NA Championships, Day 1
Weather forecast.... Southwest winds 10-15 building to 15-25 in front of a very strong cold-front that should be over the area at 1700.
We head out to the course at 0930 and the lake is very lumpy. The wind has been out of the South and Southwest for the whole night. In preparation for the first race we sail a bit to weather on the #1 and down on Big-RED. The boat feels solid and the crew work is flawless. It really helps to have the 9th man.
We gather at the starting area but find that the RC is not quite ready. The AP is hoisted and we wait. About 30 minutes later the AP is dropped, only to be rehoisted as some boats had sailed too far away. Finally, the class flag is hoisted and we are in our 5 minute sequence. Jeff works to get us in a good starting position, but doesn't have a feel for how aggressive the fleet is and we are all confused by a last minute shift in the wind. It works out to be a poor start. Heading up wind we battle and cross with the tail end of the fleet and pick up a few positions on each leg, mostly due to brilliant crew work at the roundings. Final result is a disappointing 13 out of 17.
For Race 2 I call the tactics on the start. We port approach and make our last tack to Starboard with11 or 12 of the fleet above us. We defend our hole very aggressively, turn down to reach for speed and then at 4 seconds up we go and launch off the line. GENERAL RECALL! It proved to be our best start of the regatta and all for naught. We restart and pull just about the same sequence, launching off the line with good speed, just not quite as good as just previously. The winds have piped up by now and we are working hard at the top end of the #1. Puffs are up in 18-19 range. At the top mark we round in 5th or 6th place. Setting of Big-Red and then gybing right away gives us clear air and we hold even with the leaders all the down. As we proceed down, we see the wind pick up even more. The #3 comes up on deck and we stuff the #1 in the cabin. The rounding is around the right side of the gate (leeward drop) and we sheet in the #3 and start blasting upwind. Dennis is taking readings on the other boats (almost all of them with #1's or #2's) and we are smoking all of them. Better point and better speed! We get to the top mark and pull off another perfect set just in front of FALCON and hold our position to the finish. It's a 4th and everyone is feeling good.
Now it's really starting to HONK. Winds are up in the solid 22-26 range. The rest of the fleet is busy changing to their blades. Soon we are setting up for the start again. Still working the port approach, we are a bit late making the last turn and end up too close to pin. At the gun it sure looks like we have boats over early on both sides of us. Then the call comes in.... Over early #,#,16,#,#,#. How could they see us? Anyway, back we go to get behind the line. We are last boat to clear the line. The boat is still very lively and we work really hard to pick the shifts. As we approach the top mark we have already passed 4-5 boats. The set is perfect and charge down the course. By sailing deep in the puffs and up in the lulls and by gybing early we picked off some more boats. We do another leeward takedown and sprint back upwind picking off another 2 boats on the way up. At the top mark, it's a quick gybe just behind FALCON and a run to the finish. We hold off a charge from a group of boats behind and take a 6th place. Not bad for starting DFL!!!!!
As we motor back to the club, we notice that the panel at the head of the #3 has simply exploded. We knew that the stressed were big and we can't pinpoint what may have overstressed the sail. Immediately the cellphone starts working to find someone to repair it. When we get back to the dock I see Andrew Kooiman (Regatta chairperson) and he puts me in contact with the local UK loft. Dennis ends up driving to East Toronto with our #3 and Andrew's #1 (poked spreader tips through the sail). The initial word is "can't fix this", followed by "OK, we can rebuild it". It requires 5 hours of labor and the sail is brought back to us in the morning by Winston Beckett. As you will see in the posting for Race Day 2, we needed it!