The ALYC Sundowner series is actually two series; the first is May and June, the second is July and August. The last race of the first series was held last night in 6-10 knot winds inside Newport Harbor and started between Lido Island and the mainland. Our group of six UCI J22s lined up for the start about 150 yards downwind from the sailbase. Very convenient, in a way. It's a very crowded start area.
One of our group, Jonathan, elected not to raise his jib until the start, and had his jib already set up in the whisker pole. Very clever, I thought. I was about 10 seconds late to the start due to a misjudgement, and the series leader, Bruce, got a great start. He tried to escape the wind shadow to the right, then was immediately blanketed by two other boats, so didn't get away, and we caught up gradually on the left side of the course. The six boats jockeyed position all the way down the harbor to mark 6, a pylon channel marker, and I was about third rounding, right behind Bruce. I tacked to get clear air and the next time I was in the group was in fifth position. Every tack, I would look upwind and see one of our boats on my wind. I started to feel like I had a target on me.
The series leader and the third place boat for the series, Jonathan, were first and second at this point, and everyone else just ahead of us would tack onto our wind. Oh, well. We tried to ignore them and sail for speed on the shifts, but it was a challenge. Definitely went the wrong way at least once, as one of the boats behind, Dave O' passed us. We got ahead of two of the boats and Dave got by and away from us, so we established a solid 4th place. As we went up the channel, the wind picked up a bit, and we were coming closer and closer to the third place boat, Dave O' who also was closing on second place Jonathan, but were unable to get close enough to threaten.
It was a very satisfying race, despite finishing 4th out of 6 boats, because it was so tight overall. Going dead downwind in evenly matched boats is a very interesting exercise in tactics (protecting your wind, getting inside at the mark), and strategy, seeking the strongest winds. I believe we ended up in 2nd place in the series, maybe 3rd. We'll see how the scorers count it.