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GHYRA Day SIX (Port Dalhousie to Bronte): Squall Watch

Race Details

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Course Map

Bert, Alvin and I took the inshore route this time, and it paid!  (Lazy Sheet had to pull out to get his eye looked at)

It was another gorgeous, hot steamy day with light wind and biting flies.  Another day to focus on dialing in the boat speed and keeping the boat moving.  We’ve had a lot of practice doing that lately.  The wind began pretty much on our nose at the start, and forecasts suggested it would clock to the right, so nearly every boat in the earlier fleet went to the right to take the header early.  We had this in mind, but we watched some boats try a port tack start…all it takes is one boat on starboard to make a mess of things.  We decided we’d be that boat on Starboard.  Besides, the boat end was favoured

Our start was really good today.  Timed well, in clear air right at the committee boat.  Perry-Eh took the pin end on port tack.  Sure enough, they had to dip us, but it was a very calm crossing as the wind was only about 4 knots.

We got dialed in quickly on starboard tack, so we held off on tacking just to see what would happen to the wind ahead, which looked better than the wind over to the right.  Sure enough, we gained speed and gained conviction about the inshore route.  This was redoubled when we finally did tack, and couldn’t find the groove on port tack, so we tacked back to starboard again and headed toward Jordan Station with growing boat speed.

It was remarkable and so satisfying to be sailing at 5 knots of boat speed in just 3 knots of breeze.  We were making our own wind!

And then we began to get a lift as the wind started clocking right.  We took about half the lift and footed off for speed with the other half.  A glance at the fleet and once again we had rolled a lot of boats who were up on the rhumb line.  Out came some amazing sandwiches and fresh cherries for lunch.

It became clear that after another lift we’d be able to fly the kite so Bert & Alvin got things ready.  Up went the spinnaker in a nice smooth hoist and we powered up on a hot line directly to our destination.  By now we had over six knots of speed on a smooth sea.  Even the flies were impressed, so they backed off!

As the wind continued to clock to the right we sailed deeper angles and chose to heat and burn our way back up to the rhumb line to consolidate our gains.  Here is a picture of our fleet from our stern.   Can you spot them?

This was about half way through the race, so the game plan became simple.  Stay between the fleet and the finish and go as fast as we can.  That sounds intense, but as the wind rotated further aft, it was really a matter of keeping the kite full and flying.  Here’s what it looked like on board:

There is something just so gratifying about being in a really strong position early in a race and then enjoying the game of getting the most out of a steady stable wind.

But it was clear that the wind was not going to stay steady for long.  The west end of the Lake began to disappear, and the distant sky rumbled its malcontent as harbingers of what was to come.  The radio chirped with squall warning and then squall watch.  Yes, we were watching!  With the spinnaker up, we were poised for a quick douse to remove sail area as soon as possible.  By this time we were about an hour from Bronte, and it became clear that the brunt of the storm was tracking along the Niagara side of the lake.  Good for us, but not for the smaller boats in the fleet who were still back there.  Here’s the western end of the lake at this time.  The lift bridge had completely disappeared, and the distant thunder was approaching:

We scanned the water for squall lines and studied the clouds, ready for signs that it was time to douse.  The first sign came as a wind shift and we jibed back on course for our destination.  Then it hit.

The kite powered up with a will of its own.  Bert grabbed the sheet and headed into the hole.  As we eased guy and sheet the kite went higher, filled more strongly, pulled the boat around.  We blew the lines and the kite came down.  By now the wind was up to 20 knots, and the mainsail gave plenty of power.  I sailed the boat (over 7.5 knots of speed) on main alone, while Bert and Alvin cleared lines.

Just as quickly as it hit us, it was gone and we pulled out the jib, readied the spinnaker bag and hoisted again.

And like all good summer storms, it bounced off something in its path and came right back at us!

Another wild and woolly douse, back to jib & main sailing, and we watched rain settle in over Oakville.  By now we had only a mile to go, so we settled in for a white sail finish, even running wing-on-wing for a bit.  Conditions would have allowed us to set the kite once more but we were weary and wary.  Looking back at the fleet, everyone had made the same decision.

All told, we finished with line honours again, 12 minutes ahead of Perry-Eh, and a good half hour more on the next boat.

We turned at the line, aimed toward Burlington, away from the rain and watched the finish line completely disappear in the downpour.  Although we got a bit of rain, it wasn’t much and soon the sun was shining, drying us up as we tidied up, motored through the bridge and to our slip at LaSalle.

What an awesome day!


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