Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Almost a Bride - but still a Bridesmaid. Hawkestone Race 4

Dinner on Sunday night was a wonderful BBQ supplied by the crew of Trumpet. Its a lot of work feeding a full yacht club of hungry sailors, but somehow they pulled it off and everyone went to bed with full tummies. Well, almost everyone.

SWMBO had gone home during the race, leaving Chuck and I alone at Hawkestone. And after the Sunday race, we got a slip right in the middle of the club. To go to bed would be a waste of a great night. We went boat-hopping. I got a few beers passed my way, and then a few more. I was feeling alright. Chuck was feeling embarrassed. Eventually we ducked into the salon aboard Icarus, and dedicated ourselves to hanging out there. Soon 2 more friends followed. We had 5 adults stuffed into the salon of a 21 foot boat, and the drinks started coming.

I had a game on board Iris called "Bingo Bunch" and we started playing. The more we played, the more we drank. The more we drank, the more fun the game was. I am not sure how loud we were, but we were loud. Eventually, I was shuffled back to Iris by Chuck, and slept off the party.

I woke up early with a headache and dry mouth. Damn that Icarus - his Trojan horse had worked. I swallowed a few aspirin, and had a coffee. The fog cleared a little. I need to come up with a drink to get Icarus all drunk at the next race.

After breakfast, we had another skippers meeting, and got ready for the last race of the weekend. A modified Olympic course with a triangle and a sausage, and a hot dog -or half sausage, or extra leg. Everyone was confused.

Chuck and I motored out to the start area, and hove to. The VHF was working again, but our kitchen timer was decidedly dead. Luckily, the GPS was back. other boats came out and joined us. No one knew which direction across the line was the start. Everyone was everywhere. We just stayed hove-to and watched the mayhem unfold.

The committee boat put up a prep flag and then started the countdown - then aborted the countdown. Then started again, and aborted again. On the third attempt, the sequence stuck. The spin fleet started.

I sailed Iris up behind the committee boat, and pointed her in the general direction of the start. Newfie was nearby. So was Icarus. Another Catalina 25 was also circling the start. My instructions to Chuck we short.

"We have to beat Newfie for the championship, but we have to beat Allegro for respect." Since Allegro is the same design as Iris, racing her is a good measure of our abilities. In our first match with her, we won handily. Last year though, she had beat us like an old rug. Today was the rubber match.

I watched the flags on the committee boat and the time on my GPS. As soon as the whitesail countdown began I marked the time, and started lining up our approach. Chuck manned the sheets and I manned the tiller. The clock neared the start time, I watched the committee boat in case of a recall, we picked our spot on the line and sailed along.

When the flag snapped down, we were a little late and Newfie and Allegro were both ahead of us. Icarus was close behind. Apparently he had a headache too.

We sailed for the first mark, and got closer and closer to Newfie as we went. eventually we were close enough to speak with him. I called out.

"Sorry about that guys."

The skipper looked confused. "About what?"

"About whats gonna happen at the first mark if I hit you." I said. Newfie laughed, and we passed him just before reaching the mark, eliminating a mark rounding situation.

Ahead of us, Allegro rounded the mark, and ran into trouble. Her genoa backwinded, and she was having trouble finding the wind again. Chuck and I aimed Iris into the wind, and sailed close hauled to the second mark. Newfie followed only seconds behind. We tacked, and Newfie tacked, we pinched, and he pinched, we footed off, he footed off. It was boat to boat.

Eventually, we tacked to go for a course away from the shore, and newfie tacked toward shore. Our course carried to the mark with 2 fewer tacks. We were ahead of Newfie when we rounded, but only by about 2 boatlengths. We had worked hard to gain those boatlengths.

On the reaching leg, Chuck went up on the high side, and I tried to sail without making any corrections. Our course was the rhumb line straight to the gybe mark.

We rounded the gybe mark with Newfie's bow wave hissing through the water behind us. The Mainsail flipped across the boat, and chuck scrambled to get in position, then I realized that the there was no downwind leg in this course, just 2 gybes. We ran down to the bottom of the course on a broad reach on the opposite tack, and held Newfie back, maybe gaining a little on him.

At the bottom of the course, we would have to go from a broad reach to a close reach, and we couldn't afford to miss the tack. I made it clear to Chuck exactly how things had to go. We braced ourselves and waited.

When Chuck and I were racing in our first season at Sail Georgina, we used to aim to be able to spit on the race marks when we rounded them. We wanted to cut close, but keep speed. Here it was critical that the boat hold its speed through the reversal from a broad reach to a close reach. I wasn't sure how we would do.

The mark got closer and closer. Chuck scrambled from the cabintop to the cockpit. She released a turn from the winch and braced herself against the force of the wind in the sail. I asked her - you ready?

Steely eyes met mine, and a short nod.


The boat spun around the mark. The jibsheet flew through the pulley to windward, and came in on the leeward side. The ratchets in the winches hummed, and we were set back on our upwind course. We had pulled it off. A 180° course change around the emark without any loss in speed, and Newfie still behind us. But, Newfie was still right there. As precise as our turn had been, it wasn't enough to shake him.

We hadn't given him room to come up inside, and we hadn't lost speed, but "The Screach" had done exactly the same manoeuvre we had just as well. Dammit, we were gonna have to keep trying.

I held our course as close to hitting the final mark as I could without pinching too much, or falling off. The wind shifted and we played the sheets. Newfie was sitting off our stern, just waiting for his chance. I was determined not to give in. The two boats were closely matched, any mistake would be to give up the race. We had another tack, and then the finish line.

Chuck knew what we were up against. She perched on the cabintop calling out Newfie's position and moves. We sailed fast and hard, taking advantage of everything the wind gave us. And then we did it again, another 180° course change to head back to the finish line, with Newfie following us around the corner. His bow pulpit to our transom.

We sailed all the way down to the start line, and held him off every step of the way. Then we crossed, and breathed a sigh of relief. It was over. We had beat Newfie again, and this time on the short course. I knew that the difference in times wasn't enough to hold the win once our handicaps were applied, but boat to boat, on the course we had gotten the lead and held it.

Once handicaps were applied, we would come in second to Newfie by 26 seconds. Now that's not much time, but that doesn't matter, what matters is that through some hard work, good sailing, and a little luck, we put together a plan and pulled it off - and crossed the line in front of Newfie.

Because of those 26 seconds, Iris lost her first place standing in the summer race series. She now stands in second place by one point. In order to get back in first, and win the championship, all she has to do is beat Newfie. Twice.

The next Regatta is this coming weekend.

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