Yep you read the windspeed right — up to 20 knots, gusting even more. It was ripping out there!
And we were completely overpowered by flying the wrong headsail. Although it was windy at the start (around 15 knots), several forecasts showed the wind dropping shortly after the start, so we opted to fly the old #1. Besides, it wasn’t a long way upwind to the windward mark, and we would be grateful for the extra sail area on the final upwind when the wind dropped. Right?
The forecasts were wrong and the headsail choice was wrong! Instead of dropping for the final beat, the wind grew to a veritable roar, and our only option at that time was to partially furl it to maintain a modicum of control. So we spent the night hanging on for dear life, and loved it!
Until the final beat we sailed a great race. With the shrouds tight, the backstay on, the outhaul maxed and the genoa in as tight as it could go, we were hitting 7+ knots upwind. In the lulls, Gil could get a bit of the mainsail to draw, but then another gust would come and the main was completely inside-out with just the genoa drawing.
We started on starboard near the boat end, powering up a bit late, so that Battlewagon — who started on port tack near the pin end — were able to cross ahead of us. Shortly after that we tacked onto port and nailed the layline to the mark. Halfway there, Battlewagon came across on starboard with the right of way, but we were able to squeak by them. That translated into a couple of boat-lengths lead at the windward mark.
We were set for a bear-away spinnaker set, but I had my angles backwards in my head, and had Calvin and David re-route everything for a jibe set. (WRONG AGAIN!) We rounded the mark, bore away and voila, we were on the rhumb line for the leeward mark down by the golf-course. So, Calvin and David re-routed everything again (they should have thrown me overboard by this point), and we hoisted a bit late. It didn’t cost us much, though as we were flying along with the big #1 and full main, clipping almost 8 knots.
But then the excitement hit another gear. Have a look:
Yes, two broaches and a new speed record. WOOHOO! 10.7 knots of blasting along. To get there, we had all our crew weight at the back of the boat on the windward side to keep it as flat as we could and help the boat get onto a plane. (Hull speed is 7.6 knots). What an amazing feeling!
With all this craziness, we were able to extend our lead by a few more boat-lengths at the leeward mark. The lads put in an awesome douse under high winds, and we jibed around the mark to discover ourselves woefully overpowered for the final beat. After struggling along for a while, we furled part of the foresail. Meanwhile, Battlewagon, flying a #3 jib, and using all her beam was able to grab a line straight to the committee boat, pass us, and add quite a lot of distance.
Hats off to our rivals for their win, tonight. What a thrill ride!
I’d love to do it all over again with a smaller headsail. Encore, Encore!