The
Log
Strategery
9/13 and 9/20
Final Race

Faithful Friends and Crew of Strategery,

 

Strategery’s first racing season is done.

 

It was a wild ride. Highs and lows, lessons learned, changes in crew, rescues as sea…these were but a few of the things that happened to us this year.  The season came down to the wire…a nail biter.

 

3 weeks ago, we received our judgment on redress from the protest committee. As you may recall, we rescued a sailor that had fallen off another boat in a fog-bank. As a result, we finished in last place for that race (5th). At the point of rescue, we were in 3rd place, but well in front of the boat that finished second. So, we were seeking a second place finish. The rules of scoring allow a redress to be scored 1 of 3 ways: 1) they can give the position in the race at the point redress is sought, 2) they can give the average of scores to that point, or 3) they can give an average of scores for the season.  Since the lead we had over the eventual 2nd place boat was pretty large, the committee decided to go with the average of races up to that point.  In our case, there had been 4 races (3,1,1,1) giving an average of 1.5

 

Based on the PSA website, the scoring for the season said we would count 80% of the races held. That meant if we had the last 2 races, there would be 15 total with 3 throwaways.  Chris ran the numbers and said that we needed to finish in front of Marlen in one, and no further than one behind in another to win the season.

 

Now since we got the new jib/main combo from Ullman earlier in the season, we seemed to be sporadic in our result. We were unable to point as high as the competition in any breeze under 14 knots. The sail shape of the Jib was just wrong.  Turns out that we got a “west coast” jib, which is cut for heavy air…not what we need in the light air of Portsmouth at all.  So we were unable to sail as high as the other boats which is a significant disadvantage in a race. We sailed the second to last race against the whole fleet of 105’s and Marlen thrashed us, followed by Uproar (with the addition of 2 top J-24 sailors to the crew has been kicking butt in the class events outside Portsmouth). We took a 3rd place in that race.

 

Running the numbers again, we saw that the only way we would be able to win was if we took first and Marlen took a third. That would let us win the season by ˝ a point! Anything else and we took second for the season by the same margin, ˝ a point.

 

So last night’s race was it. I had called Jeremy to wish him well on Marlen and tell him that I really enjoyed racing against them this season. The 105 is the perfect boat for me, and I wouldn’t have found it without the help/guidance of the Small family. They are a tight unit of great sailors, and I felt that a second place against them was a hell of an achievement in our first year with the boar.  Jeremy thought that we were not out of it yet, and that if we won that night, we’d win this year’s class. I was pretty sure that he was wrong on this, as both Chris and I had looked at the numbers, but I wasn’t going to correct him at that point. This also gave me a bit of ammo to fire up the crew for the race.

 

We left the dock a bit early, with the usual team of Chris (Jib/Tactics), Mike (Bow), Jim (Spinnaker), Dewey (Main) and me (Helm). There was almost no breeze (<5 knots) and an incoming tide. We worked on trimming the sails as best we could, throwing the trimming guide out and doing some experimentation on the speed/pointing tradeoffs of different trim setups. We then set the spinnaker and found it rigged wrong. We fixed it and then set it again, having a ton of fun sailing at an angle almost 40 degrees to the wind. We were having so much fun, that we were getting away from the starting line and perilously close to the starting gun.  That said, everyone else was sitting there flogging their sails, so we assumed that they would postpone the race.  What is it they say about assumptions…?

 

We were starting to sail towards the line in the light breeze when the 5 minute gun went off. We looked at each other in disbelief…that couldn’t have been the gun, right?

 

Wrong.

 

The clock was ticking and we were late to the dance.  Hearts in our mouths, we sailed as fast as we could toward the line. With 1:00 to go, we were still at least 3 minutes from the line. In short, we were screwed with a capital “S”. Marlen, Uproar and Jabberwocky were in perfect position for the start, at the favored end of the line and ready to go at the gun.  With 30 seconds left, we got as lucky as we’ve ever been in a boat race…they sounded a postponement.

 

I don’t know who those guys were running the race, but I need to buy them both new cars. Expensive ones.

 

We got set up for a restart, and were in much better shape to go. Coming in on port, we jibed and dove behind Uproar and in front of Marlen, swerving up and down to get in a controlling position. We were able to get underneath Uproar and worked them and Marlen up to the line. Uproar was forced over early by Marlen, and had to restart.  We started in a controlling position to leeward and even with Marlen.

 

Sailing toward shore, we worked hard to keep up with Marlen, knowing that with our jib it was inevitable that they were going to roll over us.  As they worked up, we saw a lane to tack over, and sailed away from them. As we sailed away through the fleet on Port tack, Marlen chose not to cover, giving us a shot at clear air. Sailing about halfway to the layline, we decided to sail back towards Marlen on Starboard. Coming together, they were still in the lead, though not much had changed. We tacked away again, sailing to the right side of the course. Part of the reason we were sailing to the right, were patches of wind that were more prevalent on the right.  Chris and Dewey were doing some great work on the tacks, backing the jib and using the main in concert with the crew’s movements to roll the boat through the tack. This let me use less rudder and allowed us to keep pace through the turn.

 

At the next crossing, we were well in the lead, sailing in clear air with Uproar in second and Marlen behind them. Holy cow.  We started to believe.

 

We rounded the mark in the lead, and did a good set on port tack.  With the water getting thin and a better breeze away from shore, we jibed over to the center of the course. Here’s where things got interesting. One of our sheets fouled  with a knot and we found ourselves losing speed as Uproar jibed cleanly away from us and started to gain some momentum.  Dewey and Jim got things figured out and we got back on course. Uproar was slightly in front but well behind as we sailed out to the center. Marlen stayed close to shore and jibed as we were halfway to the finish.  We jibed to cover them and sailed right into a hole.  Incredible frustration as Marlen started to roll over us.

 

Just as they were about to get into the kill zone, we caught a zephyr of air, and started to pull even with them downwind. We were on line to the finish, and were able to hold them off to finish first. Sailing a great race, they came from third to finish second. Uproar finished third and Jabberwocky finished fourth.

 

So, we celebrated our finish on the way into the dock.  With the wind at a perfect angle, we finished the season by sailing in and backing Strategery under sail into her slip. We then went to dinner to figure our position.  We even had Chris go to the website to confirm the 80% rounded down, which gave us a 2nd for the year. I was pretty proud of my crew. First year with the boat competing with some very accomplished sailors.  I couldn’t have been happier.

 

I called Jeremy today to congratulate him.  He was with Brian Harrington, the skipper of Uproar in Toronto at the J/105 North American Championships. They are both sailing on Ghost.

 

Congratulations Jeremy

 

Thanks, I was just about to send your crew an email…really enjoyed racing against you guys this season.” Did I mention that the Small family is a class act?

 

So, I said “well, we will try to give you a better run for your money next year”.

 

“What are you talking about…you guys won it by half a point Cliff.”

 

“No, you aren’t doing the math right Jeremy…website says 80% rounded down, so we lost”.

 

“The printed book, which is what we go by, says 75% rounded down. You get to throw out one more race…you won it Cliff.”

 

Holy Crap!!!!!

 

I was never so happy to be wrong about the rules.  So…we won our first season as J105 sailors by a nose. What a great season. My thanks to our crew – the best damn crew around:

 

Jim, whose finesse on the trim is reminiscent of Michelangelo and aggressiveness on the hoist makes him look like he is “tearing an ape off the back of his sister”

Mike, a wizard of the foredeck who learned asymmetric spinnaker handling in an afternoon

Dewey, whose mainsail trim can bring tears to your eyes

Christopher, with a tactical mind Machiavelli and Nietzsche would kill for

 

And …

 

Kim, who maintained crew focus and morale, grabbed more square footage of spinnaker than the state of Maine and has the competitive spirit of her Celtic ancestors. Oh…and she let me buy the boat as well!

 

Cheers to the crew of Strategery.

 

See you next season.

 

Regards,

 

Cliff