the distance, but not enough to overtake Big Yellow, even though they owe us 10 seconds per mile.
But we all agreed — just add 15 more degrees centigrade and a nice sunset, and it would have been a perfect night on the water!
Hat’s off to Skootch, Squirrel and Lifeline for braving the elements.