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!