Monday, 10 August 2009

Night Race 2009

I am tardy (again) with importing our GPS log, but I need to do that, in the meantime, here is a brief synopsis of this year’s night race.

At first glance I would say it wasn’t as magical as last year. Last year there was moonlight glinting off the water, this year there was lightening making clouds glow. Last year there was a light, warm breeze, this year there was a threatening tone to the winds that never let up. Certainly it was a different race, but at the same time, it held its own magic. Let’s get on with the story.

We held a short crew meeting, everyone got their stuff on the boat and introductions were made all around. On board we had Patti, who owns a boat on Georgian Bay and sailed on Iris a bunch last season, Matt who had never sailed before, but was eager to learn, Luis who owns a Grampian in our club, but as a new boat owner wanted to try other boats out, Chuck, who has been mentioned here before, and myself. 5 adults on a 25 foot boat for a night-long race. I was worried about crowding.

The race started with the shortest skippers meeting in the history of skippers meetings. Everyone was handed a set of race instructions and told to read them. As with last year there would be no shortened course, no time limit, and no shore support.

I asked what the Race Committee would do in case the weather deteriorated to thunderstorms since the forecast looked pretty bad. The answer was simple – it’s up to you to decide when conditions are no longer amenable to sailing.

The start of the race was pretty uneventful. We started off really deep to stay clear of the spin fleet, then came up to the line staying well below most of the white sail fleet who were vying for the pin. It was a beam reach off the start, and we didn’t have the best line position, but we were there early and with speed, so I was happy. The trip up K-bay to Big Bay point went without trouble, and we reached the point about halfway back in the white sail fleet. Since we were only competing with 6 other boats (one was going to retire immediately after starting just so he could hold his position in the standings, and then we would have a fleet of 6 boats including ourselves) it was easy to keep track of the competition.

On the way up the bay everyone settled into position. Patti went up on foredeck and walked Matt through trim calling, I drove, Luis rested for the late shift, and Chuck kept up lots of lively banter. We turned the corner at the top of the bay, and headed toward Fox Island, watching out for Long shoal, and keeping an eye on the boats ahead, and behind us. Ahead was Newfie Screach.

Newfie is a great sailor, and one of the guys we always try to mark our progress against, also ahead was Lake Effect. Lake Effect sails out of LCYC, and is a very good sailor. Marking our time against those two boats would be a good indication of how well we were doing. With our 155% genoa flying, we bit into the building wind and pointed like a setter, going for the island.

We had taken an inland course, more so than some of the other boats, and it seemed to be working well. As they tacked over we watched them, and soon we saw Lake Effect was going to cross us. It was going to be a tight crossing, and I began to wonder if I should fall off to avoid a collision. Then I realized that we had made time on him, and lake Effect would be crossing behind us on port tack, if we held our course on starboard. Little firecrackers went off inside me and I smiled to myself as I watched him fall just behind us. Up ahead Newfie tacked over to make the island. I decided we would follow his course.

We dove down behind the island, deep, and then tacked to follow Newfie on his approach to rounding it. Just one problem though, He had tacked over early, and wasn’t going to make it. Newfie put in extra tacks, and we held course. On the lifts it looked like we would clear the island, but when the gusts ended, we looked like we wouldn’t. If we had held our course, we may have made it with inches to spare, but we’ll never know. I put in the same tacks Newfie did, and rounded the island with room to spare.

We followed Newfie up to the weather buoy that was the northeast mark in the course. On the way the wind continued to build and we enjoyed a strong showing from the boat. As the night deepened we watched the boats behind us getting closer. Eventually the waves were too much for Iris and as she ploughed into them her speed would drop from 6.7 knots (GPS) to 2.5 knots. We were having a great ride down the waves, but didn’t have the power to climb back up them. The motion was rough, and shortly after we were passed by “The United Nations Boat” we rounded the weather buoy to take the steep seas and heavy winds on the nose, over powered.

At the speeds we were doing, I was hoping the boat would hold on and get us to K-Bay without too much trouble. I was also thinking we had too much sail up, but I didn’t want to trade off our position. We were heeled to 30° regularly, and rainwater and spray were on all of us. It wasn’t a pleasant sail. Patti was up on the rail, and chuck sitting beside her. Matt and Luis were handling the sheets back in the cockpit, and I was fighting the helm through the weather. United Nations was up ahead, and Lake Effect was bearing down on us from behind. I was pushing hard, trying to hold our position in a tough condition.

Each wave threw the boat up in the air, where she would pause for a moment before being caught by the wind, thrown violently to leeward, and land in a trough to come back up and face the next wave. The cycle repeated itself again and again, and the crew was starting to look a little green.

I don’t know why, but on one of the cycles, Patti lost her handhold on the shroud. As the boat rose up she was shaken from her seat on the cabin top, slid back across it as the boat heeled, and slammed back first into the leeward shroud. She folded in half, slid onto the side deck, and sat there in a crumpled heap.

I turned the boat into Irons, as Matt or Luis (I don’t remember which) rushed forward to help her back to the cockpit. Patti came back, in shock and pain. I am thankful that she got stuck on the shrouds and didn’t go overboard in those conditions.

We turned back toward our destination, with Lake Effect breathing down our neck, and offered Patti all sorts of painkillers. She declined and rested instead.

In short order I decided it was foolish to continue putting this strain on the boat and crew, and handing over the tiller, I went forward to do a sail change. Tethered to the shrouds, I prepared to bring down the big Genoa. Patti released the Halyards, and Chuck went below in perfectly miserable conditions to receive the sail and stow it. I don’t know how she managed not to get seasick down there. I passed down the genoa and hanked on the storm jib. In the process I lost the jib halyard, and watched it swing out over the violent water.

It took about 6 tries before we the motion of the boat brought it close enough for me to catch it, and then we went up with the storm jib. In the process, we dropped to third last place.

Chuck, like a trooper stayed below until I handed her down the old sail and got the sheets on the new one. She is such a great kid!

With the storm jib on, the boat was much better behaved, but still suffering from the motion. All the up-close work on the foredeck had got my stomach churning, and in short order we had three of our crew of 5 on the lee rail chumming the fish. Luis and Chuck ran the boat while we tried to regain control of our stomachs. With the smaller sail up, we regained our position on the United Nations, and were looking pretty good, but when we reached K-bay that all changed.

In K-Bay there was no wind.

It felt like we were sitting on a millpond. Barely ahead of us we could make out 2 boats, and behind us we could see the lights on boat that we guessed were United Nations and Lake Effect. Far behind we could see the bow light of Icarus. With no wind, and our tiny storm jib, they were gaining on us. I needed to put up more sail. I also knew that our slow-motion sail changes meant we would lose a lot of ground.

For what felt like a long time I debated it in my mind, and then I decided to just get on with it. Chuck went below again as I went up front, the big genoa went back up the forestay, and the little jib went down below. Chuck came back out of the cave, and we all huddled for the rest of the ride to Barrie. In the time we lost to the second sail change, every boat in the field passed us. We were the last boat home, 2 hours behind the first spinnaker boat.

One of the boats that got in ahead of us had notified folks that we had had an accident onboard, and Patti reached the harbourmaster on her cell phone. A spot was waiting for us against the wall, and folks came over right away to help Patti off the boat. She was in a lot of pain, and had spent much of the race with her head against the cockpit coamings trying to sleep off the hurt.

It turns out that Patti came away with a badly bruised tailbone and some bruises on her arms and back. That's a lot better than the story I would be telling gif she hadn’t gotten caught up in the shrouds. Matt (who had never sailed before) is taking lessons this week, and Luis has offered to come out on Hawkestone weekend to crew. As for Chuck, well she sailed back with me on Sunday under perfect blue skies, close reaching all the way from Kempenfelt bay to SGA. Perfect conditions.

Tommorow SWMBO and buddy and I head to Georgian Bay, so things can’t be all that bad.

Oh, and on handicap, we took 3rd place which means we hold our first overall position!!

LSIS Race 5 Stats:
Distance Covered: XX.X Statute Miles (Slip to Slip) - Tracklog incomplete
Time on course: 7:34:00
Corrected time: 6:47:31
Time out of 1st Place (Corrected Time): 0:35:21
Iris was on course 8.67% longer than the first place boat.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry it was so rough, and sorry about Patty. But it sounds like you guys worked hard and did okay in the end, third place, keeping first in the class overall. I'm kind of sorry I missed it, but wonder how effective I would have been given the conditions.


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