Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mainsail's Last Race at Shark Canadian Championship 2010

Sunday's racing got one more go around the marks in before the water resumed it's spottily rippled surface. Our team on Mainsail was pleased at having seen some progress.

I was determined to get a better start than my usual 2nd row. We accomplished that which was satisfying. I had wanted to go left at the start to take advantage of current and breeze. I also picked the middle of the line hoping for clear air. However it seems a large portion of the 40 boats racing also wanted to be there, because it was jam packed with Sharks! We crossed the start line right on the gun and were moving about the same pace as the others. George Stedman and Ketchup must've taken me for the marshmallow I am, because they were right to leeward and nose ahead shortly after crossing the line. I have always struggled to point with George. So when he managed to move ahead, we began to stall and fall off in his dirt. In no time his stern was ahead of our bow.

We drove the boat down for an instant to make some space around us, and tacked over in a nice gap to clear air, and headed up the right side of the course with no disturbance from other boats. The boat felt really in the groove and moving nicely. A number of boats played about behind us but relatively few nearby, and we had a free ticket almost to the windward mark on the right side of the course.

As boats who had gone left to shore started to come our way, it got interesting. A number were ahead, but hey, not a huge amount as normally expected! Several boats attempted to cross, but had to tack below our easy layline route. I could see them struggling, and clearly they would end up throwing in two more tacks. Then, Jin Frati and Blue Shark tacked right up tight on our leeward side as we called starboard. They were about 2/3 nosed ahead of us. That made me pretty nervous remembering Stedman's spitting us out earlier. I  focused hard on steering as we still had more speed over them coming out of the light-air tack. That favoured us, and despite having to pinch, we managed to keep moving over the top of them and roll. A large pack of boats then came in behind us. We made the mark comfortably, and Tavish and Barry did probably their quickest, smooth prep and launch of the chute at the mark. The team was hyped over our good performance to that point. Perfect. Then, I got a quick idea.

With a crowd of Sharks about to blanket our wind, now seemed like a good time to quickly jibe the chute, get to the side of the course and away. Quick and smooth, we sped away all by ourselves. Smooth getaway, and nice full spinnaker. Except for one thing! We just missed rounding the offset mark! Jin called out and pointed out my goof. That's what happens when you think too fast! There ain't no offset in club racing, but of course that is no excuse. If Jin hadn't warned us, we would have had to withdraw and DNF. So,we dropped the chute, made our way back to the offset, rounded, and launched again, near the back of the fleet. Oh well, it is after all, a comfortable familiar place.

The crew were great, not dispirited. The crew performed a very good windward takedown in a group of boats at the leeward gate. Having plenty of clear air, and time to study the course, I elected to go for the shore side the next time downwind. There appeared to be more breeze there, and then after a jibe we would be sailing a course closer to the wind and faster. This proved to be one of those rare times I got it right. We made good progress and caught several boats before the finish line.

We had a fun time even though we could not sail much with the lack of wind. We indeed learned a lot during the regatta, made some minor but important changes to the cleats, and got things working more smoothly. The newer North sails are a big help in getting closer to the fray! I think the team had a good feeling about how we will go as we race again!