We had a premonition of some weather to come during the pre-start as the light breeze suddenly got a bit chillier. We donned our rain jackets as a precaution. And that was a move that was rewarded. By the end of the evening, the only dry parts of us were under those jackets!
But tonight’s race report is not really about the rain, it’s about the sweet satisfaction of overtaking boats in our fleet, a crew in synchronicity and a boat responding brilliantly to the wind and our coaxing.
Before the start, we talked about the lesson of sailing a bit lower and faster in light air and decided to put it to the test. By and large, Bert left a hand’s-breadth between the upper shroud and the genoa, and I did my best to keep both outer & inner tell-tales streaming. The result was very satisfying. We were still pointing high (less leeway, I guess) and our pace was excellent.
The start itself wasn’t spectacular. The pin end was strongly favoured, as was port tack, so I tried to to tack onto port just before the gun, down near the pin end. Without enough time to gather speed, we ended up footing off and dipping below most of the fleet before we could harden up. Shortly after that Battlewagon rolled over us to windward. We tacked as soon as we were clear, looking for clear air and better wind.
This tack was a big difference maker for us, as we essentially tacked onto a header as a persistent shift continued to progress. Textbook! Once on port tack again, we enjoyed good air and a lift to the layline and we were able to cross clear ahead of Battlewagon. Sweet satisfaction.
Now I should point out there were a lot of boats in our fleet tonight: two sport-boats (the Viper 830 and a new Esse 850, both with professional skippers and A-team crew), Top Gun, Take-Notice-Again (our favorite yellow boat), Battlewagon and Raison d’Etre. Eight of us in total. Approaching the windward mark, we were just a bit ahead of Battlewagon, but the sport boats, Top Gun and the minions were around already.
And then, with just a few boat-lengths to go, the wind lurched to the north, we got knocked way off course and had to tack (with the pole up) to fetch the mark. It was messy, but it was brief and we tacked back to round. Up went the kite! With all the focus on tacking, we hadn’t cleated the guy, so the spinnaker went high in the sky! Yes, up went the kite! but this was quickly settled and away we went.
And at some point in all of this, it began to rain lightly.
By now, Battlewagon was a few boat lengths ahead, and it was time to reel in the competitors. We sailed a very high line to windward of Battlewagon, and managed to catch up and overtake. White sail boats in other fleets had the rights to push us up, so I kept well clear of them. Ahead, we watched Wind Thief push Top Gun up terribly, so when it was our turn, we gave them and all their kin a wide berth. Next up was Big Yellow. They didn’t fly spinnaker, so we had the speed to overtake them, and were far enough to windward that they didn’t come to sport with us — thank goodness!
Because we needed to jibe at the leeward mark, we doused a bit early, giving time to clear the pole before we rounded. That was a good move because we arrived amidst a pile of traffic, and were able to choose a pretty good line to windward of most of them.
And during all of this, it began to rain more steadily.
With the wind coming from the North, the final leg was a fetch. With all the tell-tales glued to the sails, it was hard to know where to aim the boat, but Ken helped me see that I could point much higher. Sure enough, the boat speed built and we enjoyed a slightly stronger breeze as we cracked off to finish strongly. Big Yellow rounded behind us but powered up quickly enough to cross the line three seconds ahead of us — well behind on corrected time.
And by now it was raining pretty hard!
As wet as we were, our enthusiasm was not dampened. We knew we had sailed a good race: smart, well trimmed and well executed. It was a fourth place finish in a fleet of eight. That may not sound so great, but when you look at the boats that finished ahead of us…well, to finish top three, we need to beat Top Gun. I think that just about sums it up!
On the way back to the marina, there was a constant stream of water pouring off the boom right onto my head 🙂
Hastily we put the boat away and then headed up to the club house to wring out our socks, and toast Chris Cumming’s birthday, complete with pizza and cake. A perfect finish!