Three of us on board for a 25nm race on Lake Ontario that started and finished at the Burlington Bridge. The course was to round three marks (Bronte, Winona Rifle Range, & CCIW Spider) in any direction we chose. With the wind from the North, we opted for clockwise.
Mainsail trim, Spinnaker trim, Foredeck, Sail changer, Douser, Food bringer and otherwise runner-a-rounder: Go-go-Gadget. (Tasmanian devil has nothing on this guy)
Foresail trim, Pit, Navigation & Data: Lazy Sheet
Tiller holder: StarPort.
It was a gorgeous summer day with lots of wind at the start promising a quick and intense lap before a relaxing party back at the marina. But what unfolded was a four part miniseries with many plot twists, gut-wrenching anguish, a moral victory and a third place result (for GHYRA). Note: Top Gun was in this race, but not competing in GHYRA.
Part ONE: Big Wind & Waves
Chose the #2 and it was the right choice for sure: 15g20 upwind to Bronte with 3 foot waves crashing us and slowing us. We did well, gaining on many boats, but the J35s who started 30 seconds after us were able to handle the surf better and overtook us. Foredeck was soaked with the occasional wave washing over us.
We opted to focus on boat handling and set the spinnaker only after rounding. Good choice with three on board!
Rounding was smooth, planing with the #2 headsail while Gil rigged the spinnaker and double and triple checked everything. We gained some ground on Battlewagon as they also delayed their hoist. Hoist was smooth and off we shot. Battlewagon hoisted almost at the same moment! By now Top gun was well ahead (no delay in their hoist), and we reeled in Battlewagon. Attempts to pass them were in vain, so we sailed alongside for a while.
Part TWO: Sail Swap
The wind just completely died. From 15g20 to 0g3 (of inconsistent direction).
It was like hitting the brakes.
After an infuriating delay, a light breeze set up from the east. By now we had gained to windward of Battlewagon and Stigaro (whom we had just overtaken). Once we sailed into somewhat steady breeze, we doused the Spinnaker and hoisted the jib to sail in the right direction. It was all great except that now the #2 was the wrong headsail. Too small, and too flat.
So, we did a hot sail swap.
Gil & Mark readied a temporary jib sheet for the #2, got the #1 in place with the real jib sheets and then dropped the #2, swapped the halyard and hoisted the #1. It was pretty smooth, and didn’t take too long, but we had a weird headsail for a minute or so, and then no headsail for less than a minute. Once we had the bigger genoa we began to sail well, and re-overtook Stigaro. Battlewagon had their #1 up the whole time, so they were able to put some important distance between us.
Part THREE: A long and winding road downwind
It began fine with a nice match up with Stigaro and their asymmetric spinnaker. We pushed into shore hunting breeze that was not there, so we went offshore. For at least thirty minutes (more?) we kept believing there was better wind ahead, and kept chasing these mirages even though we were not sailing in the right direction. Meanwhile the waves were against us so we were dead slow. Finally we jibed toward the spider and were able to fill on a deep run with the waves at our stern. Eventually the wind began to build, but our rivals by now were un-catchable. In fact, we watched Stigaro overtake Battlewagon by a large margin.
Part FOUR: Curfew
Our new rival was the clock. Curfew was set for 6:00 and we had about an hour to cover just over 4 nautical miles. Boat speed was about 3.5-4.5 knots. Nip and tuck. A smooth jibe at the spider and we started to get optimistic, but each time we checked the clock the wind faded a bit and the boat slowed down. Eventually though, we beat our new rival, finishing just 4 minutes ahead of curfew. What a relief! We started the engine immediately and made the 6:00 bridge. 🙂
We will remember this day for a long time, and the very important lesson about chasing mirages. Sometimes there just isn’t any better wind to find and the right move is to sail in the right direction!