The star of tonight’s show was definitely the wind. Even the lulls were heavy air, and the gusts meant business!
With a light crew, we made up our minds pretty quickly to go for the #3, and as we started to sail with it, we decided that was still too much power and added a reef to the main. At this point, I was doubting that we would hoist the spinnaker, and thought we might just shake out the reef for the downwind, especially if it was a hot reach.
The committee boat was way in near shore at mark #6, the line was very short, and the boat end was strongly favored. Not a lot of room to line up and get the boat end of the line. And there is one patch where the depth meter only showed 7 feet of water under the hull. Yikes! Add to that the fact that with so much wind, we couldn’t hear the five minute warning, or even the four minute warning. So we kept near the committee boat throwing in a series of short tacks until David was able to get the timer started with one minute to go!
(At least the #3 is easy to tack! Fantastic coordination with Skootch and Dinghy — here is the time to point out that Dinghy came out to sub for Lazy Sheet who is on the mend but not ready for sport. Famous quote at the end of the race from Dinghy: “I have so much more respect for Lazy Sheet after all this!”)
Despite the short start line, the shallow water near the boat, the trouble with the timer and all those extra tacks, we were able to put in a good start, well timed near the committee boat and off we went. The entire Green Fleet came out to play tonight, so there were eight boats vying for a spot on that short line. Battlewagon and Sandpiper to leeward, Legacy to windward, and I can’t remember where the others were. All I know is all that traffic meant lots of bad air, and it took us a while to get in a groove. We were also the only boat with a reef. Many of the big J35s worked their way to windward of us.
Just like Tuesday, we pushed out on Starboard into the ‘better’ air in the middle of the bay (Question: is 22 knots better than 18?). By the time we tacked, we were almost on the layline and much of the fleet was ahead. I was so busy driving that I didn’t even notice that David had set the bag…he was more optimistic than I was!
At the layline we put in a nice lee bow on Dragon Bleu (the big Tartan), not because we were competing in any way, but because dipping them would have cost us extra distance and time and then we would have had to pass them on the downwind. Around we went, and shaked out the reef. A moment to get our bearings on the wind direction — very deep — so the lads got things ready and up went the kite!
7.7, 7.9, 8.1, 8.2, 8.6!!!
Yep, we were flying!
With a light crew, rather than sailing 160 degrees and jibing, I took us dead down wind (Top Gun did the same and they weren’t far ahead). Now, sailing dead down wind in 20ish kts of wind is a tricky thing. The death rolls wanted to start, the gusts wanted to broach us, turning downwind would risk a chinese jibe. There were moments when the boat healed strongly to windward and moments when it healed strongly to leeward. The boat was hyper sensitive to our own weight distribution, almost like a giant surfboard. And we spent a fair portion of the leg sailing ‘by the lea’ (in other words in jibe territory). Needless to say, the hair was standing up on the back of my neck! At one point, I doubted my instinct about which way to turn the boat if there was a risk of a jibe — kinda important 🙂 — but the crew was unanimous when I asked them, so that settled that!
I’ve made it sounds daunting, but this deep fast sailing was really fun, and with those speeds, all VMG, we would have gained very little sailing hot angles. Instead, it avoided the need for the jibe. We sailed a little further, doused and sailed just a few hundred meters on jib and main to the leeward mark. This bit of conservatism avoided a lot of hassle and the risk of a messy douse or rounding, but it did allow Legacy and Battlewagon to slip ahead of us.
At the leeward mark, Battlewagon rounded ahead, but left a little slot between them and the mark, and I was able to stick our nose in there and draw level with them as we hardened up. Next up was the big tactical decision: drag race with Battlewagon, or tack away to chase Legacy. There was a lot of traffic of smaller boats ahead, so we opted to tack away. Our next crossing with Battlewagon gave the answer — they had gotten ahead.
Drat, now there’s a boat between us and Legacy. We could afford one, but not two! And it became apparent that we were not going to fetch the finish line — needed two more tacks to finish, and that secured the finishing sequence of Legacy, Battlewagon, Perspective. Ahead were Sabotage and the rest of the J35s. Sandpiper hadn’t hoisted and they were astern.
We wasted no time furling the jib, and exhaled after a night of hard work. As we put things away, we reflected on whether we had done enough to secure our third place position on Thursday nights. Our sense was that we had done just enough, which was confirmed when the results were posted a little later. With a burger and beer in hand, we toasted a great summer series!