With light wind, and a short course, the decisions made before the start made all the difference. While most of us were enjoying the dance of elephants among 40 sailboats on the last racing night of the year, Gil was laser focused on the fate of one shark who had started at the pin end, and nearly fetched the windward mark. Sure enough, they were well ahead, and so our start strategy was forged. Roll the tape forward and all the boats that started at the pin end on port finished well ahead of the rest. Bravo, Gadget!
But then it boiled down to execution, and the entire crew put in a flawless performance to keep the boat moving fast, even overtaking Remarkable three times (and yes, they overtook us three times), to finish just 8 seconds behind them. Top Gun was not much further ahead. (Sabotage was probably already docking).
The first interesting puzzle came at the start. We wanted to start at the pin end, but we could see a cloud of sharks bearing down on that precise pin at exactly the moment we would be starting. I could overhear Sabotage discussing the same issue in the pre-start, so we did the sensible thing and aimed for a spot on the line about 30 meters away from the pin. We timed it well, right astern of Top Gun. Battlewagon and Sandpiper chose the other end of the line, and they paid dearly for it when they had to sail a long extra approach along the layline.
For the first half of the upwind leg, we were struggling to point, until I remembered to firm up the backstay, and the lads firmed up the outhaul. The combination gave us more than 5 degrees of pointing!
Approaching the layline we were on port, and crossed just ahead of Remarkable (wow!), once we tacked onto the layline, they were ahead of us (the first exchange of position).
As we hoisted, WellWet got between us and Remarkable, so we chose to sail above them on a hotter angle to avoid their wind shadow. Eventually, we reeled in Remarkable again, gobbling up their air as we approached from the windward side. We push clear ahead, and claimed the inside lane, but they climbed to windward of us and overtook us again to claim the inside lane clear ahead (harrumph, the second exchange of position).
We rounded right on their stern, and I was trying to sweep inside to windward of them as we turned, but we were just too close, so I had to go to their leeward side. Normally that is a trap we cannot escape, but Remarkable had a fouled jib sheet and slowed enough that we were able to get clear ahead, climb to windward and spray them with bad air. We were almost on a fetch to the finish and we remembered the outhaul and backstay. In fact, on this last beat, we out-pointed both Top Gun and Remarkable. Amazing!!
Still, sailing slightly lower and slightly faster, Remarkable was able to push ahead and to leeward as we approached the committee boat. We kept getting lifted, but it was not enough. Once Remarkable tacked onto Starboard they were clear ahead by a slim margin (the third exchange of position).
The last lift was not quite enough to help us make the line, so we sailed for speed, aiming right at the committee boat, turning within meters to shoot the line just eight seconds behind Remarkable. It was a great duel with an impressive rival, and a great cap to an awesome season on the bay.
Even sweeter: with Legacy away tonight, the result was enough to earn a third place finish for the Fall Thursday series. That’s two flags claimed in this week’s races…fantastic!
And I think mother nature must have been rooting for us, because she was positively glowing as we headed back to the marina