Wednesday, September 19, 2007

NA Championships, Day #3

What a difference a day makes. Winds were a pedestrian 10-15 knots with moderate chop on the water. Perfect conditions for the #1. The RC got us started right on time and we crossed with the fleet as everyone setup for the last rush to the starting line. With about 40 seconds to go we tacked over to Starboard and headed for the line. We were a bit late. All of a sudden all I see in front of us is SHORTHANDED crossing on port-tack. Jeff give a mighty pull on the tiller and utter a few choice words. Suddenly, SHORTHANDED tacks and is now sitting right on our air. Not only did they foul us, but then they hurt us by covering. Should have pulled the Red Flag (protest). We tacked out to clear our air and started to work towards the top mark. Something was not right and our boatspeed was not up to par. Coming up on Starboard towards the port layline, there is SHORTHANDED again. They look like they are going to try to cross, but they won't make it, They tack, but a bit too late. We need to alter course to avoid smacking them. Another possible foul. As we approached the starboard layline we had MAJOR DETAIL sitting right on our weather hip. We couldn't tack until they did. They pushed us about 3 boatlengths past the layline. We finally could tack and spent the rest of the race playing catchup. Finishing position was 14th, not good.

Between races there was a big discussion about what to change to get our speed back. The biggest key seems to be getting our nose out in clear air. Jon and Jeff worked on some different mainsail settings. We had a bit of a delay as the RC relocated our racing area out of the way of the CC-99/115 course. They got the line set and soon we were in the 5 minute sequence again. This time we made our final tack at just the right spot and we defended our hole to leeward. At 5 seconds we were moving really fast and ready to turn up to close hauled. BANG, it's the last start and all but two of the boats is on the line. BILL'S WILD RIDE did not sail, since they had locked up their 1st place finish and SOCIABLE had the forestay explode just as they made the final tack onto starboard. The sound of 0.325" stainless steel snapping is hard to miss even in the chaos of the start.

Our boat speed seemed better as we worked up the course. There were a few close crosses and we lee-bowed a couple of boats. At the top mark the crew work was stellar and we picked off 1 boat. Heading down we debated going to the #3, as the wind was picking up, but it was decided to stay on the #1. There was a pack of boats that all looked like they were setting up to round the right end of the gate. We decided to stay out of the fracas and set up for a gybe drop around the left end. Good thing. As we rounded I looked back and there was 5 or 6 boats all together with two boats joined by a blue spinnaker at the tops of the masts. BLUE MAGIC had gotten hooked on the kite from SISTER and was getting slingshot around. It didn't take long for the kite to shred and BLUE MAGIC was left with a long blue flag off the mast. SISTER retired.

There wasn't much time to look at things outside the boat. We had work to do. Picking the shifts, making perfect tacks, driving fast, hiking hard..... As we approached the top mark we lee-bowed a trio of boats and held them off. It's nice what you can do with good speed. The set was perfect and launched down wind for the last time. The 3 boats behind were all pushing hard, but we positioned ourselves between them and the finish line while managing to stay out of their wind shadows. It was textbook one-design sailing. Final result was 7th and it felt good.

The final standings are to be found here We finished in 8th place out of 17 boats. The racing was so close and the ability of the crews so good that pretty much any of the top 10 boats could have won the regatta. Congratulations to Bill Wildner and his crew on BILL'S WILD RIDE for a masterful performance. We will see everyone again next year at North Star Sailing Club, the site of the 2008 NAC.


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