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!