Monday, May 14, 2012

American Legion Sundowner Series 2012, Race 1A

Race 1A, because the R/C had some serious difficulties last week, and threw out the first race.  Oh, well.

Tonight, the wind was brisk, about 8-15 kt out of the west making almost a dead downwind start.  I sailed Sunday, and the wind Sunday was stronger and much gustier, with sharp edges on the gusts and sudden drops from 15 kt to 5 or so kt.  On Sunday Brent and Alice sailed with me.  Today when Alice and I arrived about 5:10 pm, Brent had the boat half rigged already.  Getting away from the dock went smoothly, and we got to the start with 15 minutes to spare, and got to time the line and the distance from the dock to the pin (port) end of the line before the A class started milling to start.  We were able to sail on a constant heading with the main luffing enough to determine that the wind changes were not big shifts, except near land which is normal, but mainly just speed changes.  In stronger breeze, I like to reach with a luff in the mainsail and use the amount of luff in the main while holding a heading to discern any significant changes in wind direction.

We figured we could get away with a close reach start, and with 1:30 to go before our start we were near the line.  We did a quick circle to kill time, then got into position for the close reach to the line.  We were set up with about 30 seconds to go, about 20 seconds from the line and moving slowly.  In 12 kt or so, it seems to take these boats about 15 seconds to accelerate to speed.  We slowly sheeted our sails in and started accelerating toward the pin with 20 seconds to go.  Other boats were on the line to our right, and one was behind us and after the start went left, and we got the left-most spot, and started with good speed within a few seconds after the start horn.  Nice!  Flogging around doing practice starts on Sunday really paid off!

As we were running downwind, the majority of the boats were bunching up to our right.  We noticed that the skipper who had been behind us, Dave O, had gone way over to the left, maybe 4  boat lengths closer to Lido island than us, and he was starting to pass us.  I gibed to port and went left to join Dave at Lido Island, then gibed back to starboard as we got close -- we were overlapped, and I had no interest in a luffing match.  I got maybe 1 boat length outside Dave, and steered more or less rhumb for the corner, and gibed again on a shift.  Yeah, I know I said the wind direction we measured before the start appeared steady.  You have to sail the wind you see, not the wind you expected!  I have to wonder if my method to determine shifts is not sensitive enough, or if the wind we saw on the course was actually shiftier than what we had before the start. 

At times, as we approached the lee of the island, the apparent wind was light, and we heeled the boat as needed to fill the jib.  When the wind was stronger, we heeled to weather to steer the boat where we were going with no force on the tiller.  I'm sure to an observer from shore, it looked like we were making very random movements.  Many compliments to Alice and Brent for following these changes constantly, conscientiously, and very smoothly.

We got into the lee of Lido Island in first place, and all the other boats were hollering and jostling for position.  Nice for us.  Dave got stuck close to the island, and as he told me later "got spit out the back".  Bummer.

Alice and Brent shifted gears really well again as we got into the dead air on the lee corner of the island, and we heeled to leeward and softened our sheets for temporary light air trim.  We knew we were getting into strong air soon, so our vang, jib halyard, cunningham and outhaul were tight, but we worked hard to take advantage of the minimal wind in the hole at the bottom of Lido Island.  We passed about 2 feet from the edge of the dock on the corner of the island, but that was enough for me, although my crew felt we should have maybe left some more space.  In the wind hole, we got a little lucky puff and shot away from the pack, and out into the gusty winds in the channel. 

As we tacked  up the channel on the north side of Lido Island to mark Z, Jonathan's was the closest boat behind and he managed to catch up by catching some good wind while I was in a hole.  I stayed on the right third of the channel which usually gives the best wind, but that didn't work so well today.  I may have messed up tactically -- I probably should have kept a loose cover on Jonathan as soon as he got close, but I really felt as if I was racing the pack not just him. 

As it happened, we got a fortunate shift on the right side and I was able to get  back in front of Jonathan, then tack on top of him.  That slowed him down some, and then Bruce caught up to him, and they started slowing each other.  That gave us the opportunity to pull away some and keep between the two of them and the wind, so we opened up some distance.

We went around mark Z - the only mark of the race - with a big lead, and it never shrank after that, so the race was basically over, although we kept sailing as fast as we know how, because you never know what might happen.

When we rounded the bottom end of Lido island again headed for the finish line, a cruising (crushing?) style boat named 401k was headed on starboard, about 15 boat lengths ahead of us.  Ahead of her there were two boats on port.  One was ahead and to leeward of the other, and 401k was heading right for that one.  401 called "starboard", and barreled on into the port tackers!  The leeward boat headed up to close hauled, then the windward one followed suit, and then the starboard tack 401 did the same.  I think there was some crunching of fiberglass based on how much hollering was going on.  Geez, how much beer are these guys drinking on these beer can races?  Just tack, hail "protest" and put up a flag.  Don't run into the other boat to prove the point!

When all this crap happened, I got kinda mesmerized by it, and here I was on starboard headed for the melee!  As soon as I "woke up" we tacked and got out of there.

At the awards ceremony, the other UCI J/22 sailors all carried a bottle or two of wine up to the race committee, and I got the honor of carrying the remainder of the case-and-a half we bought as homage for the committee gods.  They appreciated the grape juice, I'm sure.  It was a great honor to be able to take the major part of the gift up to the hard-working committee.  They had some serious screw-ups last week, to the point where they had to throw out the whole thing.  I have done race committee work and know just how stressful it can be when things go badly.  To make it worse, most of the racers who did well will bitch and moan for awhile.

It's a lot of work some dedicated souls do, so that others can enjoy themselves.  A nice gift to show our appreciation is the least we can do.


1st  us
2nd Bruce
3rd Jonathan
4th Jane
5th Dave O
6th Bill / Marty

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