Race #2 was cancelled due to high winds on Saturday, and Race #3 was shortened due to low winds on Sunday. Go figure!
But it was a good thing that the course was shortened. It took Brian Garrett and I five hours to sail the same course Jan Varkevisser and I sailed in two hours just a few weeks earlier. It seems like we are getting more than our fair share of light wind races this year. This particular race had two very interesting surprises.
The first came right after our start. As we approached the line the wind shifted a bit and slackened. As a result we were a bit late and away from the committee boat, which had been our target. Three boats in our start managed to hit the boat end well timed, and it took us a bit to get out from under their shadow and gain some momentum. But that gave us the chance to spot some much better wind filling in away from shore. We tacked away to claim it, sailing about 5-10 minutes on port until we were solidly in the better breeze. Back onto starboard we began reeling in the fleet to leeward. Only a few boats followed us to the better air. Some held the rhumb line to the mark, and some sought better air into shore. We aimed a bit above the mark to give ourselves some buffer in case of a header. The header never came, and some of the boats below us were able to fetch the mark ahead of us. Most were well astern!
Then it got silly.
The wind shut down.
The halyard popped off the spinnaker during the hoist and traveled all the way up the mast.
All the boats were standing still.
The finish looked to be downwind — we needed the spinnaker.
Brian is lighter than me.
We only had the jib halyard.
That doesn’t enable someone to reach the masthead.
Long story short: mid-race in a windless hole surrounded by a dozen stranded boats, I hauled Brian up to the hounds armed with a boat hook and a wad of duck tape. Gingerly he got a grip on the halyard and brought it down. Up went the kite!
But by this time, we were facing the wrong direction, sailing the wrong direction and the wind had shifted direction completely. So we carried the kite for only a few minutes to get to some breeze near the shore of Toronto Islands. Douse, headsail, back on course, look around.
How much did all that spinnaker fuss cost us? At most 10 boat-lengths!!!
Brian drove, and I tweaked and we managed to finish third in our fleet. But, first place might have been ours if we hadn’t lost all that time fussing over the halyard!
Never mind, it was a great day with a funny story to tell, and most importantly, we were all safe.
And there is another lesson to learn here. About an hour before the finish, we crossed ahead of Lively, a J109 in our fleet with about the same rating. They were sailing low and fast, while we were sailing high and slow. For a time, we thought our choice to sail less distance would benefit us, but ultimately, Lively finished 9 minutes ahead. With light wind, and a bit of a gentle swell on the lake, clearly going low and fast was key. Let’s try to remember this on light nights!