Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sailweek: July 10th

Nick, a competitor, sailing buddy, and being a very funny guy, pleaded with me not to blather on for too long on Montreal Sailing about last evening's Good Neighbours' Race. Okay, okay, I won't. I admit to not having the same broad, even-handed analysis of Pierre. Suffice to say, it was my first victory in a very long time, and we were overdue! It was a beautiful mild summer evening featuring my favoured light winds, coming a bit unusually from roughly a southerly direction. Here come the war stories:

Last Thursday, the race committee patiently hung out while I crept across DFL in dying winds. They were not going to make that mistake again, and laid a very short course. The light wind meant it was advisable to stay close to the starting line if one was to get a decent start. The PHRF 1&2 boats got a little too enthusiastic about that strategy, and many ended up over early. A general recall put them to the back of the starting line up.

Next were the PHRF 3 boats. Many of us rode the line to stay close for the gun too. Fortunately, we were all clear. A group of us rode the line a bit early, and that meant we were heading for the pin. The RC end was more favoured, but the group mostly got nice clean air starts. Sine Wave (T22) might have had a little turbulence from Ambitious (T22) squeezing from leeward, and tacked off. That tack put them in a good clean position on the favoured tack. Two Sharks tacked away a little bit later, and Ambitious pinned a third, until we decided to go too. It was a good start to the race.

Ambitious had good boat speed upwind, but two Sharks, Ketchup and Crisis had equally good speed and kept apace. That is not supposed to happen! The T22 is supposed to be quicker in light winds and has a corresponding handicap penalty. Clearly George Stedman and Tof Nicholl-Griffith are exceptional light-air sailors.

Downwind, the T22s may have had a slight advantage with the large spinnakers, but the lighter three Sharks were still keeping apace with little discernible disadvantage. Fortunately, for us, Ambitious was able to use a white sailor coming upwind as a blocker, inciting Crisis to jibe away to an unfavoured course. To windward, we were able to pass Ketchup, but Megalo Don's lead persisted around the leeward mark. Don rounded smoothly, and of course his son, and Nick executed quietly and perfectly. We came in on starboard, and had a more frantic time, with me perhaps a little louder than need be! The pole was still going to be in the way of our jibing and rounding! Then I remembered a lesson from guest-crewing on Jake's boat. Toby Jennings flicked the guy off the pole, while still stuffing the big chute, on Ambitious. With no time for foredeck crew to stow the pole, and rounding the mark, David Bowen hoisted the pole to the mast with the topping lift, unclipped to the mast, but held fast by the topping lift jamcleat. We hauled white, and poked the bow around and up. A foot off Megalodon's stern, we luffed up for a second, and then managed to fill the sail to windward. Wild and crazy, but this time it was all good. What a crew, boyz!

At one rounding Chris Paynter's Evergreen (T22) acquired some red paint from a T26 pinching for the mark. At another exciting mark rounding, Evergreen rounded the windward mark along with Sine Wave (T22). With chutes hoisted, Evergreen took up Sine Wave to prevent them from passing to windward. Several Sharks and our T22 were able to point right down the course, and make a lot of ground on them. Megalo Don and Ketchup mixed it up on downwind legs, while Crisis tried jibing away to come in at a hotter angle. Ambitious had a pretty clean run, a little behind, but out of the fray.

After, that final rounding of the leeward mark, the Sharks tacked for the left side of the course. Instead, I thought I'd keep clear on the right. We seemed about 5 or ten degrees higher on average than the previous upwind leg. As it turns out, we were going gangbusters, with the slight current pushing us closer to the mark and fantastic speed. Crisis tacked over too, but Ambitious had its lead by that time. Hitting the layline, we were able to cross Crisis without difficulty, and with the aid of the current, speed to the windward mark, ahead of the fleet.

Ambitious crossed the finish line within a cluster of white sailors and the RC didn't fire the cannon, giving it to Ketchup, sometime later. They thought we were with the white sail class! After everyone finished, we turned back, and crossing the RC's stern, grinning RC folk covered their ears as Alan fired the cannon into our sails. It was boom I'll remember for a while!

Tonight should be tougher, as potential squalls and heavy weather are my weakness. Odds to the Sharks, and to Sine Wave in the T22 class.

Sorry, Nick!