6/28/05 - Race 5

Faithful friends of Strategery,

What a tale I have for you today. It offers suspense, intrigue, mishap, the saving of a life in peril and a lack of closure that leaves a question mark hanging over it all…and it all happened within 36 minutes and 45 seconds.

Imagine the unsure confluence of fog and thunderstorm on the New Hampshire seacoast. Fog is a funny thing, it ebbs and flows, is either thick or thin and can cause either fear or fascination. Mix in the risk of lightening and the gusts associated with thunderstorms and you get a sense of what we all felt on Tuesday at the dock preparing to head out to the course…uncertainty. Would there be a race?

This is why God invented GPS and 3G wireless communications.  Chris pulled up the local radar images on his new cell phone which showed real time movement of the storm system to our North. Then we fired up our Garmin GPS handheld and backup handheld to make sure we knew where we were going if it got thick…and it did get thick.

The committee set a course that would be a challenge for many boats. They put an inflatable mark 1.2 miles out at a heading of 180 degrees (due South) from the starting line. Then to Gunboat Shoals buoy and then back to the finish. Starboard roundings. A triangle course that would be fantastic for the 105’s with their asymmetrical spinnakers (we thought).

We set the mark in our GPS and got set to start. We ran down the line on starboard, trying to close the door on Uproar who was starting on Port tack at the pin end. We couldn’t make it there in time, and Uproar took off like a jet, hitting the line at the gun at top speed. They had a great start.

We tacked over on top of Veladare (they had to duck us at the start), and went on the first upwind leg in Uproar’s wind shadow on port. Marlen was beneath us and footing for speed. About halfway up the beat, we tacked over onto starboard again to get into clear air. At this point things started to take on the feel of an aerial dogfight. We couldn’t see any other boats, as we disappeared into the fog. We had a rough idea where the mark was due to the GPS, but weren’t certain. We sailed to the GPS based layline and tacked over.  Like a ghost, we saw the mast of Uproar in the distance on starboard tack. They had made up even more ground on us and were well in the lead. We weren’t going to make the mark, so we tacked again back onto Starboard and sailed to the layline. Following Uproar was Marlen, and it looked like it was going to be a close rounding for us all.

As we sailed on starboard, Chris and I watched 2 other masts emerge from the fog beneath us like fighter planes from a cloud…Ubuntu leading Jabberwocky, both on Port tack with no rights. As we sailed closer to one another, neither one of us altered course. Chris started with a murmer that got progressively louder as the boats closed with us: “no…No….NO…..STARBOARD!!!!!” Ubuntu tacked over beneath us, and we went neck and neck to the layline. We tacked onto Port with them, and were able to put them in our wind shadow. Rounding the mark, we found ourselves in tight with Marlen and Veladare, jockeying for position. Marlen did a great job keeping us in their wake as we tried sailing high and low to gain some advantage on them.

Here is where the story gets interesting. Sailing blind though the fog on a close reach, the boats were barreling along at this point. Coming up to the next mark (which we were piloting to off the GPS) it was clear that Marlen was going to round first and Veladare would be second (as they were inside both Marlen and us and had rights). I tried to go below Veladare to establish overlap, but were just about at the 2 boat circle and they were in control. I headed down and then came up hard to keep from getting shut out at the mark, closely missing their stern. We all trucked right around the mark at about 7 knots as the breeze had been building to about 16knots according to instruments in the cockpit.

We were set up for a bear-away set on Starboard, and were getting ready to do the downwind thing when Chris said, “There’s a man in the water!” I looked where he was pointing and saw one of Veladare’s crew had fallen off the boat. He was conscious, but not wearing a PFD (lifejacket), and was only in a t-shirt in the freezing New England water. Veladare, aware that they had lost a man was struggling to get their sail down but was heading away from their crewmate,. They had thrown in a MOB module, but it wasn’t near the freezing sailor.  We were the closest vessel and in good position to pick him up, so we did.

I called for us to stop the hoist, as we were about halfway up the mast at that point with the chute, and furling the jib, we sailed over to the man in the water. Luffing the boat up alongside him, Chris got out Lifesling around him, and we got him to the stern and up the swim ladder (first time we’ve ever put it in the water). We made sure he was not injured, Kim got him belowdecks and into a warm jacket.  Meanwhile, Veladare had continued their drift and went broadside into the navigational aid at gunboat shoals, a barnacle encrusted metal marker that could really hurt a boat. They were not near their man, who was lucky that Chris had seen him in the water when he did.

Having saved him, we went about getting back into the race.

We set the chute on starboard and did an outside jibe in the growing 16 knot breeze to head toward the finish line. We did the rescue pretty quickly – Chris and I figure about 4 minutes total from stopping the hoist to getting the hoist back on. In that time, Ubuntu caught up with and passed us (we were about 10 or 15 boat lengths in front of them), as did Jabberwocky. Jabberwocky seemed to be having trouble with their spinnaker sheet, and while we closed the gap on them, they were able to get it under control and finished just ahead of us.

Veladare finished behind us, and we dropped their sodden and cold, but really happy and nice crewmate, Henry, aboard their boat.

But the story doesn’t end there.

In the sailing rules, there are 2 rules that apply to the situation we found ourselves in. Rule 1.1 (The very first rule) and Rule 62.1 c. They are as follows:


1.1 Helping Those in Danger

A boat or competitor shall give all possible help to any person or vessel

in danger.



62.1 A request for redress or a protest committee’s decision to consider

redress shall be based on a claim or possibility that a boat’s score in a

race or series has, through no fault of her own, been made signi.cantly

worse by

(a) an improper action or omission of the race committee, protest

committee or organizing authority;

(b) injury or physical damage because of the action of a boat that

was breaking a rule of Part 2 or of a vessel not racing that was

required to keep clear;

(c) giving help (except to herself or her crew) in compliance with

rule 1.1; or

(d) a boat against which a penalty has been imposed under rule 2 or

disciplinary action has been taken under rule 69.1(b).

Basically, the rules say that you have to help someone in danger, and if you do, you are entitled to an adjustment of your finish.

Because of the finish that occurred, Marlen taking first by 2 minutes and Ubuntu taking second, we believe we would have finished either first or second for the race. Uproar, the leader at the mark, finished third due to a broken spinnaker shackle. Marlen was no more than 2 lengths ahead at the rounding. Ubuntu was 10 or 15 lengths behind. We were mid hoist when we altered course to rescue the sailor, which took us a minimum of 4 minutes to do, which would have put us in first or second place (depending on the actual time needed for the rescue) based on actual elapsed time of the finishes.

So we are seeking redress, which won’t be resolved until next week. Ubuntu’s owner Peter Griffin has graciously offered to support us in the hearing. Stay tuned for more next week…