The big race!
We're off today to Port Credit, Ontario, for the start of the Lake Ontario 300. That's 300 nautical miles!
I've really been looking forward to this race! It is the biggest race I have entered in my own boat (although I've sailed slightly longer races on Flight Simulator). We have some good competition, too. Greg Harding on Takin' Off is tough to beat in a distance race, and this year, Tom Reese is sailing with Dave Fice on Triumphant. I have never beaten Tom on Flight Simulator, so now is my big chance.
My crew is all from the Ithaca area: Keith Rice, Peter Walsh and Bill Schweizer. Bill is new to the boat (very brave of him to set off on a 300 mile race without getting to know the boat!). Peter has raced with us a couple of times, and got some helming experience in the Scotch Bonnet last year, and of course, Keith is a regular.
Also on the team are David Rice and Suzanne Gervais, our weather routers and tactical advisors. Although we have internet access through my PDA and a cellular amplifier, the rules for this race permit any communication, so we might as well get all the input we can get (especially from someone who is warm, dry, and well-rested, with full access to the internet).
Well... just before leaving home on friday morning, I checked the weather, and there was a high pressure parked over Lake Ontario. The picture shows the wind model: those square dots indicate a wind or less than 2.5 knots.
Now, here is where I have to admit I am really a cruiser, not a racer. A cruiser will change plans if they don't like the weather, while a true racer will show up at the start line, no matter what. We stayed home, and I have no regrets. The wind was less than 5 knots for the whole race, and the fastest boat took over 21 hours to finish.
Scotch Bonnet Race
We're off to the Scotch Bonnet Race tomorrow. It is an overnight distance race from Rochester, across Lake Ontario and back - 83 nautical miles. Keith and Wade are crewing. The forecast is for little or no wind, so it is going to be a painfully slow race. Everybody whistle for us!
"Number 9, You're over early!"
I spent the day today acting as race committee for a laser regatta on Cayuga Lake. It was a lot of fun! The wind that was a little fluky at first, then died away completely, then filled in nicely to about 10 knots (typical lake conditions). We set 5 short races of 40 minutes each, on a windward-leeward course. We had to do one "shorten course" during the first race, but otherwise everything went smoothly. The water where we set the course is 200-300 feet deep! I learned some interesting techniques for anchoring the marks and the committee boat.
Finally! I received the Wind Tunnel battens for the new mainsail! I could not wait to see how it looks, so I put the battens together and hoisted the Sail. It looks great! Now all I need is some wind.
Homeward, On a roll.
We got the boat packed up yesterday and Will and Henry on their flights. Then I hit the road for the long solo drive home to NY.
I have always enjoyed this drive North, alone with many fresh memories of the sea, and of the fun times with all the friends I have made at the Nationals. Most of all, I am looking forward to wrapping my arms around my wife and kids.
I am making better time this trip with a different sleep schedule. Usually, I drive as much as I can during the day, and sleep at night. This time, I am taking more frequent naps of two or three hours, and I find I can drive through the night feeling quite refreshed.
Today was a challenging day: Racing started at 10am with a gentle, puffy northerly, which veered to the SW and built to over 20 knts. The first race was a quickie: once around. We got a decent start at the committee boat with clean air. Most boats stayed on starboard tack, but Kim had her reasons to want to go right. So we tacked away from the fleet, and promptly sailed into a hole with no wind. In such a short race no comeback was possible.
The second race we were well positioned ahead of the competition. The wind was shifty, and we were tacking on every shift and trimming the sails as the wind strength varied. It worked - we stayed ahead most of the race. Then, on the second leeward mark roundings, Katrina went up to the right and we went left. When we came together again at the windward mark, she was way ahead. Tactical error.
The third race was our worst! The less said the better... We touched a mark and had to do a 360 turn. Then we shrimped the spinnaker, and a tangle in the tack line meant we sat stationary for quite a while and finished the leg under main and jib.
After that ordeal we were ready to head in, but the race committee set another race, again three times round. By this time the wind was really picking up to 20 knts, and I was beginning to feel like putting in a reef. But by that time we were in sequence and there was not time to put in the reef. We did set up my small spinnaker, and I was glad, because at the top end of the course, the wind was higher. At the windward mark, we set the small spinnaker and tore downwind. Before we had time to tidy up the lines, it was time to jibe. After the jibe it was clear we had overstood, and the wind was too strong to head up to the leeward gate. We had to get the sail down on the starboard side 9where we did not have a bag, and Henry had to stay down and hold it while we sailed on a fast jib reach to the mark. Henry got quite a dunking and is now well christened as a bag boy. During this race, several of our competitors retired due to damage: a broken halyard, a torn mainsail, worn our crew. Our rudder was not pinned and had kicked up a bit, making steering very heavy. For the next lap, we were well behind, and decided we were just going to finish the race without risking crew or equipment. All the same we had a close call with a C24 at the last windward mark. We were coming in on port, and I thought we could cross ahead. But the wind changed and it did not look like we could make it across. With the heavy steering, I felt it was too risky to try to duck them - we might have T-boned if the main was not eased quick enough. So I threw in a tack too close, which forced them above close-hauled. They were mad at me, but did not pull out the red flag. We did another 360 anyway. We finished this race last, but that is better than retiring.
Well, Katrina beat us soundly in light air and heavy air - serves me right for making glib remarks about their performance on Tuesday. They sailed well and we screwed up. Sailing is a combination of so many skills, and a single mistake can cost the race. If we can learn from our mistakes, today was an instructive day!
In the final results (see the link under Favorites at the right), we got 6th out of 12 boats in our class. Amongst the other F28s and F27s, we were 2nd out of 6 boats.
(Picture by Stuart Schaefer, http://www.stuartonline.com, reproduced with permission)
Yet another cold front.
A strong front is on the way, with a tornado warning in effect. Racing was postponed, then abandoned. We spent the day at the Naval Air museum.