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Threading the needle

Race Details

  • Wind:
  • Course: 14S-1-7-1-7-14F
  • Temperature: °C
  • RaceQs Link:
  • Results Link: Visit
Course Map


  1. Bowman: Fourhands
  2. Mastman: null
  3. Understudy: null
  4. Pit: Lazy Sheet
  5. Foresail Trimmer: Nonsuch
  6. Mainsail Trimmer: Bert
  7. Helm: StarPort

What an unexpected thrill ride!

And what a fantastic crew!

As we gathered at the dock on a sunny warm, calm evening we all had the same thought — not much wind, but a welcome chance to enjoy a lovely summer evening on the water.  And that’s how it began.

In fact, there was a bit more breeze at the start than we reckoned, a pleasing 7 knots or so.  Great!  We won’t struggle to keep the boat moving.  We even noticed a nice patch over on the Burlington side but none of the sharks were going for it, so we opted instead to go toward Hamilton.

Our start wasn’t bad, but a little late.  Under a cloud of canvas we opted to sail low and fast over to the better air at the Hamilton shoreline.  ReMarkable had the same idea, and pushed into the shore ahead of us, while the others tacked earlier to stay in the middle of the bay.

And then an unexpected wind shift hit us at the perfect time:  it backed just enough that when we tacked onto port, we were laying the mark!  That meant more time sailing upwind for the others in the fleet and a quick fetch for us.  The wind had also begun to build.

As we approached the windward mark, we had to cross the path of many boats that had begun their downwind leg.  It was great fun threading the needle among the beautiful spinnakers to claim our spot: we rounded just behind Top Gun.  ReMarkable had a commanding lead.  And this is how tonight’s video starts — sorry about my backside in the foreground, just focus on the periphery, where all the action is.  You’ll see us finding a line through thick traffic during which we did not have the right of way at all.

As there was no time on the layline, our hoist took a few extra moments, but then we powered up with Top Gun in our sites.  With the wind shift in place, it was a drag race to the leeward mark and the wind began to build even more, with some pretty strong gusts.  We watched the boats ahead to see where the gusts were.  One by one they nearly broached as a gust caught them unawares.  We were ready though, kept the pole nice and low, and begain to steer downwind as soon as the gust began to hit us.  As a result, we kept the boat flat and fast.  It was total concentration and great fun!

A clean douse a little early, around and back up.  It wasn’t a fetch all the way to mark #1 so we chose to tack early, and used Pandora II and Coyote to judge our line to the windward mark, splitting the difference between their choices.  Coyote had it right and we could have pushed a little further toward Hamilton, but at least there was no risk of overstanding.

Battlewagon and Sandpiper opted to stay along the Burlington shore, and we all got a lift when we needed it.  As a result, they were able to avoid the extra tacks we had done, and Battlewagon rounded before us, with Sandpiper astern.

Hoist again, clean again, and now it was a downwind drag race with Battlewagon.  We quickly came even with them as they took a bit longer to hoist and had traveled a bit further toward Hamilton.  Separated by 5-10 boat lengths we wrestled side by side down the bay.  Now they would pull ahead a bit, then we would catch a gust and gain on them.  Neck and neck the whole way.

Time to douse.  Clean for both.  They had a slightly hotter angle to the mark and pulled clear ahead.  I gave them mark room.  A shark had the inside lane on them, Chris had to give the shark mark room, and a window of opportunity opened up.  A very narrow window.  More like the eye of a needle.

As the shark doused and rounded, I swung wide before the turn, and then turned hard into the gap between the shark and Battlewagon, nearly clipping the shark’s outboard engine and squeezing into a tiny space to windward of Battelwagon.  Everyone was ready and we hardened up  just inches from Battlewagon.  Close enough to discuss world affairs.

Yup, we threaded that needle too!  (too bad the camera had been bumped, and was pointing a bit at the sky)

But with the wind up in the 12 knot range, it was really time for the #2 genoa.  The black one that is nice and flat and lets us point high.  The #1 is quite deep, and soon we could feel the effect of this.  Battlewagon pinched and pinched until we couldn’t fill our sails and we slipped gradually astern, giving us no choice but to foot off and sail for speed.  This meant an extra two tacks for us, conceding the race to Battlewagon by about 30 seconds.

Meanwhile Sandpiper crossed not far behind us.  It will be interesting to see how all this comes together after PHRF handicaps are applied.

And there are some lessons to learn in here.  Should we have changed headsails?  Could we have done it?  Should we have tacked away from Battlewagon, rather than losing the pinching match and footing off?  Was the backstay on hard enough?  Good things to ponder.

But for now, we will ponder the great thrill of threading the needle at both ends of the course!

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