After a thunderstorm cleared through the area in the afternoon, a strong gusty breeze followed, and we delayed our decision about the headsail until the last reasonable moment. True wind settled down below 22 knots, and the course involved a short beat, and lots of reaches. We chose the #2 with the logic that we may be overpowered on the first beat, but we’ll need the horsepower on the reaching legs.
And with just five of us on board, we weren’t convinced we would fly the kite.
By the time we were in sequence, the burr had been rubbed off the wind and the #2 was exactly the right choice.
Our start was solid, well-timed, right at the committee boat. We had to scrub some speed off by blowing the genoa for a bit and by steering greedy zig zags. Top Gun was in our trap to windward, but we were early so we let them across. Timing and position were perfect, but we took a bit to find our groove and get our boat speed.
Remarkable had a great start to leeward and were able to cross our bow on port tack. The rest of the fleet sagged to leeward, but with our #2 we could almost fetch mark #5. Top Gun tacked across our bow. We held out longer and then tacked. We met again on the layline and put in a lee bow attempt. It was pretty good, not perfect, but we were able to keep Top Gun from rolling us. So, I’ll give that a solid “B” Sandpiper snuck in around the mark ahead of us.
We footed off as we rounded and snuck to leeward of Sandpiper, letting them scrap with Top Gun to windward. Half way to #1, they pulled a few boat lengths ahead, but we were holding off the rest of the fleet. At the second mark, the order was Sabotage, Remarkable, Top Gun, Sandpiper, Perspective with Raison D’Etre and Battlewagon astern.
A quick jibe at the mark, and we deliberatley selected a higher point of sail while David set the bag and pole. I still wasn’t sure we would hoist, but the theory was that we would sail above the rhumb line so that we could follow a lower course with the spinnaker up. Regardless, we caught up to Top Gun and were abreast of them to windward when we both hoisted.
18 knots of wind, with TWA of 138 degrees. It was hot!
With the pole low and the mainsail inverted we hopped up on a plane over 9.4 knots and just took off. Top Gun to leeward struggled with their spinnaker (probably getting some of our bad air).
A few big gusts caused us to round up, but we recovered quickly from these near broaches. At this point we were preparing to douse — maybe it was just too much. But we had one more trick up our sleeve. Rather than douse, we footed off, taking a lower angle. Now with the main sheeted in we took off once again….and our friends on Top Gun doused. This was a decisive moment in the race as we pulled well ahead of our rivals.
Gil smiled like a cheshire cat as he drew on all his childhood experience flying kites to keep us fast and under control.
Aside from Sabotage (shaking martinis in the Bahamas by now), only Remarkable lay ahead, and we realed them in quickly, as they had no spinnaker up. But how to overtake them? To windward was dangerous — they could simply push us up, cause a broach, triggering losses to Top Gun and the entire fleet. No good. So, I tried passing to leeward.
Sure, it looked like we might overtake, but then we got in their wind shadow and fell behind them again. It just wasn’t going to work. So, we opted to douse a bit early, make sure we were clear to tack, and then try to reel them in on the final fetch to the finish line.
Douse was clean, and we were abreast Remarkable (them with the precious inside lane). Everyone was tensed for the rounding. We gave Remarkable mark room early — this was not a night for sneaky tricks — and focused on a strategic rounding: wide, harden up to a fast reach, then close hauled at the mark. There were mere inches between our bow and their stern as we came around the mark….but they didn’t give us any chance to get to windward of them. We settled into a drag race right on their stern as the wind was big and the gusts were even bigger. Top Gun was dead astern, doing their level best to reel us in.
David trimmed the genoa perfectly on this close reach and Gil kept us trading gusts for speed. We couldn’t close on Remarkable (they got us by 14 seconds), but we kept Top Gun astern!
The mood on board was unbeatable…just like Forest Gump might say….”We beat Top Gun….again”
Pinch me, was I dreaming? I’m sure that this race came right from the pages of a fantasy of mine sometime during the cold dark months of winter.