Sunday, July 23, 2006

How did TIME MACHINE really do this year?

The party is over, the traditional dinner at the Woods has been enjoyed, TIME MACHINE is securely moored at Duncan Bay Boat Club, the crew has returned to work and vacation homes and the skipper is visiting with Bill and Heather at the cottage on Traverse Bay. It's a quiet morning with a light rain shower and a moderate on-shore breeze.... perfect for reflecting on this years race!

Consider what it takes to compete with the Level-35 fleet. These are boats and crews who are experienced and tuned to perfection. Performance is kept at the maximum, no matter what the conditions are. The winner will come from the group of boats that can keep up with boatspeed. The winner will be the one who is smart/lucky enough to be in the right place on the lake when conditions get soft.

The evidence for this analysis is in the rounding and finish times. The leaders at the NGS were the boats that stayed right on the first leg. Even so, the separation only resulted in less than an hour lead after 18 hours of racing. The second leg saw very few position changes. The most notable was NIGHT TRAIN moving up to take the lead and hold off WILD RIDE for the last 1 miles to take 1st place. TIME MACHINE was able to move up 2 spots to beat FALCON.

Here are some of the highlights from the race. On Saturday afternoon the fleet split with TIME MACHINE (TM), FALCON(F), MAJOR DETAIL(MD), SNIPE(S) followed the breeze to the left as many of the others stayed with NIGHT TRAIN, WILD RIDE, SCANDAL and ROWDY on the right side. In the late afternoon the trio of TM, F, MD with S trailing a bit behind were reaching in light south-easterly breezes The TM was trailing the trio, but started to work the boat really hard. The staysail went up, crew weight was shifted, mainsail trim was changed and soon we were even with MD. Now it was MDs turn to work on trimming the boat and soon their boatspeed was equal, but not faster. Now TM and MD were closing on F. We were getting close enough to see their eyes as they looked back to see their lead diminish. This duel of the boatspeed continued for 3 to 4 hours into the evening hours. As the sun set it was F leading TM and MD with S still within sight of the leader.

Approaching the NGS bouy, winds were building and at the turn the chute came down and we shifted gears to a breezy close reach. The wind speeds continues to increase all morning as we charged across the lake at speeds between 8 and 9 knots. By 1400 hours conditions were tough. Sail area had been reduced gradually from a #1 Genoa with full mainsail to the unique combination of #1 and a reefed main, to the more traditional #3 and a full main and finally to a #3 and a reefed mainsail. Wind speeds in excess of 30 knots were sweeping across the lake and seastate was horrendous. There was a 4-6 foot swell coming from the beam with a 2-3 foot swell coming on the bow. The results was a very wet ride. In keeping with the competativeness of the fleet, TM's watch system was suspended and everyone rode the rail. At 1830 conditions changes again as the breeze went from 18 knots to 4 knots in a matter of 8 minutes. It was time for crew to get dry, get sleep, and eat a warm meal.

Sunday night saw flat conditions with no wind at the surface. As skipper, I can't tell you what happened exactly, since I had gone down for a long sleep. I can reconstruct from the log that the crew kept the boat moving, using the staysail as a windseeker and taking advantage of wind aloft. At about midnight when I did come on deck, there was not a ripple on the water and yet TM was making 3 knots of boatspeed with the Big White chute. Soon we were back to boatspeeds of 6 to 7 knots under a tightly sheeted Big Red chute.

As usual, the finish was upwind, with a great breeze. We were able to fetch the finishline without tacking and were safely moored in the yacht basin when the wind shifted to dead on the nose at 30 knots for the remaining boats on the course. It was several hours after we had settled in at the dock when we were visited by the Inspection Committee. They were able to determine that everything was in order and that TIME MACHINE passed muster.

The final results are 5th of 12 in the Level 35 Class, 31 out of 100 in the IRC South Hampton class.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Why do we sail the Mac...

Time Machine Sailing Team
It's 1000 hours. Everyone is tired from sailing hard through the night. The boat is on a close reaching course with the #1 and one reef in the main. It's blowing 20-25 knots with a crossing sea, 4-5 foot waves on the beam and 3 foot waves coming in on the bow.

The whole crew is lined up on the rail helping to keep the boat flat. Every 4th or 5th wave creates a wall of spray which washes over the crew, the deck and back to the cockpit. The boat is flying with speeds of 8 to 9 knots.

The grumbling starts.... "I'm wet", "I'm cold", "Damn this is uncomfortable","When is that helmsman going to steer a more comfortable course", "When can we get off the rail and get below?".....

Now it's about 12 hours later. The lake is completely changed. The moon is up and there is no wind on the surface of the lake. Most of the crew has been able to get below for some much needed sleep and the crew on deck is taking full advantage of the wind aloft to keep us moving at 2-3 knots. It's a really neat feeling to move through the water on no wind! There is time to dry out the foul weather gear and just sit and chat....

So why do we do it? I think it's partly the challenge of making it through the rough conditions and partly the reward of a beautiful nighttime light air sail. The reward for the rough stuff is the pleasure of the light stuff.

The efforts of the TIME MACHINE crew resulted in a 5th place finish in class and 31st out of 100 in the overall rankings. This might be our best performance yet.