Thursday, June 26, 2014

Hard Lesson in light fluky air.

The Good Neighbours race June 24th was one of those races where you get bounced around in light, wacky winds.

Our team managed a good start not straying far from the start line in the last minute. The countdown of the last 20 seconds were spent holding a nice clear lane right at the line. Nastier situation for #324. They got caught out on course side before the start, and struggled too late in the light air to get behind the line before the gun. The wind was negligible from the north shore. We found a stream of light ripples on the water and followed it up and clear of the struggling fleet. We didn't even glance at the compass, sticking with wherever we could keep the boat moving.

When the stream of light moving air disappeared on the starboard tack, we switched to port, to hopefully use the current to bring us a little closer. Encore Une Fois which had been ahead on the left chose to stay the starboard course but ran out of gas. The current was pretty much the only thing working for us, but it helped. When we tacked back onto port, we found ourselves on a long lay line to the windward mark and the lead boat.

At the mark, we rounded first, with Yin & Yang asking for room at the mark. They were most certainly entitled, but we managed to squeeze around just clear and ahead. To round ahead, unfortunately required a less than optimal angle out the other side. The breeze had shifted, and we had to launch the spinnaker while moving too far off the optimal course. Yin & Yang managed to flip on to port more quickly than we could jibe our chute. Aaack, they took the clear windward advantage and walked away. The horrible part was not just losing the lead, but the parade of Sharks and other faster boats were then able to all move past us on the windward side. My mistake was not responding by accepting our fate and getting clear away. Instead of soaking to leeward for clear air, I opted to try and fight my way to windward. But with the wind now skewed in direction from the left side, the spinnaker would just collapse in the disturbed air. We got blanketed by boat after boat, and we could not move into a clear gap in the traffic. We got spanked for the error.

Painful lesson re-learned. Sometime the less optimal direction, sailing away on the longer course is still the best course available. Sailing farther, but moving more quickly, would have still meant losing to some competitors, but still beating others who sailed ahead. The tough part is, little time is afforded for making such tactical decisions. Don't be stubborn and unaccepting of your situation. React, or get chewed up and spat out the ass end of the fleet!

We rounded the leeward mark wounded badly, but struggled back into striking position on the final leg to the finish of three boats. Another big shift of the fluky wind came under cloud cover, and this time we were not slow to react. A quick jibe switched our position from behind to windward, and we nipped three boats at the finish. Team Ambitious finished 6th. Yin &Yang sailed brilliantly to win. Ketchup with George and Tof on board sailed from no air on the first leg to a magnificent recovery and third place, second Shark. In between Ben Waring sailed his Grampian into second place. Great to see Ben and crew breaking up the usual standings!

Tonight, we are expecting another light breeze moving from the north shore side, so it might be another crazy race.