Oh boy, this was a nail-biter. Not because of intense wind — quite the opposite — it was because of the slow motion drag race to the finish. But I don’t want to spoil the drama, so let’s rewind the tape.
A gorgeous evening, with a nice bit of breeze. Enough to get the boat moving, but light enough to confidently set the #1 at the dock. Shrouds nice and loose and all the delivery sails packed away in the trunk. Sunshine peaking between watercolour clouds. Forecast called for the breeze to lie down and clock toward the North. It sure did!
Just four boats in our fleet tonight — all our friendly Tuesday competitors minus Raison d’Etre. We wanted the boat end of the line, but we wanted clear air more so we could escape the bad air our rivals would create. In the pre-start, it looked like Top Gun wanted to tangle with Battlewagon, so we let them duke it out. We turned toward the line a wee bit early, so we ceded the boat end to Top Gun but gained clear air and plenty of boat speed when the gun went off.
And the clear air really paid! We need to remember this next season, because although Top Gun started to windward of us, they ended up footing off and passing astern — just as we have had to do to them so many times. Nonetheless, when they tacked onto port short of the lay line, they were clear ahead. We focused on keeping Battlewagon astern and used our clear air to climb almost onto their line. Close enough that we were able to tack across their bow. They pushed a few more boat lengths and tacked to windward and astern of us.
The approach to the mark was the most critical part of the race. Although it cost us some time, we pointed higher and climbed up onto Battlewagon’s line so they couldn’t overtake us on the high side. Eventually, they footed off and went below us, ceding the inside lane to the turning mark. In fact, the height helped us out even more, as we were able to fetch the mark without another tack, and put a big boat between us and Top Gun, with Battlewagon astern of them — excellent!
The next leg was a short close reach to mark #1, a point of sail that PERSPECTIVE really loves, and we were able to stave off the approaches of Top Gun on our weather quarter. As we approached the next mark, Four Hands re-rigged the spinnaker bag so that we could do a jibe set. We were closing in on Pandora, but not fast enough to get an overlap, so we planned for a tactical rounding. This went off very well, aided by the fact that Pandora was set for a bear-away set.
We jibed and Les set the pole. Top Gun followed us around and sailed a bit higher course to windward. Even though we popped our kite well before them, they were still on our wind and we couldn’t accelerate away. But once they got across our bow, we heated up a bit and began to enjoy clear air again. Meanwhile, Battlewagon had done a bear away set which took them closer to the Hamilton shore. By now they had jibed and were behind and to leeward. Things were looking good, especially as the wind began to clock a bit toward the North. We could heat up and managed to pull even with Top Gun, who had chosen a lower course back toward most of the other boats.
If the wind speed and direction held, we were sitting pretty.
But it didn’t. It went aft and got light. Now we had to soak deeper than the others in failing wind and we kept getting slower. It was so hard to get the spinnaker to fly, and even to know if the pole was set correctly. And our rivals seemed to have better air to leeward. Even though Battlewagon had to pass below a whole series of other boats, they continued to make progress up the fleet.
Our stomachs were clenched as we held our breath through yet another lull and drifted to the finish line with about 2 knots of boat speed. We were at the pin end. Battlewagon at the boat end. Top Gun between.
In slow motion, we watched them begin to overtake. Top Gun got the gun. Battlewagon crossed next, and then us. But there was only one second between us.
We breathed. It ought to be enough. What a fantastic finale to a great season sailing in tight competition with excellent rivals. A squeaker indeed!