Eclipse, the New Champs!
VO2 Max has long been the conqueror of the Chili bowl. It's been so long, nobody knows for sure. but maybe it has been a decade since any other team has won BYC's last race of the season. This, my friends is big news. This afternoon, another boat has won the Chili Bowl. It is the same team that won the Turkey Bowl last week, sailing the very same course up and down the river for the afternoon. Eclipse, the green Shark with the slogan added on to the hull this year, "My stimulus package". Well, it certainly has been stimulating over the last couple of weeks for this team made up of the Rahn family. Two consecutive regattas and two consecutive victories. Peter, may I suggest that the Rahns serve the Turkey won last week with a cranberry sauce that is spiced with just a hint of chili. It will be a very pleasant Thanksgiving this year.
Being a pursuit race (under white sail only), the Sharks were scratch boats, starting first off. We all headed for the pin end on port tack as it became favoured in the shifting easterly wind. I got to the line for the gun, but soured behind the sails of other Sharks and had a poor start. I actually then got stuck behind Chris' Tanzer 22. The T22s started seconds after the Sharks. The other Sharks all got ahead starting on port tack, while I had trouble pinching up to get by the pin on starboard tack. I tried to flip over to port because I wanted to head away from shore. But, then another Tanzer, either Chris's or the Lintons suddenly appeared again on starboard and a little ahead. So we had to tack to give way. A couple more tacks were required to keep clear of Tanzer 22's before we finally had our own path out to the wide waters. By this time the other Sharks were well ahead, and the Linton T22, Encore une Fois was also doing well. We finally settled in to the intended course, and actually did very well. We made up a lot of ground with the boats ahead throwing in several more tacks and progressing along the shore. We stuck to our farther out route, and caught up considerably. At the first SLVYRA mark towards easterly Pointe Claire and well out, we approached the mark within sporting range of the top three. First around was Eclipse, followed closely by Encore Une Fois. The both immediately went into a tactical situation that pretty much continued for most of the distance race. Next around was VO2 Max, closely followed by us in Mainsail. The remaining boats were spaced further back, and we focused on the front winners.
Eclipse and Encore une Fois went into a pissing match driving each other up higher, while VO2 Max and us in Mainsail sailed a somewhat more direct course to the next mark upriver, and downwind. We progressed on a broad reach, and I made my first tactical error. Not far off VO2 Max's stern, I edged higher, aiming for just left of their boat. In the fairly light winds we maintained better boat speed, and very slowly reigned the Chili champs in. As we got a good overlap, and threatened to pull ahead, Osborne just threw the tiller over and pushed us up big time. I wasn't expecting such a quick move and was caught off-guard. As helmsman, I was sitting very far forward of the traveler, on the low side, actually pretty close to the cabin bulkhead. I had the tiller extension fully extended, and in an awkward position behind me, as I had my eyes focused entirely on the leading edge of the genoa. As I suddenly realized VO2 Max's hull was heading right at ours, I pushed the tiller extension hard, and the boat for an instant went the wrong way. Yikes, what silly contorted positions, the Shark tillerman must endure. I pushed away at the tiller again, and got out of the way, but not until VO2 Max gave us a good splash which hit me square in the face and sunglasses, then POOF, they were off in the other direction. How HUMILIATING!
After regaining my composure, which took quite a lot of verbal therapy of an unrepeatable type, we set a new course. This time, we would more reasonably try and soak to leeward of VO2 Max, where there would be enough air to get by. The problem of course was getting to that point. We did have slightly more boat speed, but it was a very long ride. Good thing it was a distance race. We did eventually get overlapped, well to leeward, and we were able to pass by sailing a slightly higher course to windward, over and ahead of their bow. Once ahead of them, the next mark came into sight. VO2 Max, instead of tangling with us, went behind and below switching from a port tack broad reach, to wing on wing, directly to the mark, and using the spinnaker pole. When we went into the same run to the mark, our angle was a little different. VO2 Max had slightly more pressure in the sails, and quietly moved ahead before we realized what was happening.
Eclipse rounded first, closely followed by Encore Une Fois. A gap of perhaps half a minute ensued, then VO2 Max rounded, followed closely by us in Mainsail. The final upwind leg to the finish would stay consistent with the same order of competitors all the way up the leg. This time, VO2 Max was pointing better, and had a little more speed than us. I don't know why. They slowly pulled ahead. In an last-ditch effort to shuffle the order, we tacked back out away from shore. There was no risk from the boats behind, and we were not going to overtake the boats ahead by simply following them. It didn't work, but we did safely keep our 4th position over Beverly's Tanzer 22, Sorceress. I do think we had a little better speed, but that is a guess. The only thing David could think of differently, was if we had tacked away from shore earlier, giving more time to work a different approach.
So, Eclipse takes the race, and what a victory it is! Encore Une Fois, who have sailed so well this year, including the other big upset, winning the BYC Championship, again over long time winners, VO2 Max, sails so well again for 2nd. VO2 Max, who everyone still knows are masters of the local waters, come in third. I expect a lot more water in the face from those guys. As for the next season we'll see a dogfight between these and other Sharks, with Encore Une Fois throwing in a Tanzer variable. We came in a very satisfying 4th. That is another sign of some progress for us, learning the boat, and racing better. Beverly's Sorceress takes 5th. The fleet streamed in with more boats crossing the finish than I expected. Given the threatening clouds and October date I hadn't expected many boats. However, it was a very pleasant day on the water. I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as us.