Plenty of wind yesterday for the Peaches N PHRF regatta out of Newport Yacht Club-Stoney Creek. I mean 15g21 at the start of the day, down to a steady 10 knots or so by the end. The watchword? “Hold onto your false teeth!” Here’s an awesome highlight video from Sapphire in our fleet, with plenty of good shots of PERSPECTIVE on the race course:
It was great to include a couple of crew-mates from our friends on Sandpiper. Len & Trevor joined Bert, Rob I, Mark F and me for a very busy day on the bay. Trevor and Len were great company, and I hope a new tradition has begun, to combine forces for regattas. (We just gotta find Len a blue shirt :-)).
Before the races, I dialed the shrouds down to an even tighter setting, hoping we could fly the #2 headsail, because it points so much better than our #3. I also had the backstay adjuster almost at max. The rig was tight, and it worked! We were able to consistently out-point our fleet, and won several upwind drag races against Battlewagon. Of course, everyone hiking hard, and Len trimming the mainsail in every gust were essential to those little victories.
During the day, we experimented with reefing the mainsail with the #2 headsail. We held our own against Battlewagon’s full main & headsail. And during an upwind beat, when the wind started to slacken somewhat, the lads shook out the reef like a group of Volvo Ocean Racers. Sweet!
Race #1: Our start was solid, we found clear air quickly and were the first in our fleet to the windward mark. On our first downwind leg, flying the kite, we were sailing deep and hit 9.2 knots, streaking away from the fleet. A solid jibe and we had a hot angle to the leeward mark in big winds. Things started to go wrong, and there was too much power, so we doused a bit early. That put us astern of our fleet. We fought back upwind, and the guys on the pointy end were kept very busy trying to assure a clean hoist. But then our biggest disappointment happened: the spinnaker halyard shackle let go halfway up the hoist, and the whole kite went into the drink. Aaaarrrrrggggh! (gotta look into that shackle since that is the second time this has happened recently). Once we recovered, we were well astern. We managed to overtake Tardis before the finish, but they still got us by a couple of seconds on PHRF. Fourth place finish.
Faced with the prospect of white-sailing against a spinnaker fleet, we relaxed, enjoyed a bite of lunch, and got ready for the next race.
Race #2: Got the gun! It was a thing of beauty. I wish I had the camera running for this race, because the highlight reel would make us proud.
- We were at risk of being pushed into the committee boat on our approach to the start, so we stalled for a few seconds (head to wind) to escape the trap. This put us ten seconds late, and in a lot of bad air, so we tacked away quickly into clean air and sailed our own course to the windward mark.
- Sail trim was impeccable, even with ferocious gusts that tried to round us up
- At the windward mark, we were short of the layline by about a boat-width. Battlewagon had just rolled over us and made the mark. Rather than tacking twice, I pulled a chapter out of the Doug Folsetter tutorials. We went for speed, and at the last moment, I turned hard upwind, letting the boats momentum carry us above the mark and back down to fill the sails, clearing the mark, and barely losing any distance. This was the moment we kept talking about later in the day. What a rush!
- And now we had to chase down Battlewagon, with Conspiracy also a few boat-lengths ahead. The course had an offset mark in it, so there was a bit of a drag-race section before heading downwind. Bert trimmed the headsail perfectly, Trevor eased the outhaul, Len filled the mainsail, and we rolled over Conspiracy and closed the gap on Battlewagon (Check out Ben Gravelle on the bow of Conspiracy watching us go by…remember him giving us a newbie lesson onboard our first season?)
- Downwind, only Sapphire in our fleet flew their spinnaker, so we were in a wing-on-wing battle with Battlewagon. We held our own even with reduced sail area, and managed to secure the inside lane for the rounding.
- But there was traffic ahead. A whole cluster of smaller boats proceeding more slowly. I thought I could get inside them all, but at the last minute had to bail. A quick adjustment on the helm swung our bow within inches of the outboard engine of a blue hull. By the time we were back on course, Battlewagon had slipped ahead of us and they had us right where they wanted us: behind and to leeward, right in their stink.
- We couldn’t tack away right away because of the traffic behind us, so we held on until it was clear to proceed. We converged with our rivals once again at the windward mark. Once again a wee bit behind.
- Once again we kept up with them downwind. Once again we got the inside lane.
- But this time there was less traffic, and we were able to round inside so that we were now in the better position. But it was a tight situation. They were half a boat-length behind and our hulls were just a foot apart from each other. Could have stepped across, even in the howling wind.
- “Hike Hard! Jib in! Mainsail up!”, and slowly we began to pull away. Rather than losing a pinching contest with a J35, we were able to gain distance and height on them until they were in our bad air, and slipped to leeward and behind.
- They tacked. We tacked to cover. Again we out-pointed them, and the separation grew.
- One more crisp tack to finish and we got the gun with 15 seconds to spare.
Confidence is up! High fives all around! Is the wind slackening? Shake out the reef. Good. Change to the number one headsail. Good. Massive gusts (20+ knots). Not good. Put the reef back in. Not enough. Change back to the #2. Okay. Ready. Three minutes to start!
Race #3: With all that adjusting between races, our start approach wasn’t well prepared, and we were a bit late, but tacked away to find clear air and immediately shook out the reef. Balance was great now as the worst gusts seemed to have blown themselves out. We powered up and pointed high, once again meeting Battlewagon at the windward mark. Sapphire was there too, having an excellent day (they were flying their spinnaker really well, and kept making up lost ground on the downwind legs). Another drag-race to the offset mark. Another wing on wing downwind. Another traffic jam, but this time I snuck inside some of the smaller boats, but Battlewagon had to go outside them. A great advantage that set us up well to shut the door on our rivals. Again, we were fast and high on the upwind, extending our lead by a lot. Downwind, Battlewagon flew their spinnaker but didn’t manage to catch up. Sapphire, on the other hand, overtook us, rounding the last leeward mark just ahead of us. We immediately tacked away from their bad air, crossed the line of oncoming spinnakers. Tacked over, crossed them all again and realized we were on the layline to the finish! We had to duck Sapphire, but just by inches, and we knew they would have to tack again. Could we get another gun? We were on port, Stigaro on starboard and it looked like we would have to duck them, but that would risk missing the finish line, and two more tacks. Now, we couldn’t let that happen, so we pushed it very close to Stigaro, snuck around their stern, hardened up and pinched to the finish, just meters from the anchor line of the committee boat. Another gun!
Final results are posted here, showing a second place overall finish. Sapphire took top honours, and Battlewagon got third. Another great regatta for PERSPECTIVE! Thanks to all the crew for an awesome day.