Saturday, 10 September 2011

Hawkestone Weekend - Race 4

Our last morning in Hawkestone was cool and clear. Autumn had arrived overnight. Breakfast was good (as usual) and Chuck and I were well rested after turning in early the night before. It was a cool misty morning, and I put on my foulies not for rain, but warmth.

Around breakfast there was much talk of the previous races and who did what to whom and when and whatnot. We were back to normal yachty talk and excitement was everywhere. But it was cold.

After breakfast, flags were handed out for our performances in the previous races, and iris received 2 third place flags for her efforts over the weekend, and then it was time to discuss the race before us. The course was a simple diamond, nothing fancy, but the race committee wanted to get things started right away, so we hurried to the boat, hanked on the sails, and got out into the lake.

The start field seemed very busy indeed, with boats milling everywhere, so Chuck and I did our usual trick and went to the preferred end of the line, and hung out hove-to until the race was nearly ready to start. After what felt like 5 minutes, we slipped the jib across the deck, sailed into the fleet and joined the melee in time to get in on the pre-start dance.

We loosely followed the path of Trumpet in the pre-start, figuring he would know local conditions, and had a nice, relaxed sail. If one thing can be said about Trumpet's Skipper, it is that he has the most unhurried way of getting to the front of the fleet, doing magically what I stuggle and fight for in a most unrelaxed manner. With less than 30 seconds to go we were just behind trumpet, getting ready to cross the line. He did an S-curve to dump speed, and I decided to try a quick gybe-tack to do the same and get separation. the gybe went well, but on the tack we had lost too much speed, and the fleet coming to the line stole what was left of our wind. We faltered, struggled to regain our speed, and crossed the start well behind the erest of the fleet. Only one boat started after us. We joked with the committee boat on the way past that we would be pulling up their anchor with our keel. We were very close to them.

The only advantage to a late start is that you don't have to deal with other boats stealing your air or messing with your course. We used this to advantage, and fought to regain lost ground on the first leg of the race. This close reach had us catching up to some of the boats that were tangled in a heap from the start. Our challenge though was that we couldn't see the mark that was the first rounding of the race. Eventually, I just sailed as high of a course as I could and then fell to the mark once we saw other boats rounding it. The strategy worked. We were back in the mix with everyone else.

Our course to the second mark had us chasing the tail of the fleet, and as we struggled to catch them on a reach, we could feel a sweet spot where Iris seemed to hold her speed a little better. As much as we could, we held our course right on that spot, and found ourselves successfully attacking from the rear.

Through the remaining two legs of the race, we continued to narrow the gap between ourselves and the fleet edging closer and closer to the leaders on each leg, almost, but not quite catching up to our nearest competition.

At the finish we would be 10 seconds behind Sorcery, and 12 seconds behind Second Wind, and a minute and 15 seconds behind the winning boat. We took second because of some great sailing, but we could have taken first if it weren't for my poor start.

Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

The current results show Iris in third place right now. We are out of first place by 7 points and out of second by four. If either French Connection or Butterfly miss the Georgina Cup weekend, we may have a chance, but only a chance to snag first. If we miss anything, we are out of the running.

End of season is always close for us.

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