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210 second challenge revisited

For the 2018 season, I did some race analysis, that showed we were — on average — 210 seconds slower around the course than Top Gun.  I called it the 210 second challenge.  We set about learning about wind shifts and sail trim during the winter, and it sure did pay off:

For 2019, I repeated the analysis: 185 seconds slower.

That’s an improvement of 25 seconds each and every race, relative to our fleet leader.

So let’s go find another 25 seconds this season!

2019 PHRF Analysis

After every season, the PHRF-LO organization summarizes the performance of each boat, and compares it statistically to its handicap.  I summarized the 2018 analysis in this post last year.  This year, I’m still waiting to receive details, but I did get the summary results from the past few seasons.

The trends over the past three years show really strong improvement in our performance and our consistency:

Year Rating Performance Net ST/Dev Comment
2017 73 83 +10 +19 Off the pace and inconsistent
2018 73 76 +3 +10 Near our potential, not as consistent as we’d like
2019 73 72 -1 +5 Even better than our rating, very consistent

How to read the table:

  • Performance is a calculated effective rating for the boat.  In other words, we sailed PERSPECTIVE as if it were rated 83 in 2017 (10 seconds/mile slower than her potential)
  • Net is the difference between calculated effective rating for the boat and its speed potential (ie: its rating).  In 2018 we were only 3 seconds/mile slower than our potential)
  • ST/DEV is a measure of consistency.  Big numbers like +19 in 2017 mean we were inconsistent.  (When we started out we had a year with ST/DEV +38).

So, in a nutshell, we now sail PERSPECTIVE consistently at her speed potential.  One way to think about that:  if we were in a one-design regatta against a dozen other J100s, we’d finish consistently in the middle of the pack in each race, but our consistency would earn us a spot just off the podium for the event as a whole.

It’s a huge accomplishment in just a few years, and I’m convinced we can keep improving.  For reference, in 2018, Top Gun’s Net was -18, and they were pretty consistent.

How?  Stay tuned for the 2020 winter series!

The last tack

What a season!  We’ve raced PERSPECTIVE for over 900 nautical miles this year, in mostly beautiful weather (okay, the Susan Hood was cold, and we got caught in a few squalls on the lake, but aside from that, right?).

And our performance has improved significantly over previous years.  Within the club racing, we were consistently competitive within the green fleet — a fleet that is itself growing more competitive with Battlewagon and Raison d’Etre also getting stronger week by week.  And within LOSHRS, competing with bigger boats from other clubs, we were also able to hold our own.

And as a team we’ve gotten tighter, had more laughs, savoured some surprising victories, and shaken off a few disappointments.  I’m gonna miss it!

Against that backdrop, tonight’s race would probably go in the ‘disappointments’ categories:  we had worked hard to get into a competitive position (just a few boat lengths separating each boat in the fleet), but on the last leg, we tacked away a bit too early and then in our effort to hold a high line, we couldn’t generate quite enough boat speed to hold off Battlewagon and Sandpiper.  A great example of just how tight the fleet has become — any given night can go any direction!

Here’s how it went.

At the dock, expecting a windy night, I set the shrouds for the 16-20 knot range, expecting to fly the #2 genoa.  In the pre-start we saw winds in the 14+ knots range, but they weren’t sustained.  Once the gusts passed, or we sailed out of the windy slots, we saw 9-12 knots, so we opted for the #1.  This proved to be the right choice as the breeze did die down.  We were only a little bit overpowered in a few gusts on the first upwind leg.

The start was interesting:  Top Gun and Legacy were over early and had to go back.  We and Battlewagon were late (us by about 5 seconds, Battlewagon behind us by about 10 seconds).  The advantage went to Sandpiper who had a good start, and got clear air too.  Away they went!

Upwind we held our own. In fact we out-pointed Top Gun and Battlewagon to sail less distance.  But they were sailing faster.  Approaching the windward mark, our rivals (except Legacy) were ahead.  So we had work to do on the downwind leg.

First step was a beautiful jibe set that got us right on course to the next mark swiftly.  Top Gun was to windward, but we got our spinnaker flying earlier than them.  They tried to roll over us on the windy side, but opted instead to take our stern and head to leeward.  Next up was Sandpiper. We tried to overtake them on the windward side, but they began to push us up.  Just then a gust grabbed us and we had a small broach, losing a couple of boat-lengths in our recovery.  Once we regained on Sandpiper, and began to overtake on the windward side, we realized that we shouldn’t get involved in this tangle.  So before they had a chance to push us up, we shivered our spinnaker to slow down a bit, turned deep once our bow was clear, and brought the pole back to accelerate on a deeper course.  It was a magical moment and we gained separation quickly.  Meanwhile to leeward both Battlewagon and Top Gun had been enjoying better air.  We gave chace, but Sandpiper was near enough to windward to give us swirly air, and we lost a bit of ground.

With Super Dave and Four Hands both on the foredeck, we held our kite up as long as we dared to regain a few precious boatlengths.  Top Gun rounded, Battlewagon was right on their stern and we were about a boat length behind as we all hardened up to begin the beat to the finish line.  Sandpiper was right behind us.  We were in this thing!

It’s so cool to have four big boats duking it out in close quarters 2/3 of the way through the race.

But the next decision made all the difference.  Kiwi asked me “Should we tack or cover them?”  I didn’t hesitate:  “Tack, we’re in their stink”, meaning that we were in Battlewagon’s bad air, and would lose a few boat lengths.  Besides, we were behind, so we should split the course.  That would have been the right answer if the last leg was straight upwind, but it wasn’t.  It was nearly a fetch.

All our rivals realized that if they pushed a bit further before tacking, they’d be able to finish the race on their next point of sail.  They all did that, and they all beat us.

It quickly became apparent that we may need another tack to finish, unless we got a lift.  So we sailed a high and slow mode, hoping to fetch the finish line without a tack.  Our rivals all sailed a low and fast mode confident of making the finish line.  The lift never came.  Battlewagon rolled over us like we were standing still.  Sandpiper gained enough so that once we tacked, they were able to finish clear ahead.

What a race!  Tight competition throughout, and our fate sealed by one tactical decision in the home stretch.  There’s definitely a lesson in here!

So that is how our amazing 2019 campaign came to a conclusion.  We have so much to celebrate this year, but this race was a reminder to stay humble, stay hungry and keep learning…game on!!

 

Squeaker

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!

2019 Fred Gilbank

You wouldn’t know it was almost autumn.  The temperature, humidity and soft edges in the sky suggested it was early July.  This could have been a GHYRA day.  But it was the Fred Gilbank Memorial Regatta, one of my favorite events of the year.  For the 2019 edition, it was a joy to sail it with David.  The regatta is named after Fred who crewed with David Groves in many double-handed races.  So the race is in honour of Fred himself, but also a tribute to all those hard working crew who distinguish themselves especially in double-handed races.

Arriving at the marina early this morning, it was hard to believe there would be any wind.  The bay was mirror calm and the flags along the lake shore were hanging limp.  Nonetheless, I hardened the shrouds to the 16-20 setting, betting on the forecast which called for a windy afternoon.  Sure enough, after a brief participants meeting, we motored to the bridge and texture began to form on the water.  Once through the bridge, the gusts began to come in.  We were in for an exciting afternoon.

David and I quickly had main and #1 genoa set, and practiced our line to the spider so we could set the cars and think through the race.  Wind looked to be about 12 knots just ahead of the beam with some gusts, so no shot at a spinnaker for the first leg.  Instead, we prepared for a jibe-set at the spider.

The start line was short, and set across the wind, so that the boat was advantageous.  But my goal was clear air as soon as possible, so we approached the line from below the committee boat and began to harden up to kill time.  With everyone on port tack, we were leeward boat and had rights.  As the start gun went off we were to windward and behind Battlewagon, but to leeward of Christephanie, so we took Christephanie’s stern and got to windward of them.  A bit of trimming and we shot forward.  As the fleet stretched out, we were in the lead with Battlewagon just a few boat lengths behind.

Meanwhile Pandora tried to carry their spinnaker to the spider, an idea we considered but rejected.  It was too tight in too much wind, so their attempt backfired, and by the time they had doused, they were well to leeward and off the pace.

At the spider, we bore away and then jibed before hoisting.  The kite came up smoothly and off we soared, right on course for our next turning mark.  Once things were settled, a quick look backward, and to our surprise, no one else had hoisted!

We focused on trim, and when David tightened the boom vang, our speed leaped from 7.5 to 8.5 knots.  Yeehaw, we were flying!

Fortunately, the wind held a steady direction even though there were areas of stronger or weaker wind.  David got the #1 down smoothly, and put it away and we debated whether to hoist #2 or #3.  First — when the wind was blowing 19 knots — David got out the #3 and moved the cars all the way forward.  But before bending the sail, the wind subsided to 14 knots, so he swapped for the #2.  But before he got it out of the bag, with 20 minutes before the Bronte mark, the wind grew again to about 20 knots, so we committed to the #3.

Our douse was smooth, even in all that wind, and we powered up on the jib and main.  Soon, we were close to shore in Bronte and needed to tack.  No problem.  But then it became clear that something had gotten fouled in the douse.  David tidied up lines and got things prepped while I got the chance to feel the #3 in 16+ knots of wind.  In a word?  BALANCED!

From there it was a game of trimming and looking for the best wind while watching the compass to try to play the shifts.  We found a strong slot of wind toward the Burlington shore and tacked a few times to stay in it.  As we progressed westward, the wind climbed to a steady 19 knots with some slow gusts.  Although the leeward rail was buried most of the time, we didn’t have to fight for balance, and maintained boat speed in the mid sixes.  Looking back, the fleet was far behind us, and we knew we had put in a great race.

We finished within less than three hours.  The course was 18 nautical miles as the crow flies.  We sailed about 21.  So our average speed was above 7 knots.  Fast!  Battlewagon finished about 20 minutes behind us.  They opted to sail white sail, and ended up finishing the race under mainsail alone, since they couldn’t hold their #1 genoa in the big winds during the last hour.  Other boats were well astern, so we went through the bridge.

And were in for a surprise!  The wind was roaring 25 knots in the channel and once we were through, there were 1m waves stacking up to great us.  We powered through them with our engine, but the spray was immense.  Both David and I were drenched by the time we got to the marina.  Good thing it was a warm day!

So after tidying up, as other boats began to arrive, we went boat to boat to help them all dock.  That’s when we learned that Christephanie retired from the race because their cap-shroud turnbuckles came loose (yikes!), and Meridian (Shaun Berrington’s new C&C 30) got a line wrapped around their prop (also yikes!).  And it continued to blow 25+ in the marina.

Once everyone was settled, we gathered at the BBQ dock for burgers, rum and coke, a toast to Fred Gilbank and the results.  Everyone told stories about being overpowered in the last hour of the race.  It seemed we were the only ones who changed a headsail.  Right — we were the only ones who carried a spinnaker the whole downwind leg!  But the spread in the fleet was enormous: it combined white sail and spinnaker boats ranging from PHRF 73 (us) through 240 (Tranquility).

Even so, this was our best Gilbank yet — a second place finish.  Shaun and Rita (Meridian) took first place, and Ken & Mike (Tranquility) took third.

What a great day 🙂

Very short & very sweet!

A splash of bubbly anyone?

Image result for champagne clipart

I think you know what that means, right?  Yes indeed, we managed to best our friendly neighbourhood Saboteur (and got Top Gun while we were at it).  In fact, tonight was our first first-place result of the season!

And it was an odd one, to be sure.

The wind was light as we left the marina, and threatened to get even lighter, so the race committee set a short course.  With the wind from the SSE, they set drop marks near 6 and 14 for a windward leeward course across the bay.  We were ready for a slow battle to find wind.

But as the start sequences began, we noticed the wind shifted to the NE.  The shift began curiously as the wind was so light and patchy it was hard to tell if it would persist.  But by the time the sharks were away the wind began to fill in and became consistent in direction.  The windward leeward course just became a drag race with the wind on the beam.  That means almost no passing lanes and it would all boil down to the start and sail trim.  The wind continued to fill.

The boat end was windward, and therefor strongly favoured, so we worked our way up toward it, tacking onto port with about 40 seconds to go and powered up.  Battlewagon was ahead of us and a bit to leeward.  They began to push us up before the start, but this was more to kill time as they were a bit early.  We started right on their tail, but with more boat speed, and were able to roll over them closely to windward in the first 20 seconds of the race.  Kudos to Ihab on the mainsail and Bert on the genoa.  Both of them trimmed perfectly throughout the race, but it was never more critical than in the escape from the start line.  Once we were ahead of Battlewagaon, we had clear air.  Sabotage was ahead and to leeward.  And of course, they began to gain distance on us so our air grew even more clear as it freshened up.

From that point, the race was a combination of managing traffic — David and Sean were reporting from the front of the boat like callers at a horse race — and closing down any passing lanes for Battlewagon (Lazy Sheet kept me  updated whenever they tried to sail a higher or lower course, so we could adjust accordingly).  And with Top Gun behind Battlewagon, our rivals were as intent on keeping Top Gun astern as they were on overtaking us.

The last rounding was interesting as we closed in on WellWet.  Fortunately, a crack opened up to windward as they rounded, so I jibed hard to claim that windward lane and we pulled away.  As we approached the finish line, it became clear that no one would pass anyone.  With the J35s astern, we were confident of a second place finish.  The question was whether we were close enough behind Sabotage to get them on PHRF.

Cheers…we were!

(clink)

Chess match

Summer made another appearance tonight as the boys in blue enjoyed blue skies above.  And the sun was shining on us tonight as we were in a tight race with our rivals, especially our friends on Battlewagon.  Several times during the race, we overtook each other, sometimes just trading a boat length or two. It came down to the final jibe, and this is where having both foredeck captains on the bow made all the difference.  Yes indeed, tonight David & Les won the race for us in one sweet maneuver!

Well, all right, there was more going on than one sweet jibe.  Upwind it was a trimming duel, and downwind it took constant expert trimming, tactical decisions, and solving a geometry puzzle to put us in a position where that final maneuver made the difference.  I love these light wind races!

The fun began in the prestart.  Long before our sequence, we started toying with Battlewagon, tacking and jibing close aboard them, and then out-trimming them to overtake as we turned from reach to reach below the other fleets that were starting.  Once in sequence, we kept up the pressure, maneuvering until it was time to charge the line.  Sure enough, we had clear air with Battlewagon well to leeward further down the line.

Deadweight and Afterguy got us trimmed into power mode to make the most of the light wind, and slowly we started to flatten the sail plan as we picked up speed.  Although we liked the pressure on the right side of the course better, we held on starboard until our rivals tacked.  It was so satisfying when Battlewagon was astern and even Top Gun had to dip us at the first crossing.  We pushed ten boat lengths further (to ensure clear air) and then tacked to cover.

Once again we went for power first and then began to shift gears.  The wind wasn’t quite as stable as we progressed and there was a light patch.  We debated more tacks but agreed to push through the holes to maintain cover on our rivals and to avoid extra tacks.  This was really good discipline, and credit goes to great discussion on board as we weighed the options.  Everyone on board was in the zone tonight.

Finally, we agreed we had found the layline and tacked.  Battlewagon had pushed a few boat lengths further to windward.  Two things became clear quickly: i) they had better air up there and were able to roll over us, and ii) we were going to make the mark.  Unfortunately Raison Eater was able to tack ahead of us on the layline, giving us bad air that slowed us even more.  Now only Sandpiper was astern, but no one was very far ahead.

We watched Top Gun pinch their way around the mark, which closed up the fleet some more.  We needed to turn on the jets in the downwind. No worries…we’ve been in this situation before!

The hoist was dreamy, and we powered up quickly to make gains on Battlewagon and RdE.  First decision?  when to jibe.  Battlewagon went, we jibed to cover.  Now we were astern and a bit to leeward.  RdE jibed, and Sandpiper did a jibe set behind us.  We were all on the same jibe heading to the Hamilton shore, taking a hot line to get speed.

On this point of sail, we crossed a thick line of white sail boats wing on wing heading dead downwind.  We heated up to take their stern, while Battlewagon went across their bows.  That earned us a boat length or two as we didn’t suffer the wind shadows.  At about this point in time, the wind began to back toward NNE.  This turned our hot line into a deeper mode, and a trimming contest began.  We soaked down to the leeward side of Battlewagon and flew our kite deep and full with the pole really high.  Slowly we inched forward until we were nearly abreast of Battlewagon, and just about a boat length further downwind.  It was hard to hold this position as each boat tweaked and trimmed to gain a few meters on the other.

At one point when we were a bit ahead, I tried to head up, to force them up to earn a position immediately in front of them.  But it didn’t pan out and we lost a boat length in the attempt.  Gradually we won that back too.

Finally, we were approaching the Hamilton shore and it would be time to jibe for the home stretch to the finish line.  This is where the geometry lesson and the perfect jibe made all the difference.  By soaking downwind of Battlewagon before the jibe, we were in a position that we would be to windward of them after the jibe so that they would have to pass us….so long as we jibed at least as well as them.

We were ready, waiting for them to make the first move.  Battlewagon turned, we turned. Jibe was gorgeous and we were up and flying again in one lovely arc.  A quick look astern and we not only had the windward lane, but about three or four boat lengths lead!

Next up were the traffic puzzles.

First, Christephanie had jibed at a similar time behind us, and threatened to take our wind, so our first priority was to climb up onto their line to maintain clear air.  Check.

Next, Pandora was ahead and to windward, so we didn’t want to get too close to their leeward side.  The answer, sail a bit lower, onto Battlewagon’s line to consolidate our lead.  By this time, they were moving really well, so we needed 100% focus to keep our trim right on target.  Once we did that, we found some more compelling wind and added a bit to the gap before crossing the line just as we entered Pandora’s wind shadow.

Tonight’s second place finish demanded that we get everything right, and it was so gratifying!

LOSHRS Race 6: Wily and wet

This weekend was a study in contrasts.  Whereas Saturday’s wind was ‘blowing stink’ in one metre waves, today we barely had texture on the water and a butterfly could have kept up with us most of the time.

On Saturday, we crossed in 2h:50m.  On Sunday the return leg took 6h:20m.

Yessiree it was a wily day of searching for wind, making tough decisions and patiently dialing in boat speed.  We also had the kite up and down twice in the middle of the lake as the wind began to die and shift around.  It was a perfect day to sail with our Tuesday foredeck captain.  Besides, when you can only have two people on board, it helps if one of them as four hands 😉

But I love these kinds of conditions. Through the GHYRA races, we’ve learned how to make our own wind and how to read the other sailboats to anticipate wind shifts so that we hoisted and doused at the right times.  And today we got a chance to use all that knowledge to put in our best result in the LOSHRS series:  we claimed second place today, and were only off the pace for first place by about 90 seconds, or 0.5% more boat speed).

It began at the dock as we eased our shrouds right down to the softest setting, and then as we watched other boats starting and noticed a wind shift that would favour staying on starboard, even though nearly everyone was heading out on port.  So our start plan was to be the boat on starboard heading for the pin end of the line so that port tack starters in our fleet would have to dip us.

It was the right plan and it worked out pretty well, except that we were too early to stay on starboard all the way to the pin.  Rather than tacking late and struggling to get speed, we tacked onto port after a few competitors had dipped us.  This way were able to build speed (ahem, like, just 1 knot of boat speed) when crossing the line.  It was enough to get ahead of our main rivals and tack back onto starboard across their bow.  Many of them tacked at a similar time as us and they were now even and to leeward.  (ARRIBA stayed on port tack, set their code zero and we never saw them again — until the finish line).

With clear air and a good position, we began to dial in the boat speed cycling through one minor adjustment after another.  I just concentrated on the headsail while Les tweaked everything else and Otto held our course.  Slowly our boat speed built and we began to get a lift.  Over the course of about 20 minutes,  Les adjust course by 2-3 degrees at a time until we were sailing directly toward our destination.  With this approach, we were able to pull ahead and to windward of our rivals who eventually tacked to get into better air to windward.  By now we were sailing at almost 5 knots of boat speed in about 3 knots of true wind.  Magic!

Slowly the wind also began to build and we enjoyed the chance to eat some lunch knowing we were sailing well.  Our rivals, Lively and High Tea had tacked back onto our heading.  They were quite a distance astern and to windward, so it was hard to know who was ahead of whom, but we knew we were in a good position….so long as the wind didn’t shift aft.

It did!

It shifted aft and got lighter, but we were ready.  Les had the spinnaker bag set, we checked the instruments.  Hoist?  Green Light.  Up went the kite on a very hot angle like a big code zero.  A quick look back, and more and more spinnakers began to pop up.  High Tea had a beautifully ominous black and blue asymmetric that was cut really flat — perfect for these kinds of wind, and they began to close on Lively, who hoisted their massive deep golden asymmetrical a bit later.  Game on!

We carried the kite as long as we could, but the wind shifted forward, and we could see the few boats ahead had opted to douse.  Once again we were ready for it, and shifted smoothly to the headsail and used it to climb back up to the line that Lively and High Tea were carrying, to see if we could consolidate our gain and reduce our leverage.  That was beginning to work, but they doused too and stayed to windward of us.

Once again the wind shifted aft and Four Hands had the second hoist ready in a heartbeat.  We carried it hot and managed to get on the same line as Lively and High Tea.  It was a great spot to be in — ahead of our rivals — with about half of the race to go.

Since we had a symmetrical spinnaker while they were both carrying asyms, I was hoping for the opportunity to soak deeply, knowing they would have to maintain hotter angles in the light wind.  Sure enough the wind shifted further aft and we were able to get our pole back off the forestay.  For a short while we were indeed sailing deeper than Lively.  It was working!

But the wind went even further aft, so we put in a jibe.  It seemed the right thing to do at the time, but boy was that a mistake.  The wind was so light, we struggled to fill the kite, and once we did, it was clear that the wind had shifted back again and we should jibe again. Meanwhile, Lively and High Tea had held their course with the spinnakers flying and had overtaken us with speed.  What to do?  There were still ten nautical miles to go, we were close and anything could happen.

Sure enough, we spotted a wind line just ahead and noticed the boats beyond it were sailing close-hauled on their headsail.  So rather than wrestle with the kite, we doused, set the genoa for the new expected wind and sure enough, we began to accelerate into the freshest breeze of the day heading straight toward the finish line.

Meanwhile, Lively and High Tea kept their spinnakers up, and when they entered the new wind they got a massive knock.  Rather than dousing on our line ahead and consolidating their gain, both boats kept their spinnakers up and sailed well to leeward of us.  Lively was fast, but with their deep kite, they weren’t making much VMG.  Sure enough, the doused eventually and began to hunt us down from behind and to leeward.  We were ahead again!  High Tea weren’t knocked as badly because they could sail ridiculously hot angles with their flat asym.  They were now well in the lead, and we were sure they would douse on our line, but no — they kept their kite up for at least another hour.  Gradually they slipped to leeward and astern of us.  We found ourselves ahead of both of them again!

And so began the drag race to the finish.  With about 5 knots of wind, on a close reach, we were making speeds in the low sixes.  I was wary of another wind shift, so I wanted to stay to windward of Lively.  That shift never came, so the extra distance we sailed may have cost us too much.  As a result, Lively slowly overtook us and finished two and half minutes before us.  They owed us about a minute of time, so we weren’t quite quick enough.  Meanwhile High Tea fought back to finish about five minutes behind us.

And ARRIBA?  They split the course early, but we all converged at the finish, and they crossed the line 40 seconds ahead of Lively.  With a PHRF of fifty-something, I was confident we were well ahead on corrected time.

And that was how Les and I wrapped up the 2019 LOSHRS series with a second place finish.   With one drop, our consistent results (three 3rds and one 2nd) should be enough to get us on the podium, maybe even second overall.  Lively had first in the bag even before today’s race.

The only important detail I left out of this race report were the two torrential downpours of big cold rain drops that left us sopping wet just in time for the wind to shift to the north.  I mean, why bring it up right?  Aside from that, the day was perfect!

LOSHRS Race 5: High speed chase

Rick has definitely earned his reputation as the surfer among the crew: during our race today, PERSPECTIVE maintained an average speed of 8.1 knots, flying over 23 nautical miles in just 2 hours, 50 minutes!

And our top speed?  Surfing down the best wave of the day brought us up to 10.6 knots.  We were grinning ear to ear 🙂

Those waves were a lot of fun.  About a metre peak to trough coming from our aft quarter.  Many of them washed over the foredeck and every once in a while one would splash us in the cockpit.  Great fun, indeed.

Here’s how the race went.

At the marina, we prepared the boat for about 15 knots of wind on the beam.  Sitting at the dock with the wind right on the bow at the dock, we decided to set the #1 headsail.  The calculation was that 15 knots on the beam would be a similar apparent wind (15 knots) as sailing upwind in 10 knots of wind, with 6-ish knots of boat speed, so we should be able to handle the #1.  But when we got out to the start area, it was blowing 17 and gusting into the low 20s, and we had to think again.  We had two choices, change the headsail or reef the main.  We noticed a few other boats reefing their main and we opted for the same choice.  That way, if the wind were to die down, we could shake out the reef.  On the other hand, if the wind picked up more….well, that could get messy.

As it played out, for that point of sail, the combination of reefed main and big headsail was fantastic.  Boats that tried the other combination (smaller headsail and full main) rounded up much more often than we did — it only happened a few times to us.  So balance was good, and the big headsail gave us plenty of power to get up onto the downside of the waves.

But with so much wind in the starting area, we opted to keep the genoa furled until about forty seconds to go.  This made it tricky to judge the timing of the line, but the visbility and maneuverabilty was worth it with just two of us on board, and a dozen or so bigger boats charging for relatively short starting line.  I’m so pleased with how it transpired.  We held back a bit, maneuvering into a position where we could charge the favoured boat end of the line.  And once I could see how the boats were approaching the line, out came our genoa and I aimed for a gap right at the committee boat while Rick ground in the headsail.  Our acceleration in that wind was awesome and we started at full speed just 2-3 boat lengths late, but most importantly, we were windward of everyone.  Just ahead and to leeward, High Tea and Lively were beam to beam, with the leeward boat struggling to avoid rounding up.  We avoided their mess by heading a bit higher and were able to roll over both of them before settling on our course!

That’s when we knew we had selected the right sail plan.

The next two hours we surfed waves and started gobbling up boats.  It was fun to approach the earlier fleets, plan whether to pass to windward or leeward, move up or down into a slot to protect clear air and then gradually overtake.  We probably passed a dozen boats that way, while also overtaking many more that were fanned out across the course.  Most of the time, we passed to windward, and as a result we worked our way above the rhumb line.

Meanwhile, Lively went to windward, taking a flier.  I presume their intention was to wait for a wind shift aft and then pop their spinnaker to come charging down to the finish line.  The shift never came and we never saw them again.  High Tea footed off early and sailed a bit less distance than us by staying nearer to the rhumb line.  That paid off for them.

With about 8 nautical miles to go, the wind slackened a wee bit and moved a wee bit aft, so we shook out the reef.  Rick caught the right wave and we hit our speed record for the day.  And just 45 minutes later we finished in third place in our fleet behind ARRIBA (Beneteau FIRST 40) and High Tea (J112E), both big boats with much more water line for the drag race.

It was a fantastic day, a great result and one heck of a thrill!