If Leaping Les & the Sleep Deprived were an ’80s era punk band, our own Four Hands would have torn down the house with his onstage antics tonight. With four on board and plenty of wind, putting in a good race on PERSPECTIVE can be a tough challenge in the best of times, but add to that the fact that Dave is on the steep part of the learning curve and Lazy Sheet and I had our heads full of moth balls after losing a lot of sleep on the LO300, and you can see what kind of gap Les had to fill. Squirrel got his nickname from running all over the boat to cover many positions. Following that tradition, Four Hands might be rechristened as Chipmunk!
The adventure started when we couldn’t start the engine, and chose to sail out of the dock on the #3 headsail. Easy Peasy!
The wind out on the course seemed pretty high, so we kept the number 3 up for a while, but it became clear that the fury was out of the wind, so we (I mean Les & Dave) changed to the #1 just in time for our prestart. Of course, as soon as that was done, the wind came back up to 13 knots or so. No time to change to #2, so we went with it.
Before the race, I had made a point that we were just out to have fun, and avoid a DNC, but once we got into start sequence that mission was chucked overboard and focus and decisiveness came from deep reserves of energy (and an afternoon nap!). As a result, we had a well-timed start near the middle of the line, Top Gun just to leeward and Battlewagon down at the pin end. Sandpiper got the boat end. Here we go!
But we weren’t pointing. In fact, the boat was performing like it did about two seasons ago, and we quickly fell off the line, conceding height to windward to the entire fleet. Les made some minor adjustments to the car position, Dave fine tuned the mainsail and we were back on track — it just goes to show how much we have learned as a crew, and how much we rely on individual experience in each position to eke out the most from the boat. Having fallen behind, we needed to try something different to win back some distance, and pushed in far to the Hamilton shore before approaching #3 on port. It worked, and we were back in it!
At the layline, we tacked just in front of Sandpiper, but then we got a knock and it became clear we would not fetch the mark. Two more tacks and we were around. And behind…again.
We were rigged for a jibe set, but the wind had backed further SW, so we sailed hot on jib alone while Four Hands got the pole lines ready under the jib. A jibe at the Hamilton Yacht club, and a clean hoist we now had a very deep spinnaker run down to the golf course.
It was like role reversal — usually we are the ones who sail hotter lines with the spinnaker while the J35s soak their way to the leeward mark. This time we were soaking while the rest of the fleet sailed extra distance. It worked out well for us, as we sawed off a lot of distance and earned the inside lane on Sandpiper. Just Top Gun and Battlewagon ahead.
Once nice thing about soaking is that it is easy to free-fly the spinnaker, so Les was able to get the pole down early and we could hold the kite up until the last possible moment. Four Hand jumped into his chipmunk hole with the spinnaker in tow like his superhero cape. Down it came like liquid, and we rounded the mark tight so that Sandpiper could get inside us.
Awesome, we are now in third place in a fleet of six, with Sandpiper right behind. Strategic decision: cover Sandpiper, let Battlewagon go, and hope that Remarkable doesn’t overtake when they split the course. Tack one: perfect, we are straight to windward of Sandpiper. They are sailing a bit faster and lower than us. They tack, and have to dip us. We tack to cover after crossing ahead: Oh no! The spinnaker halyard interferes with the jib sheet. We recover quickly but have lost a few precious boat lengths. Next crossing, they are ahead. We split the course and keep heading to Burlington, and they don’t tack to cover. This is our chance. We get a lift. Need one more tack to fetch the finish line. Remarkable has closed the distance. Tack three: crisp. We are fetching the pin end on Starboard. Will we force Remarkable and Sandpiper to dip us? Knock. We cross ahead of Remarkable, but behind Sandpiper and we will need another tack to finish, or at least to shoot the line. Sandpiper finishes, Remarkable tacks, we shoot the line.
We hear two horns in quick succession, about 3 seconds between them. Were we close enough to get Remarkable on PHRF?……..YES!
So we were one lift (or jammed spinnaker halyard) away from a third place finish, but managed to pull of a fourth. Not bad for Leaping Les & the Sleep Deprived. Thank goodness for the punk energy of our lead singer tonight 🙂
And afterwards we sailed the boat right into our slip under headsail alone. I guess, handling PERSPECTIVE has become so second nature that I can do it in my sleep ;-).
But that was the end of the line. All the energy in the reserve tank was spent. Lazy Sheet went home, and I had trouble putting together complete sentencezzz.