Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sailweek Begins with BYC Annual Regatta

Today was the opening salvo of Sailweek 2010. 3 races of the Beaconsfield Yacht Club’s Annual Regatta. Then, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings are Sailweek’s evening races. Next Saturday is the Pointe Claire Yacht Club’s Annual Regatta to close things off.

Today’s regatta was typical Montreal mid-summer weather. Some threatening clouds initially, but the weather was most mostly sunny, hot, humid, and we sailed along via a light wind. Lots of shifting winds, little puffs, and swirly stuff kept the strategists guessing. Today's crew were regulars David Bowen (top pic) and Tavish McDonnell (pic below)

In the distance to the east were two very large fleets of boats on different racing courses. Oh yeah, the TRY dinghy regatta! I don’t think I have ever seen so many Lasers on Lac St. Louis. I sure hope some of them join the Good Neighbour racing series.

Our first race of the day was a disappointment. I had a poor start and trailed the fleet around the course unable to pick anyone off – DFL. Ugh, don’t wanna go back there again. Been there, done that. After the race, I discovered a huge wad of weeds on the rudder. My older Shark rudder is a little deceptive. Weeds can wrap around the lower squared section and not really be visible. I saw a few high up, and hung off the back of the boat to pull ‘em off. Yikes, I realized there was a large hedge hanging on the rudder lower down. It was larger than some of the bushes in my garden at home. We sailed backwards to be certain of getting everything off the rudder and keel.

The second race, we got a better start. I could feel the boat accelerate more as we crossed the line. I picked the right side, and we seemed to have a little more breeze for a while. With the wind being as fickle as it was though, I’m not confident one side consistently paid more than the other. The best side is an on-going debate between David and I!

On the downwind leg, I saw we could sail a higher course if we jibed right after rounding the windward mark. I also thought there was still a little more breeze on that side of the course (shore). We made good progress on both downwind legs. In fact, probably much more progress than on the upwind legs. We ended up ahead of 7 boats in this race, including a number of Sharks that I’m always measuring our progress against, because they are usually better. Sharks like Sudden Impulse, Toy Yot, Chimera, Crescendo, and Silver Phantom.

Indeed, indeed. Most of those boats re-asserted their supremacy in the third and final race. I think we may have held three off. The third race was more evidence of a repeated, significant weakness of mine: starts. We were approaching with good timing. However, I took Silver Phantom’s stern, instead of turning to beat windward of them. I was thinking I would have enough speed to come out the other side heading a little further from the committee boat. I figured there would be a large gap between the crowd at the RC and the Pin-heads.  Instead, almost the whole fleet sailed down the line and blanketed us and we almost totally stalled two or three boat lengths from the line – argghh! I make this mistake over and over again, because I’m afraid of getting stuck in the middle of traffic, or worse, squeezed into the RC. Instead I get stuck in neutral gear, trying desperately to get out from under other sails to windward. We tacked over to the right again quickly for clear air... but the damage was done. We did a fair bit of tacking to catch up to a few boats. Catching shifts helped a bit. We caught three boats and were targeting Toy Yot on the final run. Several times on the last run we were blanketed by larger boats or J24s. Every time we jibed to clear our air, we ran into another chute to windward. We made our way on the shore side again, as I looked for more pressure. We did get some and made progress. The last jibe towards the finish was a bid to sail high and fast. We probably would not have caught Toy-Yot, but there was a small chance. Then the wind went way forward, and because we were already on a high course, we had to switch to the genny.  Toy-Yot finished well ahead of us. Bravo Bill Lynam! Post-analysis of the today’s racing should be very interesting. Both Bill and I are using a GPS functioning knotmeter-compass called Speedpuck. We will be viewing our tracks on the computer soon. Cool.

Irregardless of the pressures and hard work racing against smarter, faster sailors, I feel we did pretty well today. We moved up the roster a bit from our usual place, and we are occasionally finishing up on the good gang. Many thanks to a sailor with real class, Judy Weiss, skipper of Crescendo, who recognized we had worked hard to catch up one leg to windward, and got them on one tack over their bow. She called out “Good on you Ralph” or some such comment. That felt good and it was generous of her!

Congratulations are in order to Jin Frati and crew on Blue Shark. I think they probably won the first two races and were close to first for the third race. They were on fire today! Tof N-G and Hugh Strudwick did very well today too, and probably won the third race. I suspect it is because they had one of my regular crew, Toby Jennings, working the foredeck for them. Dunno if they were third or not, but a Shark I like very much, VO2 Max was right up there too. Last two times I helmed that boat were winning occasions: First in last year’s Ishkoodah, first in this year’s RStLYC Annual. Nick Van Haeften played a bit of a role in that effort of course. At least,  I didn’t cramp his style!

My apologies to Rob Levy, whose Fireball we unintentionally leebowed. We were not in the same race, so I felt bad.

Seems to me. and crew David Bowen and Tavish McDonnell, that we are getting it better and better as the season progresses. Watch out, Montreal Sailors, we are on the hunt and rising!

Sailweek continues Tuesday, and the drama of the series will continue to build.