Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wind Rocks Competitors in Surprise Turn

We had motored out of the harbour, and by rote of habit raised the sails. I didn't really expect a race to happen. The wind was so light, even the shallowest of ripples had disappeared from the water surface. However, I did not take into account Wally's (Stephen Waldie) persistence on race committee, and my new crew member, Collette's determination to make some air pass over the sails.

In search of some moving air, the RC moved further west, and thankfully away from the construction dump zone. Miraculously, the air got fresher, and we were able to move about the start line quite nicely. Still, it was not enough to release the wind indicator from some grippy cobwebs atop the mast. As we moved up the first leg, I watched our foredeck crew's eyes get larger, as looking back, he said "Whoah, there is something very black coming in fast... maybe we should head in." That seemed ridiculous to me, as I declined to even look back, while I focused on keeping the dying breeze flow over the tell tales in a limp fashion. Then, I saw Jin with sails on deck, motoring at top speed for harbour... hmmm.

We continued to slowly proceed to the windward mark, when Collette began a countdown. It's going to hit us in 45, 30, 20 10! WHAM!

Okay, I had no choice now but to believe, but I must confess being confused on the helm. Not only did we get hit with a whole new force, but the wind was all over the place, and then directly behind. I uncleated the mainsheet and let the sail run out. The wind was still squirrelly, though at the extreme, and the genny was flapping all over. Very confusing. Then, I saw the skiff sailors on Bill Lynam's Shark hoist the kite, and take off like a jet! They were sailing a tighter reach while our approach to the mark was a direct run with a swirling wind. I heard Collette shout out something about watching out for the possibility of an accidental jibe, which thankfully didn't happen.

I opted to not call for a chute, and a good thing that was. As we approached the mark, Nuisance came storming down on us, bow in the air, moving more like a surface missile then a sailboat. Collette saw them first, and called it, but by the time I peered around the main, and prepared to tack it was already too late. I feared a panic tack and dumping my crew in the water in heavy, fast traffic, so opted to shove the boat sideways along Nuisance, "distancing" from the mark, until they passed. It was a race-tosser but felt safe. Toby on Nuisance was not impressed, but everybody lived to recall the event later, and Toby was philosophical about it all too.

After we rounded the formerly windward mark, now a leeward mark, the difference between our boat's progress, and the Nuisance missile momentarily permeated my brain's activity. We heaved and tossed about constantly blowing sail in the gusts, tugging sheets back in, only to get blown over again seconds later. Repeat constantly was the order for the evening. It did get better when I dropped the traveler to the extreme leeward end, and the crew got some more cunningham on the genny, but clearly, I have yet to acquire heavy air helming skills. It was fun to ride the edge between pinched and over-powered, and we had a very exciting ride. The crew worked their butts off. Tavish muscled the genoa, and Collette hiked all 85 pounds of her weight over the side of the hull, blowing the pressure-cleated main with her foot when needed. Yee-hah! I felt like we were cowboys on a bucking bronco, not fast, but hoo-wee, exciting.

Our racing steed, navy-blue hulled Shark, #901, has now finally been re-named to follow our previous racing boat and teams, and to recognize the long, crazy course we have been on! The name is again, "Ambitious"

Photo from our racing in the Shark World Championship last week, taken by Peter Lavender.