Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sailweek 2009: My Lesson From Race #5

Pictured is my Sailweek t-shirt. Rumour is that it is another brilliant contribution of graphic artist Peter Kelly. I like collecting these things. As you can see, the wind is better on the left side. - Ralph, Montreal Sailing

Wednesday evening's race was the first light wind racing we have had for Sailweek. The majority of starters did the usual starboard tack start closer to the RC boat versus the pin. However, although there were fluctuations, the left side of the start seemed favoured to me a lot of the time. By the time my later start for PHRF 3 came up for its turn, there had already been oscillations, and I had changed my mind twice.

The leaders of Sailweek in PHRF 3, the Shark team, VO2 Max chose the pin. I ended up in the middle and blanketed due to my hesitance.  At the moment of the gun the pin paid big time. VO2 Max was able to flip and cross almost the whole fleet on port. Unfortunately, for the Sailweek dominators, they sailed across the bows of the pack, and onto the right side which didn’t pay as well going up the course. Blue Shark went left and held the lead for the whole race from what I could see here and there about the course. I have heard it said that when it comes to finding where the wind is, Blue Shark’s Jin Frati is the one who knows. Nuisance (Shark) threatened at times, but Blue Shark seemed to be running away from the rest of us. I did hear post-race that a protest was lodged by Nuisance against Blue Shark. Apparently it pertains to room at the mark, and it will be heard this evening.

The key to doing well in this race (from the perspective of our sufferance) was quite a strong example of many evening races in typically light wind from the southwest. That is, do whatever you need to do to get a fast start to clear air, and up to the windward mark before the wind drifts to near nothing. That way, you are not fighting against the current upwind, desperate to make the windward mark, and bogged in dying air. Getting around the mark before the wind drops, means you can usually count on the current to work in your favour while running away downwind, others are still trying to fight the current going upwind.

That is what happened in this race. Some got around the mark and made huge mileage away from others, who struggled practically stopped, appearing to move, but actually nearly standing still in the opposing current. To make matters worse for small PHRF 3 boats, the longer faster PHRF 1 boats, that can still make progress,  come over your bow and flip onto your windward side. Then you not only get halted while blanketed, but you also drop below the layline to the mark and have to somehow manage two more tacks. Meanwhile the leaders are running away downwind with big light spinnakers, and pushed by the current, and few boats to contend with. Ugh, ugly, very ugly!!! As our crew David muttered “The rich get richer...”

So there we have my lesson garnered for light southwest wind. Fast start to clear air somewhere (probably left side) unhindered by others, get to the mark before the wind subsides, and watch the separation grow as the wind subsides for those still plodding upwind! That should make things easy, shouldn’t it? Well, easier said than done of course, but methinks it a valuable lesson. That makes it a good race for this backpacker.

The racers:

William's Shark, struggled at the windward mark, desperately tacking, and manoeuvring. Something went amiss as he did turns after rounding, but then scooted off. It was worth whatever cost when rounding because they went on to a good finish on Chimera, Congrats to them.  VO2 Max probably were not happy with their 7th in this race. Hey, maybe they can relax though since they have been in first place overall, NOT!  VO2 Max has clearly been the boat to beat in Sailweek, the strongest, most consistent contender. However, with this last light air race they struggled, and now Blue Shark is tied in points with the leaders. That tie is in jeapordy though as it is subject to the protest being heard tonight. If Nuisance wins, that might knock Blue Shark way down the standings and give VO2 Max a little firmer grip on the lead. Nuisance is only 3 points back in 3rd overall, so Sailweek may still have a long way to go before it is decided. Bill Lynam's new Rub-A-Dub-Dub may better be named Snub-A-Dumb-Bum, ditching us backpackers, and flirting with the stern ends of a faster crowd. They finished 6th in this race. Wow, forget about knocking on the back door man, they're already in the groove. Well done.

Sine Wave and Encore Une Fois had a close finish as the first Tanzer 22s. The Linton's Encore edged out the Fichtens in a close finish, despite Sine Wave being to leeward of other sails on the run. Encore Une Fois and Sine Wave were 1st and 2nd T22s last night and hold the same positions in the overall results so far.

The heavy winds of the first 4 races followed by the light winds of the 5th race have not been kind to the tender and fast Fireball fleet. The results are littered with DNCs, but Joe Jospe and Tom Egli keep racking up those bullets. Even their drop race so far is a 1st and overall is held by another duo of Fireball luminaries, Eric Owston and Joe Grant. There are new faces I don't recognize in the Fireball fleet, that's cool. I now know how to sense a Fireball gaining from astern. There is a distinctive slapping sound of a flat, square Scow bow as it touches the water and waves at certain speeds. If it gets a little louder I know a Ball is approaching.

Vivace is runing away with 1st overall in PHRF 1, and the Etchells fleet, but got bested in race #5 by Etchells 1182. Who wuz those guys? And then WHOAH, Denise Bienvenu and her Laser 28 team on Convictus also finished ahead of the top dawgs on Vivace. There is a close competition between 2nd and third overall, Etchells Charybdis and Uhu respectively. Also doing well out there is the J80, Fast Company which has broken through the Etchells fleet in the scoring. In PHRF 1, the Etchells are the largest fleet, but it's was fun to see some other boats including the Laser 28s show up. I hope they come again!