Conditions: Mostly sunny
Temp: Warm in the mid 70s°F
Winds: Shifty and gust. Started out SE at 12 knots, went E at 8 knots, then shifted to SW at 15 knots, building to 20 knots, gusting to 25 knots.
Helm – Chris
Main Trim – Paige
Jib Trim – Tom
Pit – Sunny
Spin Trim – Deanna
Naviguessor – Steve
Midmast – Anders
Bow – Caleb
Main halyard – Yellow-Red
Main Traveler – down 12”-max
Jib halyard – Yellow-Red
Jib car – standard
Backstay – Yellow-Red
We were off the dock by 5:15 and motoring to Hospital Shoals. The wind was steady in the low teens from the SE, right on the nose as we motored out, so along with the flooding tide it took us almost an hour to get to the starting area. Initial course with those conditions called for going up the Gut, but the wind then died and shifted to the E, so RC reset the line and course. They started the first fleet at 6:35, but then the wind did a 180 and filled in from the SW. They put up an AP and kinda abandoned the first start (they forgot to tell the boats racing) and after a delay set the new course
RC called course S-26-32-26-F. That meant start between the RC and the Hospital Shoal “HS” buoy 32, upwind to G “3” at the West Gut, 1.8 nm away at 210°M with Rainsford Island on starboard and Peadocks on port, then downwind at 30°M for 1.8nm back to HS, twice around.
The D, F and G boats had a combined start first, then the C boats started, followed by our B fleet, then the A fleet. There were 15 boats in our B start. The RC was slightly upwind, but local knowledge is that when the breeze is coming from the SW, if you get to the left side of the course the wind backs by Peadocks Island, allowing you to tack into a big lift pointing at the mark. In addition, it was 7:02 PM by the time we started, so it was max flood towards the West Gut, with more current further left. So, in the prestart we came in on port, tacked to starboard with about 45 seconds to go, and accelerated down the line towards the pin. Rockit tacked in below us and were closest to the pin at the start, with us above them and the other 13 boats between us and the RC.
Upwind Leg 1
Right after the start, we had Rockit below us and the fleet behind us. We were higher and faster than Rockit, and as we headed towards Peadocks Island, the breeze backed, as was effected by the island, so we tacked to port and crossed our fleet. The breeze was building, with the wind in the mid teens with gusts to the high teens. Steve was our Naviguessor that night, and was feeding back a detailed picture to me of what was going on with the other boats and the breeze on the course. With the new winches in place we were able to tack quickly with the new line already in the self-tailer, which worked well. We had great boatspeed (6.6 knot on average) on port and were in the current pushing us towards West Gut, so made great distance on the rest of the fleet still on starboard. We started passing boats that had started 5-10 minutes before us in the earlier fleets, and arrived at the windward mark well in front of our nearest B fleet competitor.
With a tight racecourse area between Peadocks and Gallups Island, the reacher kite was the right choice, but with the gusts now getting close to 20 knots, it was far too light of a kite to fly. Instead, as we rounded the top mark we bore off to a broad reach to allow some of the port tackers below us to get to the mark, then flipped the jib over to wing-on-wing to point downwind at 30°M directly at the mark.
Downwind Leg 1
Wing-on-wing worked well, we moved the jib car all the way forward and Anders and Caleb worked at keeping it filled, while making sure their bodies were never outside the lifelines, as per Rule 49.2. Several of our competitors did hoist spinnakers, but most of them were out of control or had wraps or other issues, and we made steady progress directly at the mark at between 7-8 knots through the water. We gybed the main over a bit early at perhaps 15 boat lengths and came into the downwind mark a bit slow and very, very deep. However, Paige and Tom were able to trim in the main and jib VERY quickly on the rounding, getting us into a high line that allowed us to sail over the top of 3-4 more boats from earlier fleets.
Upwind Leg 2
We got a slight righty, tacked, and headed on starboard once again towards Peadock. We noticed the RC had left its station by the start/finish line, and was motoring towards the upwind G “3” mark 26, so we expected the race to be shortened there, given the lateness of the hour. Once again, we got a header near the island and tacked to port, very close to the layline. At this point, wind was in the high teens, gusting to the mid-20s, and we had all of the backstay and halyard on we could muster. Anders was doing a great job of calling the puffs but even with some pre-feathering the boat was heeling too much, so at this point we went to vang sheeting, allowing us to flatten and depower the main even more, and flatten out the boat. We immediately went from 6.2 knots to 6.6 knots and stopped sliding to leeward. We had one last boat to pass from the F Fleet to gain line honors, and we rolled over the top of them just short of the finish line, then tacked over to port to go the last 10 boat lengths to cross the finish and get the gun!
First place out of 15 boats in our fleet, PLUS we passed all the boats that started 5-10 minutes ahead of us, PLUS we corrected over all of the A Fleet boats behind us, PLUS we got line honors as the first boat to finish, all without even flying the chute. VERY WELL DONE CREW!!!!
Things we learned/need to do next time
- Sometimes the conservative call is the way to go, as the wing-on-wing was a big help in us winning that race.
- That being said, I need to add a “chicken chute” into the mix, so we can have a smaller, flatter kite available for the occasional times the wind really pipes up in the summer.
- Once we get to 20 knots of TWS, go to the vang sheeting.
- Be ready for any of sort of wind change before the race starts, and have the possible courses planned out ahead of time.
- Remember that there is no longer a bridge at Long Island, so when you finish a race near the West Gut you can use that shortcut to get home earlier.
- If you have gone to vang sheeting, make sure you ease the vang as you turn downwind and ease the main sheet, otherwise you could damage the boat. We were careful with this on this occasion, let’s make sure we do that in the future too!