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First day of school

It was a lovely evening to be out on the water.  The start of the fall season felt like the first day of school for us out on the water too.  A clean slate in nice wind, watercolour sky and just enough time for a race before big winds and thunderstorms arrived.

At the dock, the low engine oil light came on and sure enough, she needed more.  Somehow the oil filter had jiggled loose and oil had leaked out.  Nonsuch had some extra on board and we were good to go for now.  Clearly I’ll need to look into that more carefully tomorrow.  But as soon as we were out of the marina, up went the mainsail and we were at the committee boat in no time at mark #6.  Which headsail should we set?  At first it seemed as if there would be similar wind to last Tuesday, indicating a #2, but things weren’t quite so strong, so we opted for the #1, risking a bit that we’d be overpowered, but that was rarely the case, and it turned out we made the right choice.

For the start, we wanted the pin end on starboard tack because the line was pretty square and the better wind seemed to be in the middle of the bay.  A quick jibe and tack and then we went for the line, well timed about middle of the line and we were off.  Raisin Eater and Top Gun to windward, Sandpiper to leeward and Battlewagon onto port tack early.  Once in better air we tacked and were able to carry that all the way to a short layline with some nice gusts and lifts in there (as well as lulls and knocks).

The approach to the windward mark was memorable.  As we approached the layline, Christephanie was on the line on starboard and we were approaching on port.  Rather than dipping, we went for the lee bow, and by the time we were powered up on the layline, we were clear ahead.  To leeward, Pandora II was pinching to the mark so we were able to roll them just as we hoisted, but Raisin Eater had to go around the outside of them.

Downwind was also really fun.  Our hoist was amazing and we sprinted away from the mark in a lane of good wind, quickly drawing even with Battlewagon, who were to windward.  The wind kept shifting forward and aft as we crossed streaks of good air.  When we did, it was like snakes and ladders vs Battlewagon and Perry-Eh.  We were to leeward of both so we took the stern of each boat eventually to reach clear air to windward (after trying to get by Battlewagon’s leeward side — no dice).  Coming back into the leeward mark, all three boats arrived at the same time, with Perry-Eh on the inside, us in the middle and Battlewagon on the outside (they had taken our stern to get to windward later in the leg).  We doused a bit early (too early?) to make sure we were good to jibe at the mark.  That gave us the chance to push Battlewagon up a bit, but it didn’t really pay off.  At the mark, for some reason, Perry-Eh got very slow all of a sudden and I had to steer down to avoid clipping their engine — it was close!  Battlewagon had to make a little room for us, and around we went.

We powered up quickly and were able to climb out from under Perry-Eh’s shadow up onto their line and it looked like the finish line would be a fetch.  Still, we took all the height we could, and started feeling good about our situation since Battlewagon was to leeward.  Raisin Eater, astern, opted to tack at the leeward mark, so we were sitting pretty for a second place finish…

…but then we got knocked…

Suddenly RdE was in the right spot and both we and Battlewagon would need another tack to finish.  They had footed off for speed and were able to tack onto starboard forcing us to dip them.  You could have used a micrometer to measure the gap between us.  A brisk tack and up to speed, Battlewagon across the line, we shot up to cross….was it close enough?

No it wasn’t.  They got us by eleven seconds.  Seven would have been okay.  Nonetheless, it was such a fun night out there, with great teamwork from the crew, lots of tactical decisions, great wind, and fun tangling with the other boats all throughout the course.

(Hmmmm, now I’m thinking about where we could have gained four seconds….probably by dousing later?)


The star of tonight’s show was definitely the wind.  Even the lulls were heavy air, and the gusts meant business!

With a light crew, we made up our minds pretty quickly to go for the #3, and as we started to sail with it, we decided that was still too much power and added a reef to the main.  At this point, I was doubting that we would hoist the spinnaker, and thought we might just shake out the reef for the downwind, especially if it was a hot reach.

The committee boat was way in near shore at mark #6, the line was very short, and the boat end was strongly favored.  Not a lot of room to line up and get the boat end of the line.  And there is one patch where the depth meter only showed 7 feet of water under the hull.  Yikes!  Add to that the fact that with so much wind, we couldn’t hear the five minute warning, or even the four minute warning.  So we kept near the committee boat throwing in a series of short tacks until David was able to get the timer started with one minute to go!

(At least the #3 is easy to tack!  Fantastic coordination with Skootch and Dinghy — here is the time to point out that Dinghy came out to sub for Lazy Sheet who is on the mend but not ready for sport.  Famous quote at the end of the race from Dinghy:  “I have so much more respect for Lazy Sheet after all this!”)

Despite the short start line, the shallow water near the boat, the trouble with the timer and all those extra tacks, we were able to put in a good start, well timed near the committee boat and off we went.  The entire Green Fleet came out to play tonight, so there were eight boats vying for a spot on that short line.  Battlewagon and Sandpiper to leeward, Legacy to windward, and I can’t remember where the others were.  All I know is all that traffic meant lots of bad air, and it took us a while to get in a groove.  We were also the only boat with a reef.  Many of the big J35s worked their way to windward of us.

Just like Tuesday, we pushed out on Starboard into the ‘better’ air in the middle of the bay (Question:  is 22 knots better than 18?).  By the time we tacked, we were almost on the layline and much of the fleet was ahead.  I was so busy driving that I didn’t even notice that David had set the bag…he was more optimistic than I was!

At the layline we put in a nice lee bow on Dragon Bleu (the big Tartan), not because we were competing in any way, but because dipping them would have cost us extra distance and time and then we would have had to pass them on the downwind.  Around we went, and shaked out the reef.  A moment to get our bearings on the wind direction — very deep — so the lads got things ready and up went the kite!

7.7, 7.9, 8.1, 8.2, 8.6!!!

Yep, we were flying!

With a light crew, rather than sailing 160 degrees and jibing, I took us dead down wind (Top Gun did the same and they weren’t far ahead). Now, sailing dead down wind in 20ish kts of wind is a tricky thing.  The death rolls wanted to start, the gusts wanted to broach us, turning downwind would risk a chinese jibe.  There were moments when the boat healed strongly to windward and moments when it healed strongly to leeward.  The boat was hyper sensitive to our own weight distribution, almost like a giant surfboard. And we spent a fair portion of the leg sailing ‘by the lea’ (in other words in jibe territory).  Needless to say, the hair was standing up on the back of my neck!  At one point, I doubted my instinct about which way to turn the boat if there was a risk of a jibe — kinda important 🙂 — but the crew was unanimous when I asked them, so that settled that!

I’ve made it sounds daunting, but this deep fast sailing was really fun, and with those speeds, all VMG, we would have gained very little sailing hot angles.  Instead, it avoided the need for the jibe.  We sailed a little further, doused and sailed just a few hundred meters on jib and main to the leeward mark.  This bit of conservatism avoided a lot of hassle and the risk of a messy douse or rounding, but it did allow Legacy and Battlewagon to slip ahead of us.

At the leeward mark, Battlewagon rounded ahead, but left a little slot between them and the mark, and I was able to stick our nose in there and draw level with them as we hardened up.  Next up was the big tactical decision:  drag race with Battlewagon, or tack away to chase Legacy.  There was a lot of traffic of smaller boats ahead, so we opted to tack away.  Our next crossing with Battlewagon gave the answer — they had gotten ahead.

Drat, now there’s a boat between us and Legacy.  We could afford one, but not two!  And it became apparent that we were not going to fetch the finish line — needed two more tacks to finish, and that secured the finishing sequence of Legacy, Battlewagon, Perspective.  Ahead were Sabotage and the rest of the J35s.  Sandpiper hadn’t hoisted and they were astern.

We wasted no time furling the jib, and exhaled after a night of hard work.  As we put things away, we reflected on whether we had done enough to secure our third place position on Thursday nights.  Our sense was that we had done just enough, which was confirmed when the results were posted a little later.  With a burger and beer in hand, we toasted a great summer series!

Big wind blows our way

On one of the breeziest Tuesdays of the year, the boys in blue put in a clutch performance both upwind and down to claim a second place finish (behind Top Gun), and secure third place in the Tuesday Summer Series.

With gusts in the low 20s before the race, we dithered on our headsail choice, but when we saw the course with a long near-fetch to the finish line, we didn’t want to risk being underpowered.  The wind ‘settled’ down to a mere 15 knots so we hoisted the #2.  With hard shrouds (tuned perfectly for tonight’s wind) and plenty of backstay, Dinghy was able to hold the boat mostly flat-ish and we attacked the course.

Lazy Sheet was away, so we had Deadweight in the pit who climbed another notch up the learning curve tonight.  He and Afterguy put in a series of beautiful brisk tacks, and the pointy end was in great hands with both Four Hands and Nonsuch up there taking care of business.  Kiwi managed another great start, and me?  I just kinda looked around a bit and talked a bit.  I think I furled a jib, and might have tweaked the jib sheet once.  What a great team!

The start was very interesting.  Port tack and the pin end were strongly favoured, but we reckoned there was better air in the middle of the bay, so we (and everyone else) opted to start on starboard near the pin end. Our timing was solid, and we had good boat speed when the gun went off.  Only Top Gun was ahead, right at the pin, but that was enough bad air for us to struggle to point for the first minute or so, but once we found clean air, we began to get in the groove.  Sandpiper and Battlewagon were astern, Raison d’Etre to windward.  RdE got leverage on us during that first minute, but after that we kept them nearby.  Ahead lay a wind line and bigger air, so we waited until in it before tacking to the mark.  By this point we were nearly on the layline, and boats that had tacked over before that wind line fell back.  At the layline, Top Gun and RdE were ahead.

We were barely on the lay line 30 seconds, but somehow the pole was up, the guy was pre-fed (and cleated) and we began our hoist just as we bore away.  Bingo!  That gave us a great leap on RdE who fell off a bit to leeward. This leg began as a hot spinnaker reach, but the wind shifted forward and aft a bit until it settled into a deep run.  Alvin got the kite juicy and full like a big balloon and we gobbled up smaller boats and made small gains on RdE while maintaining the all important inside lane.

Before the douse, we tried free-flying, but the wind was too strong and too unstable, so we ended up dousing a bit early.  In no time the foredeck was clear for a jibe, and around we went with a few boat lengths’ margin on RdE.  Top Gun ahead, Battlewagon and Sandpiper duke-ing it out behind us.

The last leg wasn’t quite a fetch, so we chose our moment to tack out of traffic.  RdE went first, we eventually covered them, but were primarily watching Sandpiper.  We went when they went.  Battlewagon held their line, splitting the course from us.  RdE tacked back early, and we could see they wouldn’t fetch the finish line, so we pushed out further, found the layline and nailed another crisp tack.  One and done, we tracked to finish while the others eventually tacked onto our path behind us.

Tonight had it all:  water over the rail, planing boat speed, tons of pressure on the kite, a hint of a death-roll (just a premonition), tight teamwork and great spirit.  What a perfect way to cap off the summer series for Tuesday!


Everything was brilliant tonight.  The sunshine, the lack of humidity, the breeze, the course, the sunset…

…and the crew!  We needed a good start, a clean race, expert trim, good tactical decisions and a master-class on the foredeck tonight.  And we got all of that.

The course was very interesting.  A short beat that was nearly a fetch, a short leg deep downwind, a jibe mark, then a hot spinnaker reach, a long beat that was mostly on starboard, and a spinnaker run.  Before the race, we calculated that the two hoists would need to be different — a bear-away first, and then a jibe-set the second time.  David (and understudy Ihab) launched the jibe-set from the hatch on the second hoist, and it was a thing of beauty.

But the highlights came at the start, and on the first downwind.

The boat end of the line was so strongly favoured that everyone went for it.  We were a bit early, so we had to go down the line a wee bit, with a forest of J35s trying to push us up an over.  Ken kept his cool, and kept us on the right side of the start line until we were away…with Legacy to leeward working hard to push us up.  Even so, with so many other boats around, we struggled to point in bad air, and opted for a quick couple of tacks to hit the layline at speed.

Top Gun was away tonight, so the rounding order was Sabotage, Remarkable, Battlewagon, Legacy, Us, and then Sandpiper (who had little grand-kids on the foredeck…clearly out for a joy ride).  That double tack cost us dearly and we had work to do.

No problem.  Our hoist was textbook, while Legacy struggled.  The wind swirled around, and we chose the right moment to jibe, gaining precious distance on Battlewagon.

And then the second highlight — as we rounded the jibe mark, we heated up and took a line to windward of Battlewagon, gaining steadily.  And as we began to blanket their spinnaker a gust came that shot us forward of them, and gave us the chance to separate.  Approaching the leeward mark, there was a forest of white sail boats ahead.  We were able to put several of them between us and our rivals, but there was still one rounding just inside us.  Down came the kite, the pole and all the lines so that we were clear to tack as soon as we got around.  Brilliant indeed!  Away we tacked into clean air.

Battlewagon split the course from us, and Legacy gave chase astern.  They had work to do to overtake some big boats: Christephanie and Wellwet.  Still, they came on strong and closed the gap.  But we were still ahead when it was time for the short tack on port to the windward mark for the second hoist.  This time around it was Sabotage, Remarkable, Us, Legacy, Battlewagon, Sandpiper.  We had climbed two spots!

And now the jibe-set was magical.  It only took a moment for the pole to get set and the kite to go up.    It was a straight deep run to the finish line, with no other boats threatening to take our wind.  Meanwhile we took a little height on the fleet to avoid big wind shadows ahead.  Battlewagon did a bear-away set, which put them well off the pace, but Legacy followed our example.  We had our eyes on them.  When they heated up, we did too. When they soaked down, we did too.  But when they jibed, we didn’t cover them.  It was a signal that they were focused on covering Battlewagon to leeward.

We crossed the line, and looked back to enjoy this photo-finish showing Battlewagon (white spinnaker) ahead by a nose, with Pandora (red spinnaker) to windward and Legacy (Blue spinnaker) to leeward.

Remarkable roundings

It’s really rare for the wind direction and speed to be this constant.  Not only for the entire race, but also across the entire bay.  There were no wind shifts, no oscillations, and there was barely hole to fall into, or a favoured side of the course.  So the game was technical tonight.  Very technical, and every detail mattered:  the start, the steering, the trim, clear air, crisp tacks, hoist, jibe, douse.  And we put in a clean race with a great start, terrific trim and strong maneuvers.

And the genoa car?  all the way back!  Without a doubt, this is the key to pointing high with great speed, and it works at 8 knots of wind speed.  My guess is that it works all the way down to six knots.  We’ll test it first chance we get.

Back to the race….the start was very exciting as we went for the boat end on Starboard.  Sandpiper got between us and the start line and we were able to push them up over the line, so they had to restart.  This was the first time tonight we had a boat close enough to reach out and touch.  Lot’s of “Stay up!” being hollered, but it was all in good fun, and Len & crew kept it safe.  Further down the line we noticed Remarkable was also over early.  Both boats circled back and restarted a bit behind the fleet.  Meanwhile, Battlewagon put in yet another perfect pin end port tack start, and carried across all our bows.  They went on to have a flawless evening and get the gun.  (Top Gun was away tonight).

Our upwind was strong and we kept our eyes on the rest of the fleet.  Sandpiper and Raison d’Etre went the same direction we did toward the Burlington shore whereas Remarkable followed Battlewagon after restarting.  When we reached the layline, we tacked to lee-bow Remarkable and were just able to hold them off from rolling over us.  Once again, lots of “Stay Up!” being hollered, but Mark & Crew kept it fun and safe.  Battlewagon was ahead and the others behind.

Our hoist was just a hair slower than Remarkable and they were able to get over top of us and ahead before we were flying well.  Being close on their stern, we had the chance to blanket them, but Sandpiper, behind us, had jibed to the center of the course and were coming on strong, so we jibed to cover.  We got some good air there and when we jibed back, we found ourselves with the inside lane on Remarkable at the leeward mark.  Douse was crisp and we rounded, hardened up and had Remarkable in our bad air.

Again we had to make a choice:  Pandora was ahead and we were getting their bad air.  Remarkable began to foot off. Do we cover them, or tack for clear air.  We opted for the tack.  It felt right as we powered up.  But these decisions on the last leg were crucial.  We tacked back perhaps a tad early.  As it turned out, we weren’t quite able to fetch the committee boat end of the finish line.  Oh if only we had gone 3 or 4 boat lengths further before tacking.  As it turned out, we met Remarkable near the finish line, crossing dead even with them, but we were on port, so we had to dip them.  The next tack was too late to force them to dip us on the next crossing, and too early to fetch the boat end of the line.  Instead we  tried to shoot the line, but it was too late, Remarkable had crossed ahead.

Thinking back to where we were a few years ago, losing to Remarkable by about nine seconds of real time…we’ve come a long way!

It was great to have nearly everyone back from holidays — just Four Hands was missing, and next week we’ll all be in for the final push of the Spring season.


LOSHRS Race 4: The 100 Miler

This was the big one.  Further than the Susan Hood, one third the distance of the LO300, but with just two of us on board.  And it was a particular pleasure to share the responsibilities on board with Nauti-buoy (Shaun Berrington), who has decades more racing experience than I do, on all manner of boats in all manner of seas.  Even though this was just the second time sailing together, our teamwork was solid as we switched seamlessly between helming and trimming every hour or so during the race.  We flew the kite on two of the three legs (and almost hoisted again near the finish), and tweaked and fussed continuously to get the most out of the boat.

And it paid off!  We earned a third place finish in our fleet, and only 7 boats crossed the finish line ahead of us (and some of those had PHRF ratings of -3, -11).  On corrected time, we placed 13th out of 27 boats that flew spinnaker.  Nice!

But the star of the show was the weather….

On the drive to PCYC on Saturday morning, it rained so hard that we could only go 60km/hr on the highway!  Needless to say, we were in no hurry to get out into the elements to set up the boat.  We got her prepped in drizzle, huddling down below to talk through the start, the route, the tech and the wind/weather forecasts.  But as we left the dock, the rain stopped, and before the start a bit of blue sky peaked out.  A beautiful day of sailing had begun!

There was a bit of breeze, enough to move and maneuver effortlessly, as we watched other fleets start before us (we were in the last start).  But as our sequence began, the wind lay down.  Fortunately, we weren’t far from the start line, and were able to keep the boat moving.  But we were near the pin end, and had to approach on port, ducking some of our rivals before a slow-motion tack into some pretty bad air.  Shaun trimmed fastidiously, and gradually we gained pace, stretched out beyond a boat to windward to catch some clean air, accelerated and began our climb to windward of the fleet.  During this progression the wind freshened and we found ourselves in a nice spot heading to Toronto Island, with the true wind on the beam.  We stayed just above the fleet all the way to the mark, so we never had to work to overtake slower boats from previous starts and the only traffic we had to deal with came as we converged on the turning mark.

Around we went and once again, we climbed to windward of the fleet into clear air, and then set our course 15 degrees above the rhumb line as we expected the wind to shift forward.  The True wind angle was just a bit too hot for the spinnaker as the wind speed built to 10+ knots.  With binoculars out, we could study the fleet as they daisy chained along the rhumb line.  One nice treat — ARRRIBA, a 40 foot Beneteau First in our fleet, was behind us!  After a few hours, the wind shifted aft, rather than forward — so much for the wind forecast!  So we cracked off a bit and hoisted the kite.  The fleet to leeward began to do the same, and the boats that hoisted first gained significantly on their rivals — and we were among them!

It was a hot angle, but we could hold it, and we didn’t need to give up our position to windward — just aimed at the CCIW spider and sailed on.  A quick tally of boats ahead of us, and we could spot about 13 or so, including two that had stretched out way ahead of everyone else — those guys with the negative PHRFs!

Clouds appeared, darkened, dispersed, and the wind lost its mojo.  Once it filled again, it was further forward, so we doused.  Well timed!  We weren’t long under the #1 when the wind sputtered, shifted 180 degrees and we found ourselves on the opposite tack close hauled and not fetching the spider.  Drat, now the boats that had followed the rhumb line were to windward of us, fetching the spider with ease.  What had been an advantage turned into a set-back within minutes.  Such is sailboat racing!

But the wind had pity on us, for as it freshened, it also gave us a nice lift.  A lift that — together with fastidious sail trim and a bit of pinching — was enough for us to fetch spider.  So although some boats had slipped in front of us, we had not lost much ground to them.

And by now we had 20 knots of wind!  Yes, we were grossly overpowered with the #1, but we only needed to suffer for about half an hour before we were around the mark, sailing very deep on course to Niagara.

With all that wind to manage, we had not repacked the spinnaker bag, so Shaun got us wing on wing with over 8 knots of boat speed while I got the kite ready.  And once that baby was flying, we were tearing along, grinning ear to ear like Cheshire cats :-).

And Shaun rigged a preventer stay without delay.

Gradually the wind began to subside, and we were able to grab a quick bite and start to think about tactics.  Once the wind got down to 6 knots, we started flying hotter angles and the big question was whether to go for shore, out to sea or to zig-zag down the middle.  Without a compelling reason to go one way or the other, we chose to stay near the middle of the course.  This choice gave us the opportunity chase down ARRIBA who had snuck by us in the wind shift up at the spider.  The wind kept dropping, and we found ourselves completely becalmed within hailing distance of our rival.  Shaun noticed that boats in toward shore were moving nicely, with their spinnakers filled.  I noticed that their wind was coming from the opposite direction than ours had been coming.  So, we jibed the kite (in no wind), and almost right away, the new breeze arrived at us, we filled and just walked away from ARRIBA.  Nice!

And our reward was a glamorous sunset

About an hour after sunset, a full moon rose, but there was a bank of low-lying clouds that obscured the moon for the better part of an hour.  We were able to aim right for the Niagara Mark with the spinnaker up, and held it well into the night sky. As the moon began to light the night, we spotted our 4s red flashing light, and doused early so we could round cleanly.  The quiet, the moonbeam, the silhouette of boats ahead, and the music of water against the hull.  That is the mystique of night sailing that we will never forget.

And we will never forget how much current there is at that Niagara Mark!  With the full moon, we could clearly see a massive wake behind the marker.  There must be three knots of current there.  Wide berths are necessary when passing between the mouth of the Niagara river and this Mark.

It was shortly after 10pm.  That means 75 miles complete in just 12 hours!

Despite the current, we rounded cleanly, and quickly got set up on a fast beam reach.  The wind freshened and our boat speed climbed over 7 knots.  We took turns having short naps and I brewed up some hot coffee.  Out came Biltong and granola bars.  Meanwhile a big boat astern kept making way on us sailing right down the moonbeam.  We assumed this was ARRIBA, benefiting from a longer water line.  Flashlight out, some adjustment in trim and we accelerated and were able to hold them off!

But about 9 miles from the finish, the wind began to slacken.  This is a very familiar pattern now, that we experienced in the LO 300 and the Susan Hood.  It ain’t over until its over.  At first, our focus was simply to keep the boat moving as the wind got lighter, but then it began to shift directions as well, and we had to alternate between hardening up and footing off to stay roughly on course.  Up ahead, we could see the lights of several more boats parked up in the failing breeze, while off to the southwest we could see constant flashes of big lightening high in the sky.  Weather was coming, and with it there would be new wind.  But would the wind come soon enough to get us off the water before the storm?

Becalmed, with just a whisper of wind up high.


Got the bag ready.  Wait.  Something fresh and cool on our right ears.  Wind shift coming.  No Kite. Tack.  Moving!

By now with just a few miles to go, it was time to plan the end game.  The new wind direction was so reminiscent of our Susan Hood finish, we aimed our course well below the PCYC turning mark and ghosted along.  As we approached, we could spot other boats either becalmed, struggling to soak down to the turning mark, or up ahead following the game plan we had in mind.  This gave us a point of reference for planning our last tack into the finish, but just in time.  As we got nearer, a bank of fog rolled in and we lost sight of most of these other boats, the shoreline and even the light on the mark.  iNavx reassured us we were indeed on course to finish, and not sailing into rocks!

Fortunately, this fog-blindness was short-lived and the mark re-appeared as we approached it, as did the shoreline, and we radioed in our finish at 4:21 am!!!

With the storm in the SW still approaching, we furled the jib, doused the main, made for port without delay, tidied up just as the rain began and got to the car before the sky opened.  Only then did we begin to realize that we had gobbled up several boats in the last hour!  There is no substitute for local knowledge :-).

And that is how Nauti-Buoy and I managed to race 100 miles in just under 18 hours.



At the time I snapped this picture, I thought this would say it all.  Yes, that is us well ahead of Top Gun in the final leg of the race.  And yes, we were able to hold them off to the finish!

There were high fives all around when we crossed the line just behind Legacy, with Sabotage ahead of them.  But if we had really known what happened, we would have found a bottle of champagne somewhere…. are you ready for it?

Image result for champagne images

We beat Sabotage!

Sure, they crossed the line well ahead of us, and as usual, we didn’t pay much heed, but now that I look back on the race…they were never really that far ahead.  And with a massive ratings difference, even though they finished nearly four minutes ahead of us, we were able to beat them on corrected time.  Woohoo!

But of course, the real race tonight was not with Sabotage.  It also wasn’t really with Top Gun.  Those two boats are so far ahead in the standings that the real battle was with Legacy, who are just a couple points behind us in the standings and keep sailing really well.  Tonight was no exception, and we found ourselves chasing them the entire race, never quite able to overtake.  Here’s how it went.

Breezy is an understatement.  At the dock with 16 knots blowing in our slip, I hardened the shrouds mercilessly.  We were almost convinced it would be a #3 night, especially when we saw Top Gun with their #3 up.  But the wind was a bit less fierce before the start and we opted for the #2.  It was the perfect choice.  Although there was a lot of wind, it wasn’t gusty, and Gil was able to keep the boat fast, pointing high and well balanced during all the upwind sailing.  With the flat #2, tight rig, jib car well aft and lots of backstay on, we were able to point as high as all the J35s. What a joy.

And with Lazy Sheet away, Skootch and I double-teamed on the genoa and pit jobs, while Gadget took the spinnaker sheet to keep us flying downwind.  This worked beautifully, and I’m so proud of my dad.  Together we put in a night full of awesome tacks, enjoying the kind of teamwork we’ve always had.  Hat’s off to ya Skootch. :-).

But boy did I ever miss Lazy Sheet when it came time to jibe.  Gil went forward to help Super Dave on the foredeck, and I struggled to keep track of double sheets and guys.  At least once, one of the lines should have been eased, but wasn’t and the guys struggled to get the pole attached to the mast.  Did I mention it was breezy?

Our start was um….interesting…as we found ourselves in a complete trap above the layline near the committee boat with everyone salivating at the chance to push us up.  Ken (sporting his new Team shirt) pulled a rabbit out of a hat, though, dipped one of the boats and timed the start beautifully.  And ironically, it was Top Gun who was over early, not us!

We tacked into clear air, got dialed in quickly, but Legacy tacked to cover us.  And this was the story of the night.  They rarely let us separate from them, and even though our tacks were crisp, the sail trim was ON, and we were able to find the better breeze consistently, they were always there.  Finally, in the last push to the windward mark, we got some separation, and nailed the layline from quite a distance.  Nonetheless, Legacy rounded ahead of us, as did Top Gun.  Rason d’Etre rounded just inside us and we hoisted nearly simultaneously.  Meanwhile, our Tuesday rivals (Battlewagon and Sandpiper) were off the pace.  Battlewagon was sailing without a mainsail and eventually retired (main halyard let go midway up the first leg).

The downwind was fun as we found a slot of strong air and sailed deep to stay in it.  Meanwhile, Legacy sailed hotter angles, and Top Gun did something between the two extremes.  There were times when the wind had shifted a bit to favour us, and we thought we might get to the leeward mark ahead.  This was not to be, however.  Legacy rounded ahead, and we converged with Top Gun at the leeward mark.  They were ahead and had the inside lane.  Neither of us had a very clean douse, but we were a bit quicker, and Ken found an opportunity and seized it.  Once both boats were hardened up, we were to windward and a bit ahead of Top Gun.  Just a smidge.  Like a boat length.

But that was enough.  First, we focused on Legacy.  But whenever we tacked, they tacked to cover, and although we sometimes closed the gap, it became clear that we were not going to overtake.  Top Gun split away from us and went deep toward Hamilton on the upwind.  When we next crossed (us on port), we were clearly ahead.  Change in tactics:  let Legacy go, and cover Top Gun.  It was okay to concede a point to Legacy, but we couldn’t afford to let Top Gun get between us (and concede two points to Legacy).

It all came together.  We tacked to cover Top Gun, and found ourselves pointing as high as them, and going as fast.  Another tack, another cover.  And this time we weren’t pointing quite as high.  Two clicks on the winch and guess what?  now we were out-pointing them.  Yes indeed….two clicks!

And this continued until the layline to the finish, where we tacked to put ourselves between them and the line. Fait accomplis!

We capped off this perfect evening by hosting a BBQ at the dock for the BSBC racers.  It was a great evening to linger long and savour such a thrilling race.

Double dip is just fine!

This summer continues to provide phenomenal sailing in the evenings!  With perfectly comfortable temperatures, just enough wind to keep the boats moving, and a dramatic sunset, tonight was among the finest.

Yes, the wind was on the light side, and we really had to be attentive to find the opportunities, but the vibe on board was sublime, as we calmly accepted our lumps and then stealthily seized our moments.  The result was just what we needed on Tuesdays — a finish ahead of Battlewagon (on PHRF) and two spots ahead of Sandpiper.

And we had the extra bonus of having Ihab on board, a keen participant in the BSBC Shark sailing program who just started sailing this year.  Although we only called upon him to master the art of Ballast Engineer and Spinnaker-hauler-inner, it is clear that he will become a strong racer.

So, how did this race transpire?

Leg 1:  Pin end and port tack favored at the start. We approached on Starboard, but got caught in a bit of a trap with Top Gun to leeward.  Fortunately, they didn’t have enough boat speed to push us over the line.  Meanwhile Battlewagon nailed the pin end on port tack and got across us all.  We tacked.  Sandpiper tacked to cover.  Bad air!  Tack toward the middle, then back again.  Crossing Sandpiper, we’re on port… a deep and painful dip.  By now we are behind the whole fleet.  Conservative decision as the wind got lighter:  push well beyond the layline before tacking.  Great move!  Sandpiper struggled to make the mark, and we rounded just outside them.

Leg 2:  Great hoist, and quickly into a good mode, pulling away from Sandpiper on a hot spinnaker line. Up ahead we see Christephanie heading toward Burlington shore to pick up some better wind.  Hot to it, then soaking deep in it.  Great decisions, good trim and all the weight forward and leeward.  Sandpiper well astern, and the gap to Battlewagon is closed down.  Douse was a bit funky as we tried to free-fly and jibe the main, but everything got backwinded, so we just pulled down the kite and jibed around.

Leg 3: THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT WE SHOULD ALWAYS DO UPWIND!!!!!! (oops, pardon the exuberance, but we had both speed and pointing on this near fetch to the finish line).  Somehow, we got into the right mode right away and pointed at least ten degrees higher than Battlewagon (and most other boats), without sacrificing speed.  It was such a pure delight to cut off a major corner on the course, and it put us in a position to take a bite out of Battlewagon.  Meanwhile, Sandpiper was astern and fell off our line.  We couldn’t quite fetch the committee boat, and focused on VMC.  We dipped Pandora without changing course much, but then had to do a deep dip on Battlewagon, since we weren’t ahead enough to clear their bow.  Once beyond, a quick tack to windward of them, and then a quick tack to finish at the committee boat.  Battlewagon took the pin end seven seconds ahead of us, but it was enough to get them on PHRF.

Great teamwork, great conditions and a great result.  Let’s do this again!

Almost perfect

Even stronger than the wind we experienced at the start was the unbelievable gradient in wind speed between the Hamilton Shore and the Burlington Shore.  The difference was night and day, and we learned (the hard way), that one tactical error in these conditions can neutralize an entire evening of perfect execution.

The perfection began before the race as we studied long and hard before selecting the #2 genoa.  In the gusts, we were tempted to go for the #3, but the lulls kept going lower, so we opted for more power.  Perfect choice — aside from one or two tough gusts, #2 was the right call.

Next was the start — it was a weird one with the wind getting light and flukey.  In the light wind, we jibed twice on the layline to the committee boat to just stay nearby and in position.  As we went for the line, we burned time by feathering up and forcing Battlewagon below us, then bore off into plenty of clear air while the rest of the boats were further down the line. Legacy and RdE were over early and had to restart. Off we go!

But we struggled to point [ contrast that with the next race, on Tuesday night, and there is a big lesson in there]

Nonetheless, we sailed a great windward leg, with Gadget managing the gusts like a pro.  We stayed toward Hamilton shore until the last moment, and this gained us a few positions.  Only Remarkable and Top Gun are ahead as we round.  Sabotage is away.  It’s starting to feel good.

Hoist is clean.  Wind angles support a quick jibe onto the rhumb line.  Clean jibe.  Slow.  Meanwhile, to leeward, Battlewagon is gaining steam in better air.  Legacy is behind, suffering like us.  We take our lumps, and jibe toward Hamilton.  Legacy does likewise.  We jibe back to windward of Battlewagon’s line.  Legacy pushes further to the Hamilton shore.  We’re moving, but by now Battlewagon is well ahead.  To leeward, Legacy starts cooking.

Next perfect choice was a headsail change, switching to the #1 as the wind had dropped below 12 kts.  This gave us a chance on the last leg.

Approaching the leeward mark, three boats converge (Top Gun and Battlewagon are ahead):  Remarkable to windward, us, and Legacy to leeward.  It came down to a boat-length, but both of them got ahead of us.  Once we rounded, it was a drag race to the finish and we started astern and in bad air.  Legacy had the windward side.  Once again we struggled to point.

The nutshell, Legacy got Remarkable between us, and Battlewagon was ahead of them.  The lesson: when the wind gradient is that strong, sail the extra distance!

Fearsome Foursome!

At the marina, we were preparing for a night of light wind, maybe one of those races where you spend most of the time trying to figure out where the holes are and how to avoid them.  With just four of us on board, that suited us just fine, but what we got was much much better — one of those delightful nights with steady wind around 9 knots where the race comes down to technical details:  crisp maneuvers, sail trim and small shifts in wind speed and direction.

But the first order of business was to sail out of the dock.  Both start motor and throttle control were in need of repair, so we had to go old school.  The wind was right on our nose, so we hoisted the main at the dock, David gave us a mighty shove and then we turned to a beam reach and filled the sail.  Easy peasy.

In the pre-start, the Sharks all went deep into the corner near Stelco, a strong clue about where the wind would be.  The line was pretty square, so I focused on clear air and timing it well, and put into practice the general start pattern from the winter series.  It was fun to sail on port toward the committee boat and then tack just before intersecting the fleet on starboard.  It worked pretty well, and we only had to spill a bit of wind to time the pin end.  Next, though, we needed to get onto port tack to get down to the better wind to the south.  Hmmm…maybe it would have been better to be a bit late at the boat end of the line?  We ended up dipping a few members of the fleet (except RdE who were far enough astern, and Legacy, who had already tacked to port).

Sure enough, the breeze built as we went south.  Legacy, ahead and to leeward, tacked onto the layline.  Had they overstood?  We tacked earlier, and at first it looked golden.  But as we approached the mark, we got a fierce knock that called for two more tacks AND the need to dip Sandpiper at the layline.  Too bad!  We went from a golden opportunity to round first to being second last around the mark.  Such is the affect of one ill-timed knock!  (and the value of a safety margin when judging the layline from afar — Legacy nailed that decision and it paid off in spades).

I should point out that neither of the perrenial leaders were in the fleet tonight:  Sabotage and Top Gun were both away.

Despite a very short layline after those extra tacks, Super Dave had the pole ready in a jiffy, our hoist was supreme and we jibed right away to get back toward the stronger wind in the southern part of the bay.  This was enough to slip by both Sandpiper and Battlewagon.  Remarkable didn’t hoist and Legacy pushed far to the Hamilton shore.  We followed suit, keeping the kite nice and full.  Once we got into a stronger band of wind, we sailed a lower course to enjoy that wind as long as possible.  Another clean jibe at the Hamilton shore and we were able to sail directly to Mark #3.

Legacy was still ahead. Battlewagon had staid in the middle of the bay, and we were about even after the jibe, but our better breeze paid off, and we got to the leeward mark with a good margin on our rivals.

Free fly the kite.  Pole down.  Jib out. Douse. Round. Harden up. Ready to tack…it was all so smooth, you wouldn’t know that there were only four of us on board.

And for the last upwind, the wind filled nicely.  Legacy was uncatchable, and no one was threatening us.  A lovely sprint to claim a second place finish!

Looking back after we crossed the line, the wind dropped and shifted, so that boats had to work hard to finish.  We made it just in time.  What a great night 🙂

But that light breeze meant we needed a tow back to the marina from the Able Sail coach boat, who was out gathering drop marks.