Sunday, 1/10/16 was 55 degrees and sunny – an excellent day for racing on (and in) the Potomac. The wind was SSW 15+ knots with gusts in the very high 20s. The tide was ebbing pretty hard most of the day. Adam and Jamie, along with their lovely supervisors, ran four first-rate W2 races for 15 boats.
The random gusts that pumped down the course all day provided much entertainment. It was fun trying to harness them downwind and equally fun watching and participating in the mass capsize events. After one capsize I sat on the hull for a while and delighted in the spectacle of a fleet running downwind in way more wind than it needed. There were a lot of strong wind veins that played downwind – if you looked for and got under them. I found staying on starboard tack downwind and sailing by-the-lee to be the most stable. There were instances when I was fighting the wind with the sheet and the rudder to keep the bow from being blown down wind. In the lulls I worked to the east and tried to ride waves. I had expected decent size waves given the opposing tide and wind but was disappointed. Locking into the cockpit with the legs was beneficial when the breeze was on.
There were relatively few boats OCS given that the current was pushing the boats upwind at the start. I worked hard, with moderate success, to leave enough room for acceleration. On 3 of the starts it was under 5 seconds before I pulled the trigger in order to allow for the breeze and current.
The upwind tactical challenge for me was finding a good port lift to take to the airport side of the course. The wind shifts were short lived and I had trouble getting underneath any lift. My sense was that they were just moving too fast. Occasionally I was able to sail upwind in a vein to avoid the relative lulls. I avoided cleating the mainsheet, playing the well vanged main and working the rudder to keep the boat flat and moving in the unstable wind conditions. James and Eric were very careful to cover their closest competitor to stay in similar wind.
My boat handling killed me all day long. The self-inflicted errors that resulted in 2 capsizes included; not clearing the sheet of tangles before rounding the top mark, and over-tightening the vang before the leeward rounding then sticking the boom in the water. Basic heavy air tacking technique also cost me points. I was struggling to come out of the tacks lower than in moderate breeze and build speed before sheeting the main.
By 3:30 the wind had clocked around to WNW with some nice 35+ gusts, we were glad to be on our asphalt beach; telling lies and watching the airplanes fight the cross winds to get back on the ground.