Yeehaaaaaawwww! Â Bravo! Â Well-done! Â Encore!
This was the race we have been building toward — a night where we got every decision right, nailed every maneuver and blasted our competition away. Â (well, except for Sabotage of course, but I don’t really consider them as our competition). Â Tonight’s success started at the dock, as we dialed in the high wind settings on the shrouds, made a plan to change to the old #3 jib (the one that points higher) and sorted out crew roles with Lazy Sheet away. Â Out on the water we removed the big #1 genoa and set the smaller headsail, put in a few tacks to work out the rhythm and get our jib cars where we needed them.
But the success also started in our hearts. Â Everyone was in good spirits, the wind was thrilling, the sun was shining, the temperature was perfect, and it was the eve of a long weekend. Â We set out with a smile on our faces and it just kept growing as the race went on. Â Crew work was amazing, with very crisp tacks, perfect control of the spinnaker pole (essential in high wind), great hoists and a flawless douse. Â Even when we had an hourglass in our second hoist, everyone stayed calm and let the air do its job.
And the speed was exhilarating: averaging 6.0 knots upwind, and 7.2 knots downwind, we were flying. Â Top speeds: Â 7.9 knots upwind and NINE POINT TWO TWO KNOTS downwind. Â Now that is some fast sailing!
Here’s how it went:
We started with full speed, hardening from a reach to close hauled right at the line when the gun went off. Â Pin end was favoured, and Battlewagon had a good start down there. Â Soon we found ourselves heading toward their wind shadow and made a great tactical decision to tack away before we got there. Â We kept ourselves in clear air the whole way to the windward mark, enjoying a nice series of lifts as we headed toward the west end of the bay. Â Skootch kept the traveler low and managed gusts with the tweaker. Â As a result the boat was wonderfully balanced, and I only had to fight the tiller a few times in the biggest gusts — thank goodness for lifelines!
Tacks were amazingly crisp with Afterguy and Four Hands working together like an Octopus (does Alvin have four hands too?), and Skootch dropped the traveler every tack to keep the boat from rounding up as we powered on. Â We kept track of Battlewagon as we went, and by the windward mark we were just a boat length behind. Â That means we made up distance on them upwind — and we were flying our #3 jib while they carried a much bigger foresail. Â Big Yellow was astern as we rounded the mark.
(This is a victory for all the thinking and learning about how to tune the rig, and how the jib shape affects the ability to point.)
Our approach to the mark didn’t give much time for Squirrel to set the pole, but he had it up in no time. Â We took a moment to ensure that the pole was totally secured, and then hoisted the kite. Â Bye bye Battlewagon! Â Bye Bye Big Yellow! Â Once we got flying, we just pulled away. Â With 9.2 knots of speed, the boat was lifting out of the water, and spreading a great big smooth wake behind. Â The great gurgling sound was music to our ears and our smiles widened even more.
Another thing we did right tonight was to talk through our plan before the hoist. Â We’re still learning our angles, but got it right — a bear-away set with the pole on starboard was the right call. Â We didn’t even need to jibe to get down to the leeward mark. Â Whenever the wind picked up, or a gust hit, I would steer a lower course and enjoy the speed. Â In the lulls, I heated up the angle and got more speed. Â Afterguy adjusted the pole and Four Hands trimmed the sheets to keep the kite filled. Â It was a joy ride.
For the douse, Skootch went in the hole. Â We started a bit early which was another great move — with all that boat speed, we were aroundÂ before we knew it. Â Out came jib, down went pole, the kite dropped in the hole and we powered up for another ride upwind. Â We put in our first tack long before Battlewagon and Big Yellow got to the leeward mark!
And this is where we made the right strategic move. Â With no one’s wind shadow to deal with, we carried our line toward Hamilton into the big slot of air we found late on the first upwind leg. Â Lots of wind in there, which had us flying upwind (and hanging on for dear life in the gusts), and enjoying another nice lift to the windward mark. Pole up, hoist from the hatch, shake out an hourglass and a speedy cruise to the finish line.
We crossed more than three minutes ahead of our competition. Â In Brian Garret’s words: “You annihilated those guys!”
Bravo! Bravo! Encore! Encore!