Thursday, 2 December 2010

Months late is better than never - maybe?

Seems I did the same thing last year. Strung along a tale of high drama right to the end of the racing season, then left everyone hanging until December to wait for the rest of the story. Well, holding true to tradition, here you go.

Between Hawkestone weekend and the Georgina cup there is a dry spell of 11 days without any real sailing activity. Sure a club race falls in there, but since it would be unfair to SWMBO and the kids to hide for 3 weekends straight, I usually try to make myself useful around the house that weekend. Useful by doing things like studying the season stats and calculating how I can win the season while SWMBO tends gardens and cleans out the gutters.

I had it figured out before going into the Georgina Cup. My choices to win the series were to either take both races with gusto, holding first place and beating Newfie (not a likely scenario) or to play the defensive role and hold up Newfie with whatever tactic would keep him from getting in first place. Or Second. And preferable not third either. Basically match race Newfie, let the fleet pass us both, and finish ahead of him.

Race day came, and so did Newf. He didn't have his usual crew and had friends with him. They were Russian. He was Newfish. I was with Chuck, and Judy was coming to help out. Until I heard she wasn't. Apparently Judy's mother was in hospital, very ill, and so I shouldn't expect her to come.

The wind was strong. Extra crew would be good. I knew I count on Chuck, but I wanted the extra person, especially after our previous experiences in strong winds. Finally I decided that whatever would be would be. Chuck and I would sail hard and beat Newf, let the chips fall where they may.

We lallygagged around the docks making small talk and waiting for a skippers meeting after breakfast. A lot of talk about the previous races and sail choices and tactics. The usual crowd had trickled into the harbour through the night and we saw Icarus and I am Canadian and Second Wind. Everyone was looking forward to good racing in a stiff breeze. Then Judy arrived.

To say I was surprised would not be the right words. I was surprised and elated. I was thrilled to have her, but I also wondered if she should be here. What if her Mom needed her? Where would her mind be? She assured me she was fine and that a break from the drama was needed and appreciated. We sailed off to start the race.

The Mount Gay Rum Georgina Cup is a 2 mile triangle course off Jackson's Point. Every September we get together to race this critical deciding race in the series and every year it delivers something different to the scrabble of boats that arrive. By this time, most of the contenders know who they are, but the host club (Sail Georgina) has some pretty good racers who join in as well. It ends up being a great mix with a pie of boats on the start line. This year's edition brought lots of wind, and 25 boats to the start line. Of the 25 boats we were only racing 6 in our class, and in those 6 the only boat we were really racing was Newfie Screach.

I explained to Judy that there were 2 ways for us to win this race. We both agreed that the start would determine what happened for the rest of the race.

We Circled the start line looking for Newfie. Newfie circled staying clear of us. Newfie went deep in the back of the start box, we cut across the front looking to steal his path. The pennants flew, the horns sounded. The race began.

Newfie & Iris at the start

Newfie Charged for the line, we turned in to join him, turning a little too early, we ended up missing his path, and crossing the start line abreast of him, but far to leeward. We tightened up our spacing in the race to the windward marker. A new boat, a Hinterhoeller Shark joined in our fun, and between the three boats we crossed, recrossed, and wove a trail through the water.

At the windward mark we were ahead of Newfie. Not by much, but by enough for him to be concerned. I tacked over early and we had to fight hard to make the rounding. Dammit. There went my lead.

I pinched up and tried to shoot the mark. The boat bumped the tetrahedral. We would have to do a penalty turn. I watched as newf rounded behind me. Once I had him in my sights I pulled into a spin, and did my penalty turn, coming out of it next to the little Tanzer.

A quick change of strategy, maybe I could hold him up and screw up his race, letting others by. I tried heading him off his course. He kept chugging along, passing us. This plan wasn't working. Switch back to plan A. Sail hard.

We regained some speed as Iris broad reached toward the gybe mark. By the time were there we were in the thick of things with Newfie and the Shark. None of us were more than a boatlength apart, and I knew that with PHRF the 2 other boats were leading me on handicap. I needed a strategy that would buy time on the next leg of the race. In the running leg, everyone worked together and we established a tentative lead on the 2 smaller boats, rounding the start pin barely ahead of both of them.

Rounding the mark

We rounded nicely, hardened the sheets and headed to windward, keeping a close eye on Newfie and the shark. The Shark followed Iris after we rounded the mark, but Newfie didn't. Newf headed up on the port tack while we stayed on starboard. Splitting tacks. According to just about every tactics book I have read since this race, in a close contest, you should never split tacks unless you know you have an advantage over your competition. Newfie heading off on port should have been a strong hint to me that I was headed off on the slower tack. I watched him sail away.

The shark and I fought hard back up to the windward mark, meanwhile Newfie cruised along close to shore. He tacked and I worked out his trajectory to the mark. He would arrive well ahead of us. Dammit. I had lost the race. Now it was just between the Shark and I. I watched Newfie round the pin. I looked back at the shark. I wanted to be up there with Newf. I tacked.

One of the things I have been very good about all season long is not tacking until the pin is lined up at just the right point so that hitting the mark or coming in high isn't an issue. Now for the second time in the same race I pinched up on the mark. I started getting frustrated. Iris shed speed like a snake losing its skin. We went slower and slower as we pinched up on the mark. Finally at the last minute, I shot the mark making it around, but barely moving. In the interim, the Shark had passed me, and Newfie had accelerated toward the finish line.

We worked hard on the final leg of the race, but knew we would never regain our position on Newfie. He ended the race four minutes ahead of us on straight time - five and a half on corrected time. The shark finished four minutes behind us, but because of handicap scoring, they beat us as well, but only by about 20 seconds.

Our fate was sealed. Iris had secured a second place finish to the season regardless of the results of the final race. We went to the post race party secure in our position and happy to be second, but wishing we had done better.

The party was great, despite a little rain. We ate well, and Chuck and I both won door prizes - a Ronstan Sailing Jacket for her, and a $25 gift certificate for me. At the end of the night we went back to the boat exhausted, and slept well, eager for our last race of the season in the morning.

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