Four guys on board on a foggy, chilly, windy night, pulled off a very satisfying 2nd place behind Top Gun. Legacy (a new J35 that sails well) finished ahead of us, but was over the line before the start and didn’t go back to make it right. Satisfying because we came from behind after a poor start. Satisfying because we established overlap on Big Yellow at the leeward mark, doused cleanly and kept them in our dirty air in the fetch to the finish line. Satisfying because it secures us in second place on Thursdays (for now). Satisfying because we had some things going wrong but recovered quickly and kept on going. What a great night!
The only blunder we didn’t make right was failing to turn on the camera!
Close your eyes and visualize… (no wait, open them or you won’t be able to read this). OK, so you’ll just have to imagine lots of water over the rail, Calvin taking a spill as jib sheet wraps around his leg in a tack, Mark falling onto his backside after a tack. (I guess we were heeling a bit!), Mark facing a completely tangled spinnaker halyard at the tail end of the douse when I needed to jibe the genoa (and Calvin simply unclipping the halyard from the head of the sail and dealing with it on the foredeck) so we could complete our rounding while Big Yellow gave us inches of mark room.
Oh and I split a nail somehow on the mainsheet.
And Lifeline (David) and Lazy Sheet were like octopi managing three jobs between the two of them. Fantastic!
Here’s how it went:
During the prestart, we had the #2 genoa set and ready. The wind continued to build, and I was doubting our choice when we saw several of our competitors load up their #3 sails. Hmmm, looks like we were going to be overpowered. It was too late to change, so we opted instead to unfurl our genoa only in the final approach to the start. That was a mistake, because I had expected more of a leap in boat speed. This meant we were out of position for the start, and ended up smothered in bad air crossing the line at least 20 seconds after the others. Soon though, we got some clear air and picked up speed. Time to do something different from the others.
We were the first over on port tack, sailing high and fast in our own clear air. We buzzed Battlewagon’s stern. Others boats tacked right away to cover us. Zig and zag up the course, and we shaved Big Yellow’s stern and made up some ground on Sandpiper. Still, we were second last around the windward mark. During our approach, we really had to pinch to make the mark, and gave up quite a bit of time getting around.
But then our hoist was clean and we quickly gained on Sandpiper, who kept their kite below decks in the big wind. So did Battlewagon. It was a ‘sheets and guys’ kind of night.
Time for strategy: The mark was dead downwind (slow). The wind was stronger toward Hamilton. Let’s jibe quickly, get over into better air, jibe again and sail a hotter line to the leeward mark.
Good move! Our jibes were smooth, and after the second one we really heated up the boat speed on a great line to the mark well down yonder. Big Yellow stayed on the low and slow course and we gained on them steadily. By holding off our douse for a few more boat lengths we got the inside lane overlapped at the leeward mark, and this was the magic ingredient. Down came the kite — extremely smoothly for a short-handed crew on a windy night. Big Yellow gave us mark room, but only inches to spare and there was a moment when we had to jibe, the halyard was jammed and Big Yellow was closing in. Thanks to Squirrel’s quick thinking, and Lifeline’s quick return to take over the mainsail, we got the barky powered up onto a near fetch to the finish line.
I pinched the whole time to avoid another tack, and to avoid giving Big Yellow a passing lane to windward. That kept them in our dirty air, so they couldn’t gain. Their only choice would have been to foot off and tack. Not a promising option, so they stayed astern. With a boat length to go to the committee boat, we shot the line to finish just a boat length or two ahead of Big Yellow. And well ahead of the others!