We left the marina with the feeling that the wind had blown itself out. There hasn’t been much wind for the last few hot sweltering days, just 30+ degrees of sunshine. So, we were just happy to be out on the water in these balmy conditions for one last Tuesday night race around the bay. With sweat beading on our foreheads, we hoisted the sails and set the boat up for light wind — everything soft and round. Two big ships anchored in the middle of the bay, forced the race committee to set up far down in the west end, across from RHYC. And as we approached, we could see a promising texture on the water in front of the yacht club. Sure enough, it filled in and when it reached us we suddenly had 10+ knots of tropical air drying our sweat, and heeling the boat. Fantastic!
The race committee had already set their course — a rather short one since the sun would set at 7:14pm — so we left the big #1 genoa up front, as it didn’t appear from the wind direction that we would be sailing close-hauled all that much. Indeed it was a bit of a drag race tonight, with few strategic decisions. As a result, the race was won and lost in the big maneuvers: start, hoist, douse and leeward mark rounding. If only we had a better start!
With the starting line set at Mark #5, near the Burlington shore, and the committee boat even closer in to shore, there wasn’t much room to sail around near the boat end of the line. The water gets shallow there. And I’m so used to gauging my time by using the boat as a reference point. But tonight we had to approach the start by running parallel to the line on port tack, then tacking onto starboard at the right moment and going for it. I think we should practice this kind of start next year. Bottom line, timing was good, but we ended up quite close to the pin end of the line, when the boat end was clearly favoured.
That put us in plenty of bad air among the other boats that were just to windward of us, so we tacked over, crossing just astern of our fleet to find some clear air. It definitely helped, and we even got some promising lifts, so that we rounded the windward mark just astern of the fleet — Remarkable just ahead of us, and Battlewagon a few boat lengths ahead of them.
We rounded, got onto our line and the hoist was clean. As usual, we closed the distance on our fleet with the spinnaker up. But there was no opportunity to pass anyone, since no jibes were needed — just a drag race on a bit of a broad reach. Nice and fast, and great fun. We maneuvered to a lane inside Remarkable and Battlewagon before dousing. Remarkable was just far enough ahead to get around before us, but Battlewagon was further outside and we were able to slip in front of them at the rounding. It was a great tactical maneuver that we actually planned, and it almost went exactly as planned! Rather than bringing the genoa out on port side, and then jibing both sails at the mark, we dropped the pole, flew the spinnaker for a bit without the pole, doused and then brought the genoa out on starboard for a wee bit of wing on wing before the rounding. This way, as we jibed around the mark into close hauled trim for the upwind, all we had to do was bring in the main and trim the genoa as we turned. Bingo! We were able to slip into a spot just beside Remarkable, with Battlewagon behind.
Upwind everyone except Remarkable and us tacked away to find the layline for the finish. We started off windward and half a boat length behind Remarkable. I was determined not to lose a pointing match with them, so we pinched a bit to stay high. Eventually, they footed off a bit, and we could fill our sails without any bad air. Both of us stayed close to the burlington shore and enjoyed a few lifts that teased us into believing that we could fetch the line — that would have been great, and we would have had a fantastic result — but it was not to be. So, we had one important decision to make — when to tack. We kept our eyes on Remarkable. They tacked. As they powered, up on starboard, we thought we might be clear ahead on port, but it was not to be. Do we dip, or do we tack? Roll the dice, and the answer is….let’s try to lee bow them! (We should practice this too :-)). At the last possible moment, we tacked, and put ourselves int the right position to give them our bad air, but they had so much momentum, that they rolled over us before we could get powered up. Nice try!
One last tack, to fetch the favoured pin end of the line and we savoured finishing 25 seconds ahead of Battlewagon (just 20 seconds behind Remarkable). Great fun! On the bow of of Battlewagon, our friend Ken gave us a gracious bow of his own, and we turned away for a pleasure sail on this tropical night.
For about an hour, we sailed the length of the bay as the setting sun gave way to a bright half moon and the twinkling lights of the Hamilton skyline. Total relaxation, gratitude for one last balmy night, and disbelief that it was almost October.
Thanks Tuesday lads for a great season — next race: May 8th.