Friday, March 07, 2008

Montreal Sailors at Bacardi Cup, Day 3, 4, 5

Rain and squalls for race four. Photo by Marco Oquendo

By Alain Vranderick – Quebec Star Fleet

DAY 3 – Forecast 10-15 knots SSE, (It was more like 8 to 10 knots) RC decided on course 4, 2.4 mile legs, 165 heading.

We got to the yacht club after our regular routine of breakfast at the condo, commute through traffic with stopover at Starbucks. Funny thing I found out about the Starbucks here in Miami, they do not serve an espresso “allongé”. Just the regular short kind. I’ve been asking for “allongés” all weekend, and all I got were blank stares. Who would have thought it? Kinda threw me off my regular caffeine fix, but I guess that it’s still better than the brown water we get at Tim Horton’s in Canada.

We scouted the course before the start with no definite strategy in mind. The numbers were pretty steady, and we just decided to see what would pan out after the start. About 5- 10 minutes before the starting sequence, a cloud that had started developing throughout the prerace tuning, started to stick out like a sore thumb in the skyline on the left corner of the course. Might as well have been a pot of gold!! After the starting sequence began, it became clear that most of the big hitters were going for that cloud. Oddly enough, once the starting sequence began, the fleet was pretty spread out over the enormous starting line (over a kilometer long!!). At about 1:30 before the start we found a semi-comfortable spot on the line, and decided to go into it and wait for the start. That’s when we were taken to school by the young Irish crew of 8261. At about 25 seconds before the start they snuck to leeward of us, luffed us, and then just took off like a rocket. If I were not on the boat being muffined, I would have applauded (they went on to win this race). It was like watching a tutorial video on how to start. We finally managed to start and worked our way to the middle right. The attraction of the cloud was quite obvious as a lot of golden stars were heading that way. In played the shifts the best we could, trying to find lanes through the traffic and noticed a slight shift towards the right. Every time we crossed on port behind a boat and then tacked back on starboard we would gain. We got at the top mark about mid fleet, and turns out the cloud was just an illusion, because the right paid big time.

We started sailing downwind on the right side of the course, with Peter Bromby right on our tail. We gibed a few times to keep our air clear, but generally worked the right. We made no significant gain or loss on the run, and headed back upwind working the middle right again. We noticed a different crowd around us this time. We could see gold stars here and there. This usually means you’re in a good spot, or, those boys are having a terrible day. It unfortunately was the latter. We were where we should be, and they were sailing unchartered waters, i.e.; the back of the fleet.

We held our own on the second run, to finish 62nd. Not a stellar day, but not bad either. We probably sailed to our competence level. In this kind of fleet you got to be realistic about your performances, otherwise you’ll need therapy for a few months when you get back home. Otherwise, bring a cat with you; it will give you something to kick when you get back to the condo…

We’re halfway through the regatta now, with 3 down and 3 to go. I must say that there is no denying that the appeal of sailing Stars in March on Biscayne bay is very strong, and that the event is indeed first rate. But man those courses are long!! If the wind is less than 8 knots I recommend to all crews to bring a book, newspaper or some kind of entertainment, because your brain might get a little soft on the downwind legs. Here’s an idea. How about a cocktail boat going around the last third of the fleet serving Bacardi cocktails in appreciation of the effort being put out by us regatta fee entries. That would keep me coming back.

DAY 4 – Forecast 5-10 knots S Race was blown off due to heavy rain

Keeping with our regular routine we headed for the race course around 10:30. As we were leaving the harbour we noticed some pretty ominous clouds forming over land. As we sailed out the dark clouds were making their way over the race course. We sailed a bit, and then the front came through. At first it was only rain, and wind from the South East. And then it went calm for a little while. We then noticed some crews taking their main down. That is usually not a good sign. Sure enough, the wind shifted to the North, and then it really started coming down. Real heavy rain and winds in the 30 knot range. We got our main down and started sailing around on jib only. Even only with the jib up, it was blowing enough for the bailers to do their job. We suffered that for a while, and decided to pack it up. As we were heading in, the front had blown through, and the wind had come down to about 10-12 knots. The RC was going around advising people that this was only a postponement and that were going to try to hold a race. Willy asked whether we should head back, and I told him that the RC had wasted whatever good will I had in them. We decided to go in.

When we got to the dock we learned that the RC had cancelled the day. This is sort of a good news bad news thing. Good news, we made it ahead of everybody, and were able to get our boat out of the water before the crowd, bad news, they were going to schedule 2 races on Thursday to make up for this lost day.

Now, this is 2008 right? I would presume that the RC has radar and weather info, or at least a cell phone to call shore where SOMEBODY is looking at weather reports and radar info. How could they have missed this big honker heading for the race course? No brownie points for the RC today. One good thing that came out of this, I found out that my spray top is not water proof anymore. So if anybody from my family is out there reading this, well Fathers Day is just a few months away…

It looks like the hot new item this year is the fiberglass whisker pole. It’s the must have item for light wind conditions. One problem is that they break easily .So if you are going to take full advantage of this new toy, you gotta buy 2 or 3. At $500 a pop, I think we’ll pass.

DAY 5 – Forecast 5 knots S, 2 races are planned.

Well this does not look good. The day starts with an onshore postponement at 9:30. The air is heavy from all the rain we got yesterday, and the bay is glassy. This is typically known as a trailer maintenance delay. Going through the yard you see all sort of stuff going on: trailer wheels being greased, rims being repainted. Fascinating…

The race was finally blown off at 11:30 sending everybody loose in Miami. Tomorrow two races are planned with the first gun at 9:55. Forecast is for 15-20 knots. Should be interesting.