Monday, 22 June 2009

Racing in the Rain

The Mayor’s cup was this past weekend. As noted in my previous email, it was a Pursuit race, so I got a head start on all of the fleet except 1 boat. I had spent a respectable amount of time playing with the rig on iris before hand, and was trying to capitalize on that. The mast was in column, aft lowers loose, and forestay slack. Things were tensioned to a hand feel of “about right,” and I had the course and wind pretty much down.

The downside was that I was sailing alone, and really could have used a spare set of hands, especially on the downwind leg of the race. No worries though, I was working with what I had available, and this was a fun race, it didn’t count toward any kind of championship at all. Because the race was just a fun race, I put up our cruising genoa rather than the racing one.

I circled the start a couple times, watched “Newfie Screach” start ahead of me, and then took my turn with “About Time” and “Desiree” starting right behind me.

The Start of the race was just off the marina breakwall, and there was good wind there, but the headland that protects our marina makes a definite wind block. About 100 yards after the start, all momentum was lost until we cleared the windshadow of the point.

The winds were behind the fleet from the point all the way to the island that served as the only marker in the race. The trouble was that they were coming from different angles, and would switch from being dead astern, to astern from port, astern from starboard, and always at the wrong angle to the boat.

I watched Newfie slowly slipping away, but I was getting ahead of About Time and Desiree. Then the big boats started, and Desiree did something very clever. Rather than messing with gybing the boom back and forth on the wind shifts, she took off for the north side of the island, running a hot angle, and gaining on the rest of the fleet. In short order she was ahead of everyone, and doing great.

Meanwhile Newfie had stalled out in a dead spot up alongside the island, and Tabasco had caught up to me. The crew on Tabasco and I were having a pleasant conversation across the water when The radio crackled.

“Sail Georgina Fleet, this is Desiree”

I looked over at Tabasco. “Do you guys want to get that, or should I?”

“Get what? Nothing came across our radio!”

I picked up my handset and replied.

“Desiree, this is Iris, go 11”

Desiree had hailed the fleet on channel 16 which is an emergency and hailing channel, and shouldn’t be used for conversations. I was moving the conversation to channel 11 which is a better spot to chat. Desiree answered back:

“Iris, this is Desiree, our radio doesn’t have 11. Can you go 26?”

“Desiree, this is Iris, going 26”

I switched the radio over, knowing that channel had a special designation, but not able to remember what it was. We were met on 26 by the Coast Guard.

“Desiree, Desiree, Desiree, this is Prescott Coast Guard. You are on a duplex channel and the other vessel will not hear your transmissions.”

I turned the radio back to 16 back there Desiree hailed again, and gave along winded explanation of his situation.

He had no charts on board, the mapping on his GPS was inadequate, and being in the lead, he didn’t know where to go. Which Island was Fox Island, the big one or the small one?

I radioed back that Fox was the island that Newfie Screach was just going behind and hung up my mike. I had no interest in carrying on a conversation on 16 and getting the coast guard telling me to shut up.

Desiree took off toward Newfie Screach, passed in front of him, and then took off in some bizarre direction.

Meanwhile Tabasco and I were talking back and forth and watched Newfie drifting around the island, being followed by a Viking 28 (Blue Sky?). Far behind us was another boat, “Little Bit.”

We made our way around the Island, and Desiree finally figured out where he should be, and changed course to follow Newfie Screach around. Tabasco and I continued to chat all the way around the island in a total drift match. We compared GPS speed and were envious whenever the other boat would get above 1.5 kts. There was a light drizzle in the air, and no heat from the sun, so although the going was slow, at least the weather was pleasant. It really stinks to drift in the heat of the day with swarms of bugs. I would rather have drizzle anytime.

All the way around the Island I stayed on the inside course where the wind was lighter, thinking the current should be stronger. This was a mistake. When we came out of the island’s wind shadow, Tabasco caught good wind about 15 minutes ahead of me, and took off like a shot. I finally got the wind in my sails, and at about the same time, the drizzle changed to rain. I put on my hood, hardened the sheets, and started my pursuit of the fleet. With only two boats behind me, I had a lot of catching up to do.

The wind was now quite steady, and I was able to get close to it on this upwind leg. I held a course, tacking as little as possible since each tack costs time, especially when travelling alone. The rain was quite heavy, and visibility would go from poor to bad. The rest of the boats would appear and disappear ahead of me through th erain and mist. I was quite happy with how the boat was performing. I was getting closer to the wind than I had previously, and my GPS was giving me happy thoughts. The only problem was the rain.

I was entirely soaked. The light drizzle earlier had worked through my outer clothes, and now the rain was getting into my under layers. I was shivering, and doing my best not to let the cold affect my performance. being alone I had no choice but to bear the conditions and continue on. The nice thing about sailing alone is that you have chances to try different things without endangering anyone. You also have no communication issues, and no one to blame but yourself.

Since all those things were with me, I experimented a little on this leg. I tried sheeting the genoa to the cabin top winches to get inside sheeting. It worked but the sheets needed a lead to prevent overrides. I also played around with weight placement, GPS settings and other stuff. It was a great day of testing tweaks to keep the boat moving faster toward the finish.

I was pretty sure that I was in last place as I ran this leg. About Time has new crew, and wouldn’t want to stick it out in the rain. Little Bit is new to her owner this year, and likely didn’t want to stick around for this either. I kept playing with tweaks, and having a great sail in the steady wind, and trying to ignore the rain.

On a southward tack the wind gusted, and sent the boat hard over. The speed jumped, my course held, and the rudder felt “just right.” It was amazing to feel the power of the wind move through the boat. Then I got another gust. And another. This was sailing!

I couldn’t keep the hood up on my raincoat anymore since the wind blew it off as soon as I put it on. Oh well, I was already soaked. Iris pulled hard and with the wind in our teeth we powered along. All of a sudden I could make out Desiree up ahead of me, sitting flat on her lines. I had wind, and she didn’t. Now it was a pursuit race! Could I beat her to the finish?

I held the good wind as long as I could then tacked northward back out into the lake. I needed to be precise in my next tack. Remembering the dead spot where the point blocks the wind, I would need to run out into the lake far enough that I could tack back in toward the harbour without getting caught. I would also have to watch Desiree to make sure that she didn’t do anything to alter my plans.

Desiree saw me, and she started coming out toward me. I was pretty sure I was ahead of her, but in a close tacking match, I am never sure, and the winds off the point could screw up everything in a heartbeat.

I held my course, lined up the point, lined up the finish, lined up Desiree, waited, watched, tweaked, and did everything I could to ensure that I would finish ahead of the other boat. Then it was time. Now!

I pulled the rudder hard over, drew the sails across the boat, and headed down to the finish. I had to hold the compass on a course of 180 degrees magnetic or better to clear the point and have a straight run at the finish line. I saw Desiree tack over. She was early and would have to throw in extra tacks to clear the point. I crossed ahead of her.

I cleared the finish line about 5 minutes ahead of Desiree, and saw About Time coming out of the rain under power. I was second last, but had a great day of sailing.

The most rewarding thing was that I was able to get the boat to hold a course nearly at 90 degrees on each tack. That is something that has never quite worked right for me before.

This weekend is LSIS #3 & #4. Looking forward to it!

Mayor's Cup Race
7 Boats Started
5 Boats finished
Iris: 4th Place
Course Sailed:

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