Faithful Crew and friends of Strategery,
The third Tuesday night race has come and gone. Due to a delay in her parents
arrival, Kim had to sit this race out, but we were pleased to have Mr.
Scott Moffat back aboard as spinnaker trimmer. It was Scott's first time
on Strategery and he came through like a champ.
The forecast was exceedingly bizarre this week. NOAA even went so far as
to mention hail (see below):
SW WIND 15 TO 25 KT...WITH HIGHER GUSTS. SEAS 3
5 FT. CLOUDS AND FOG LIFTING EARLY THIS AFTERNOON EXTREME E
WITH VSBY IMPROVING FROM LESS THAN 1 NM TO OVER 3 NM. A CHANCE
SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS LOWERING VSBY TO 1 TO 3 NM. THUNDERSTORMS
CONTAIN ABRUPT WIND SHIFTS...GUSTY WINDS AND SMALL HAIL.
SW WIND DIMINISHING TO 10 TO 15 KT THIS
BECOMING W. SEAS 2 TO 4 FT.
Well, I'm pleased to report no hail was seen by the dauntless crew. However,
the breeze did die down significantly over the course of the night.
For those of you not familiar with the area we race, the breeze is typically from the Southwest, as was forecast. As we rode out to the course, we found that the wind had done a significant shift (change in direction), which was the first sign that our forecast was going to be off. (A quick note on wind direction. Unlike the heading of a boat, which would show which direction you are headed , wind direction refers to where the wind is coming from...hence a SW wind comes from SW.)
The committee boat set the line between 2KR and an upwind mark (see the
diagram above). Sailing course prior to the start, we determined (as did
everyone else on the water) that a port tack start would put us directly
on the layline (direct - ergo shortest - course to a mark given current
wind conditions) for the upwind mark. The goal is to be in clear air on
the favored tack, so I lobbied our resident tactician, Mr. Z heavily to
do a Port start. His concern was that due to the Port/Starboard rule (see
his rule write-up) any boat on Port tack would be in a significant amount
of trouble as the fleet came down on starboard.
I was able to convince Mr. Zibailo that Port tack was the best course of
action for us, since we were more maneuverable and could weave/duck as
needed. So we planned on a port start at the pin end. To disguise our intent
(so as to sneak across), we set up as if we were going to have a starboard
start planning to ease our way down to the pin end with a minute to spare
and prep for port tack start.
Of course they say the best laid plans...
As the race was ready to start, it became clear that ALL the boats were
going to start on port tack at the pin end. This represented a huge problem
for us. As reported in our prior write-ups, we suffer greatly from the
windshadows of our much larger competitors, so it was highly unlikely that
we would have room and clear air at the port end of the line. Fallback
to plan B.
Plan B was to come down the line on starboard, with rights on all the other
boats and force them to duck us at the pin, and then tack over with clear
air and a straight shot to the mark ( SEE POINT 1 on DRAWING). Theoretically,
this would be a great move if we got to the pin right at the gun and could
either tack over or keep on sailing to guarantee clean air. Of course,
execution against theory is the real battle, and between changing strategy
on the fly and the wind/line relationship we did not beat the boats to
the mark, and we were below the line unable to cross the start on starboard
tack (POINT 2).
So, this is a pretty tricky spot to be in. We were up against a fleet of boats trucking along at hull speed, while we had to tack over and accelerate without any rights once we were on port with the other boats. We did beat about half the fleet before we were forced to tack to make the starting line. I am sorry to report that the boat that bore the brunt of our poorly executed brilliant strategy was Marlen. Ducking us while we tacked over, they pinched us up to a stall then fell down to accelerate through us. This was a well executed move, and it was sailing like that which got them a first in the J105 fleet that evening..
Unfortunately, we were then in the wind shadow of the fleet, getting passed
by all until only Blue Wing was near us (SEE POINT 3).
We rounded the mark and set about making up ground (POINT 4).
At this point, the breeze was under 10 knots, which was good for us but
bad for our competition. We sailed a bit high, but with great boat speed
to pass Blue Wing, Indigo, and Fianna (who decided to fly a chute this
year, hence the change in their rating from cruising to racing). We rounded
just behind Breakaway, and went into an upwind run with them...sailing
lower and a bit slower in their wind shadow.
By this point, the wind had let up significantly...far beyond the levels
that were forecast, and the name of the game was momentum - keeping the
boat moving from puff to puff.
As we approached the upwind mark rounding, Shawn was the first to notice
that Breakaway had not set her spinnaker for the downwind leg. We couldn't
figure it out and took it to mean that they were having trouble aboard.
As we rounded and set the chute in the light and failing breeze, we noticed
that other boats were dousing their chutes. Recognizing this meant a huge
wind shift was coming towards us, we made ready to douse the chute. We
were just trailing Indigo after having them pass us on the upwind leg.
Still behind were Blue Wing and Fianna.
We called the douse perfectly, (SEE POINT 10) and we dumped the chute and
set the jib in record time through some great communication and teamwork
between Chris, Scott and Shawn. At this point, I began to steer the boat
strictly by the lower tell-tales. Tell-tales are what the crew uses to
determine wind flow over the sails - they "tell the tale" of
the wind in relation to the sail and the boat. We have other tools aboard
that let us keep an eye on the breeze, most notably the masthead wind indicator
(sort of a weathervane atop the mast), and the Tactic, a computer that
indicates windshadows over time.
The phenomenon we experienced has only happened to me a few other times.
That is the breeze at the top of the sail was 60 degrees off from the wind
at the bottom of the boat. Since the meat of the sails are at the bottom
it makes sense to drive the boat based on the lower tell-tales for more
power in light or fluky breeze.
While we were prepared for the shift, Indigo, Fianna and Blue Wing were not. By tacking over we were able to sail into the shift and the more consistent breeze. It got more bizarre as upwind and downwind boats, separated by no more than 30-50 feet were passing each other close hauled, both with a fundamentally different wind they were sailing in.
Rounding the final mark, we did not set our chute (as we probably should
have), but sailed a close reach to the finish line.
We finished the race 3rd on uncorrected time and 2nd when the handicaps
were factored. in.
So we now stand at DNC, 4, 5, 2
Till next week.