Last passage race
of the year...
Lots of rain in the morning, considered not going but seemed like plenty of wind and I was crewing
with a friend so out I go. He is not the most experienced and has asked me to be on board a while to give some tips. We were effectively 3 up with 2 "passengers."
Waited out a squall and got on the boat. Passage
races are spinnaker
races for us so we rigged the spinnaker
for the option. We talked about not flying it if conditions were over 15 knots.
Start was about 15 seconds late, my bad timing and we were 5th of 6 over the line on a port close reach. I work with the trimmer (owners wife) to get the genny nice and trimmed the main. We settled in at about 6.2 knots in about 15kts of breeze. With gusts we were overpowered at times and I played the mainsail
continuously to reduce weather helm
and avoid rounding up.
The course was basically a long sausage. Head
east, slight southerly turn, another southerly turn, a rounding and straight back. A one tack race
. With northeast winds at the start we all expected a spin run coming back but the wind clocked left all day and that's not what we got (of course).
At the first waypoint we bore off to a beam reach, retrimmed and settled in at 7.2 knots in 15g20. We started to reel in the two boats ahead. One was a race boat with a 69 handicap against our 82 and the other was "our" comptetition at 79. I so badly wanted to roll the race boat as they were way overpowered with their big rig and seemingly having trouble keeping the boat on its feet. Definitely they were carrying too much sail.
However we got within about 6 boat lengths upwind of them but ran out of time and they pull a few hundred meter gap. The wind had clocked northerly so the spin run was gonna be this leg at the next course change -you take what you get. I rerigged for port pole and we talked about the wind, number of people we had and how to handle the spin.
Then, holy crap! The race boat popped their spin and immediately broached big time. The bow buried, plenty of keel
showing to us as the rounded up to port and went completely head
to wind and out of control. Our "competition" did not set a spinnaker. Hmmm...
We are 3 up, one boat broaches another doesn't set. I reckon we got 15g20 and plenty of room downwind. We talk it over and decide God hates a coward. I advise the skipper
to ignore the mark and go about 30* downwind. We pop the chute and get under it. Furl the genny and start sheeting and heading up to see i fwe can fetch the mark and stay in control. We end up sailing about 120-140* in good control and heading at the mark with 8+kts boat speed. I did not want to be reaching with the spinnaker with that crew in that wind. Everyone was going fast but we were going fastest. We rolled both boats easily with an air of smugness as we flew the kite while they didn't - ha!
Our drop was slow and safe and as uncomlicated as I could make it. In the bar the other guys critiqued our slow drop, too late and slow deployment of the gennie. I just asked, "how was your spin drop, I didn't see it cuz I was in front of you. Oh, no spin drop? No spin set? Oh, that explains it." such is the banter in the bar...
Our rounding sucked. We tangled the genny on the spin pole during the tack (my bad storing of the pole) and almost hit the mark as we lost
all boat speed. Our first mistake but an ok one. Now we are close hauled on starboard and one thing that race boat does is point like a mutha. Over the next 40 minutes he left us in the dust but being at the halfway way point with him basically means he is no factor in "our" race. We killed him on handicap with the reach and spin run.
As we reenter the first channel a huge storm bears on us. We decide not to short sails
but play the main. We get a good 20 minute thrashing with a gazillion gallons of water. 20g30 and lots of playing the main but we are hauling butt. It soon dries but our competitor is now closing on us.
Then the competition boat rolls us and is pointing higher. My skipper
is pinching and losing speed and I keep hassling him to bear away and keep boat speed. After all the drama of the run and rain, I am hydrating (with a well deserved beer) and it takes 20 minutes for the cluebird to land on my shoulder. If we are getting 5 1/2 knots and can't point with that guy its my fault! Having wasted 20 minutes we are in serious doubt of making our channel entrance and a tack may be required. Not good.
I analyze the main and realize I am way undersheeted and twisted off (the rermains of storm management) - I get the main squared away and we get 15 degrees higher. The channel tack is still in doubt but as we get close to shore we get a nice lift
and make the corner. We bear away to close reach and it's all over but the singing. Except...
Of course all this thunderstorm energy has to end eventually. With 300 meters to go the wind dies. Competition crosses at 2:50. He owes us some time but not much. We switch to light air mode and ghost across at 2:56.
Move to the bar. Racing
skipper catches all kinds of hell for his broach and suffers the embarassment of last place. Ah, sweet justice. We beat competitor by 12 seconds corrected. Our spin run saved the day and covered our two main mistakes
. We end up on the podium in 3rd. First place was a 20 ton steel
cruising boat with a 100 handicap. Beat us by ten minutes corrected. Everyone hates his handicap. Second went to an IOR one tonner with a great skipper. We didn't see much of him after the start. He smoked. He even hit the top mark and did his turn. He beat us by 5 minutes and never flew a spinnaker either!
So on this day there was no way we could have sailed 5 minutes faster, forget 10 minutes. A podium finish on the last race of the year is decent. My skipper acted like he won the Americas Cup and I didn't pay for any beers in the bar. Good enough for me!
Just a fun day of sailing!