Even stronger than the wind we experienced at the start was the unbelievable gradient in wind speed between the Hamilton Shore and the Burlington Shore. The difference was night and day, and we learned (the hard way), that one tactical error in these conditions can neutralize an entire evening of perfect execution.
The perfection began before the race as we studied long and hard before selecting the #2 genoa. In the gusts, we were tempted to go for the #3, but the lulls kept going lower, so we opted for more power. Perfect choice — aside from one or two tough gusts, #2 was the right call.
Next was the start — it was a weird one with the wind getting light and flukey. In the light wind, we jibed twice on the layline to the committee boat to just stay nearby and in position. As we went for the line, we burned time by feathering up and forcing Battlewagon below us, then bore off into plenty of clear air while the rest of the boats were further down the line. Legacy and RdE were over early and had to restart. Off we go!
But we struggled to point [ contrast that with the next race, on Tuesday night, and there is a big lesson in there]
Nonetheless, we sailed a great windward leg, with Gadget managing the gusts like a pro. We stayed toward Hamilton shore until the last moment, and this gained us a few positions. Only Remarkable and Top Gun are ahead as we round. Sabotage is away. It’s starting to feel good.
Hoist is clean. Wind angles support a quick jibe onto the rhumb line. Clean jibe. Slow. Meanwhile, to leeward, Battlewagon is gaining steam in better air. Legacy is behind, suffering like us. We take our lumps, and jibe toward Hamilton. Legacy does likewise. We jibe back to windward of Battlewagon’s line. Legacy pushes further to the Hamilton shore. We’re moving, but by now Battlewagon is well ahead. To leeward, Legacy starts cooking.
Next perfect choice was a headsail change, switching to the #1 as the wind had dropped below 12 kts. This gave us a chance on the last leg.
Approaching the leeward mark, three boats converge (Top Gun and Battlewagon are ahead): Remarkable to windward, us, and Legacy to leeward. It came down to a boat-length, but both of them got ahead of us. Once we rounded, it was a drag race to the finish and we started astern and in bad air. Legacy had the windward side. Once again we struggled to point.
The nutshell, Legacy got Remarkable between us, and Battlewagon was ahead of them. The lesson: when the wind gradient is that strong, sail the extra distance!