Faithful Crew and friends of Strategery,
I find that the words that best describe our experience at the NOOD (National Offshore One Design) regatta in Marblehead start with the letter D. Dusted, Destroyed, Disbelief...all the good ones. Well, we learned a ton about OD racing from a really competitive fleet.
Big kudos to the other boats in our fleet, Marlen, Uproar and Jabberwocky who finished 4, 6 and 11 respectively. This was a fantastic showing by the Portsmouth sub-fleet and will promise to attract more boats for the Redhook regatta coming up in August. We finished a whopping 15 out of 16. Ouch. You know the old poker saying "when you can't tell who the mark is at the table, you're probably it".
Humility is pretty hard for me to come by, so I had an extra helping of it this weekend. One or two mistakes a race, usually at the start and we were out of the competition. Had a tough start in the first race and finished DFL. Second race we had a bad start and got rolled over by the competition but fought our way to a finish in front of a couple of boats. Third race, we got rolling a bit more and finished with 6 boats behind us. Happy with the upward trend but reeling from the performance, we went to bed and woke ready to rumble the second day. First start was over early...we just couldn't catch a break. Had a great finish with a come from behind jibe at the finish to roll over the nearest competitor. Second race was another bad start, where we were luffed up and rolled over by the competition to end up in the back of the fleet for another DFL. Final day was a painful experience sailed in less than 5 knots of breeze. We were a yo-yo. We decided to do a port tack start since the breeze seemed better on the right side. Wove through the fleet like a car in head on traffic. Had to leebow some boats at the committee boat and ended up in good shape at the top mark with about half the fleet behind us. This is where we screwed the pooch and didnít cover the boats behind us. Instead we looked for the pressure and windshifts that would make us finish faster. By the time we got back to the upwind mark following this strategy we were in last place by about 50 lengths in a dying breeze. So...what to do. Furl the jib and head home early? I thought about it and instead we decided to do the only thing that could be done in that situation...to sail away from the fleet and gamble on a good outcome. To help on the downwind leg we cranked "Born to Run"...the theme song of our trimmer Jim for the long downwind run we faced. We ended the race right on the stern of the boat that had been over 50 lengths ahead at the top mark. A good comeback that shouldn't have happened.
So...what did I learn. A ton.
1) Always cover the boats behind you
2) Don't split from the fleet. At the level of competition we were in, it was too risky to sail away from them hoping on a lucky windshift.
3) Clean air at the start determines winners and losers within the first 3 minutes. Once you get into bad air and a fleet of boats that are going to cover those behind them, you are screwed.
4) We have to still figure the new sails out upwind.
5) We are pretty fast downwind. Jim owns Bartertown.
6) You really can be too smart for your own good. I was way too cerebral with our Strategery...should have focused on the basics more.
7) It is never is a bad strategy to follow/cover the guy who is in first place.
8) Tacking a 105 in light air without a major loss of speed requires exquisite trimming by the helm, main and jib trimmer. Got the trimmers...helm needs to get his act together.
9) We have a really good/fast boat. Couldn't be happier with the decision to move into this class.
10) The fleet was great - welcomed us with open arms.
11) Marblehead is a fantastic host as a town and the Eastern and Corinthian clubs were as I remembered - top notch.
12) Strategery has a great crew. They all worked hard and did their best to keep the racing as tight as it was. I'm one lucky skipper.
We'll see if our learnings translate into Tuesday's race.
As always, stay tuned.