If only indeed!
We almost had the perfect start. We even had a chance to push Top Gun over the line. If only we had!
We caught up to Sandpiper on the downwind and got an overlap before the leeward mark. If only we hadn’t hit the mark with our mainsheet while rounding. If only!
But those two moments were the only regrets in a fantastic sail tonight. Were we wet? were we cold? Of course we were, it was a Tuesday night on 2017! But were we grinning from ear to ear while we lounged in in the five star hospitality aboard Heer’s Summer? Who wouldn’t!
One more comment before the play by play — with 12+ knots of wind tonight (mostly steady) we flew the newly recut #3. That was completely awesome. We pointed so high relative to our fleet that we sawed corners off the course and sailed way less distance than our competitors. Tacking angles were unbelievably tight. And all this with good balance, the mainsail mostly full, no backstay pressure, and boatspeed in and around 6 knots (sometimes more, sometimes less). Tacks were crisp and fast with the little jib, and it was a joy to be so nimble out there. So, all the adjustments have really paid off — the combination of the shorter forestay and the flatter jib came together beautifully tonight.
But the real magic was downwind. Here’s how it went.
Timing on the start was fantastic. We were able to set up in a position we wanted, timing our approach to the line well, accelerating to the boat end without concern of anyone pushing us up. Top Gun got across our bow and we could have pushed them up and over, but we were a few seconds early ourselves, and I chose to bear off a bit. As a result, Top Gun had a perfect start and we were to leeward in their shadow when the gun went off. As soon as we had clear air and room to tack, we popped onto port toward the Hamilton side where we expected better wind. A beautiful dip on Eclipse (and again the next time)
Remembering not to paint the corners, we put in a couple of quick tacks, pointing so high we got well ahead of Battlewagon, and not far behind the others.
Our hoist at the windward mark was a thing of beauty, and we quickly overtook Eclipse and began to gain on Sandpiper. We tweaked our trim, getting more speed with each adjustment, but the magic gear was the boom vang, which gave us half a knot. Sandpiper could begin to feel us closing the gap, and they didn’t want to sit in our wind shadow, so they sailed a hotter course. We were on line for the leeward mark, so we held our course and over time we worked our way forward gaining a meter or two each minute. Afterguy was supreme on the spinnaker sheet, total focus, constantly tweaking the trim — even innovating a pretty comfy position, lying down with his head on the coaming to rest his weary neck!
As we approached the leeward mark, Sandpiper began their dowse before we did and that enabled us to get an overlap on them and claim mark room. Down with the pole, dowse the spinnaker — something’s not working right…we forgot to blow the guy. Bert was busy sorting that out, I was busy steering in the gap between the mark and Sandpiper when it happened. Nonsuch saw it first and hollered to bring in the mainsheet, but we couldn’t react fast enough and the lines touched the bucket. FOUL — time for a 360.
And that didn’t go so well. Up front, the lines began to play cat’s cradle, including Calvin’s leg, and in the back we powered up the main rather than the jib so we couldn’t jibe. By the time we did our penalty turn, Sandpiper was well away, and Eclipse had overtaken us. But our friends on Battlewagon were still astern and we pointed so high I thought we might make the boat end of the finish line in one fetch. Not quite, we needed another tack at the end, playing chicken with Don’t Panic.
If only, if only — we had a shot at a second place, but gave it up for a fourth. Lessons learned — can’t wait to try it again!
But what a blast sailing with bigger wind — the first race in a stiffer breeze. We all immensely enjoyed almost 8 knots of boat speed sailing deep with the spinnaker — we could feel the boat respond with each puff of extra breeze. Encore! Encore!