Just a stunning evening on the bay tonight! Yesterday’s thunderstorms cleared out the humidity leaving a bright sunny evening with little popcorn puffball clouds.
And plenty of wind!
Once again from the NWish, and once again lots of gusts. The race committee set a fantastic course using a drop mark down near Heddle marine, just shy of where the old #12 would have been. A giant freighter lay parked just northeast of the rhumb line between 6 and the drop mark, but the last beat had us passing eastward of the freighter. When the gusty wind bounced off the freighter, it accelerated, changed direction and kept us on our toes.
And with three hoists, three douses and tons of gusts to manage, the five of us on board were plenty busy. I know I’ll sleep well tonight 🙂
- Afterguy was away preparing for vacation coming up.
- Lazy Sheet took the night off to give his hamstring more time to recover.
- Dinghy took the pit job for the first time, and climbed the learning curve quickly — another baptism by fire — but with three repetitions tonight, it was a perfect chance to learn quickly. All in all a fantastic performance: well done Rob!
- With Kiwi on the helm, I got a lot of practice managing big gusts, and three chances to haul in the spinnaker from the hole. That more than doubled my experience doing that!
- Four hands packed, repacked, repacked, set, reset, and reset the spinnaker bag for three jibe sets — the first of which we were not prepared for and demanded a real time re-routing of everything. Fantastic!
- Nonsuch tacked and tacked and trimmed and trimmed and trimmed and kept a keen eye on traffic. With a short fast course and three laps, there were a lot of boats to avoid.
- And Kiwi, with his classic coolness, found ways to pinch around them rather than dipping, and brought us around a very tricky weather mark without the need for extra tacks.
This is why we sail!
Interestingly, with all that activity on board each boat, no one passed anyone. At the start, Top Gun, Remarkable and Sandpiper got away, we were next with Battlewagon astern. And that is the sequence in which we rounded each mark. We did everything we could to try to reel in Sandpiper, but in the end it took everything we had to fend off Battlewagon on the last beat.
The first upwind was solid, and we rounded simultaneously with Battlewagon, both of us pinching, them with the inside lane. We were shocked that we made it around, and don’t quite know how they managed to make it too. We were set for a bear away set, so our hoist was delayed. under genoa we took the inside lane over Battlewagon, and even though we hoisted at a similar time, we had gained an advantage they never got back.
All was good until the last run. We had become accustomed to the wind angle which allowed us to sail a hot angle until the part of the course where the freighter changed the wind direction and then soak down to the mark. But this time the wind direction had shifted and we got caught a bit too high on the course. Maybe we should have jibed, but the swirly wind wasn’t reliable and boats ahead and to leeward were soaking down to the mark. We did the same, running dead downwind, nearly suffering a Chinese jibe. In the meantime, Battlewagon took a lower line and were able to stay filled and fast, eating into our lead. We doused early, jibed the genoa twice and rounded just a few boat lengths ahead of them.
Somehow in the rounding they managed to grab a line to windward of us just behind. This was trouble. Typically upwind they can out point us, and I had a picture in my mind of us falling off and ending up behind them after the first tack. The wind by now had softened enough that we could focus on technical sailing, and gradually we built more speed and pointing ability and Kiwi was able to climb up onto Battlewagon’s line. We gave up a few boat-lengths in the process, but now Battlewagon was in our bad air and began to fall behind. They tacked, we tacked to cover and again we focused on pointing. Gradually they fell off our line, so that when we both put in our final tack to the finish line, we were well ahead.
We just won a pointing battle with a J35!!!
I think there were three contributing factors:
- Much tighter shrouds. Tonight I dialed them up really high, beyond the settings I thought were for 22+ knots. I’m testing the hypothesis that we are only starting to make things firm enough. Tonight was a good indication that we are heading in the right direction.
- Using the flat #2. Sure, we were overpowered in the gusts and there were times when the mainsail was completely inside out. But, in the lulls we could power up and point. Let’s leave the #3 for the extreme nights.
- Focusing on the back edge of the mainsail, and good communication between helm and mainsail trimmer to get as much out of the main while managing weather helm.
So, we’ll keep pushing in the direction of tighter shrouds. One important footnote: Kiwi spotted that we had negative mast bend with the initial settings of the shrouds. We were able to neutralize this with some backstay, but it was a bit troubling. After the race, using the theory that this was a compression bend, we eased the lowers a few turns and were able to straighten it out. Now we have a new set point for moderate to high wind, and can start to fine tune from there.