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GHYRA Day Three (Burlington to PCYC): Ghostbusters

Race Details

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Course Map

Dinghy, Lazy Sheet and me had a fantastic day together and we got PERSPECTIVE’s mojo back on a long pursuit race!

Of the two competing forecasts for the day (1-2 knot drifter, 10 knot sea breeze), neither proved to be true, nor did their average.  Rather we had a sea breeze of about 7 knots from the east at the start, dropping to a milky calm 4 knots that rotated SE, S, and then rotated to the SW and built to 15 knots for the finish.
Our thoughts were to go into shore to catch the sea breeze that we expected to build, and after we watched Nautibuoy start with a hot spinnaker heading for the Burlington shore, Dinghy got the spinnaker bag set so we could do the same if we chose.  Half an hour later the sea breeze had begun to fill, Pandora compared notes with us about following Nautibuoy and we watched them start.  The sea breeze had filled enough and the wind angles had changed enough that this was clearly not the way to go.  After retrieving Brian Garrett’s hat, we opened the #1, but left the spinnaker bag in place as an eventuality. The sea breeze filled more and we prepared for speed.
The start was well timed and we were pretty quickly dialed into good boat speed and performance.  We were even able to harden up a bit to point high — above our rhumb line — taking all the height we could in case the wind shifted forward.  Battlewagon started 20 seconds behind us and they must have had a good start too because they began to approach on our starboard quarter.  For nearly an hour we were able to keep them there as the wind began to slacken and veer.  Eventually it settled into a surreal drag race on mirror calm water separated by less than a boat length.  Wish we had some drone footage!
And then they rolled over us.  All it took was one wiggle in the wind, one lapse of concentration in steering and our speed fell off while their momentum carried them over us.  We stayed calm, and I think that was the key to our success today.
We rebuilt speed quickly again, but by now, Battlewagon had fallen off the breeze and we gained leverage to the outside.  Something Brian Garrett had said to me a few weeks ago echoed in my mind…”when the breeze is light, sail a higher angle to create more apparent wind”.  Like young Luke responding to Obi-Wan, I took the advice while we kept the slot wide open between the main and the genoa.  As the wind continued to rotate, this path took us away from shore and away from the rhumb line, but we were moving much faster than everyone shoreward and within the next hour we rolled over nearly the entire fleet!
Only Big Yellow (off our starboard aft quarter), Magic (ahead), and a few smaller white sail boats remained in contention with us.  After a lot of discussion we landed on a great plan — carry on sailing fast and away from the rhumb line until we could hold a hot spinnaker on the bearing to the finish mark.  Dinghy set the pole.  The moment came, smooth hoist, bear away, fill, and Bye Bye big Yellow!  We were ghosting along at five knots of speed consolidating our gains on the fleet as we headed back to the rhumb line.
Here’s what ghosting in mirror-calm seas looks like:
And here’s what it looks like on board (do we have a new candidate for the nickname Lazy Sheet?)
The wind began to build and mist rose from the surface of the water.  Toronto was merely the glint of the CN tower above the haze.  Were it not for that, we may have been sailing off the end of the earth.  Would dragons eat us?  We were keen to find out!
Soon it was only Magic ahead of us (C&C 35, like Celtic Spirit but they fly spinnaker).  We tried half-heartedly to reel them in — to no avail — but mostly focused on enjoying the stronger breeze the moved aft so we could sail deep and fast, finishing the race with 7.2 knots of boat speed.  Looking back, there were no boats in site.  Had the dragons eaten them there?
No.  One by one they emerged from the mist: Big Yellow, Battlewagon, Perry-Eh, Lindemere, Tardis.
What a great day!

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