Comments from Third Place.
Happy New Year! New Year’s Eve provided us with a beautiful, sunny day. Thanks so much to the RC for running excellent races despite having only one boat. Congrats to Steen and Farley for taking the top two spots, all the competitors for close racing and to James for getting enough points on his OCS to put me in 3rdplace and avoiding the third place write-up! All kidding aside, it was a lot of fun, tight racing.
The wind was less than 10 out of the South with a few shifts to provide some challenges to the RC. They did a great job squaring up the course. Here are a few thoughts on my day:
- I was very late to the first start because I lost track of time on shore and the wind died a bit on the way out. I started after everyone was up the course a bit. I was far back enough that I had fairly clear air, but a wind shift made the first beat a one-tack affair. Because of this, it made it easier to just concentrate on accurate steering and trim as there was not a lot of looking around. I’m a bit on the heavy side (210) and the wind was on the lighter side so I was set up for as much power as possible. I had a very full sail (about a hand width from the boom at the cleat), no Cunningham, and the vang at the two-block setting. I was able to re-engage with the back of the fleet at the top mark. Downwind, I eased the outhaul and vang to their max “off” setting and pulled the board up a few inches. Accurate steering downwind was critical. I loaded the rig by going by-the-lee with the main at about 90 degrees. Once the boat heeled to weather, was sufficiently loaded up, and there was a small wave on the bow, it was very fast to press my knee into the front corner of cockpit to roll the boat to a leeward heel. The boat would then begin to round up. As this occurred, I trimmed the main in several handfuls to account for the heading and apparent wind angle change. I would allow the bow to come up to almost dead downwind before inducing weather heel to bear away. As the boat would bear away I would drop the mainsheet and then catch it at the 90 degree mark on my mainsheet. This created a nice large flick of the leech and burst of speed. In addition, when there was a big enough wave to catch, I would adjust my fore-and-aft weight to keep the bow at a constant height off the water. I was able to pass three or four boats on the first downwind leg doing this. I ended up in 6thfor a decent finish despite a critical error at the start. Two key things jumped out. One, be on time and two, keep fighting all the way around the course. Every point counts.
- The second race I wanted to go right so I started near the boat. I had a nice hole below me as most of the fleet was not particularly close to the line. I was able to bear away, heel the boat to leeward, and flatten into an acceleration just before the horn. The wind had picked up a bit at this point so I didn’t need quite as much power. I pulled my outhaul on to maintain slightly less than a hand’s width off the boom. Again, no Cunningham and vang at the two-block setting. I was able to keep the boat flat with moderate hiking and no depower. James was to the right of me and the rest of the fleet either to my left or behind me. James and I rounded the top mark first and second. Down the run, I did the same thing as I described above but stayed to the right of James using the bear-aways to point at the leeward mark. James went much farther left down the course and when we arrived at the leeward mark, I was clear ahead despite James being inside. We both headed off to the right quite a bit ahead of the rest of the fleet. I had a bit of height on James and was maybe a touch slower but in a good position ahead and inside. About halfway up the leg, I made a big mistake. I was paying so much attention to keeping the boat flat, steering accurately, and keeping my eye on James that I didn’t see a boat coming downwind. I had to go head-to-wind to avoid fouling the leeward boat. Two good roll tacks would have been a better idea, but I didn’t think that fast. This gave James the opening to pull ahead and he led the rest of the race. Key take away: pay attention to other boats. It could have been worse, but it gave James the little advantage he needed to get ahead of me. I finished 2ndin this race.
- The next two races were very similar. The right seemed to pay on the first upwind leg and the downwind legs were very even across the course. I didn’t manage the fleet well at the start and let James and Farley to the right of me in the third race. In the fourth race, only James got to the right of me at the start. I’m not sure how Steen made the left work so well in both of those races. He must have been going really fast. All of my settings were basically at their base settings with no effort to depower. I finished 4thand 3rd for these two races, swapping with Farley. James was fast and on what I thought was the correct side. Two more bullets for James and two seconds for Steen. The big take aways from these two races was that it was critical to get to the right as soon as possible (or in Steen’s case just sail really fast) so planning my start to the right of my competitors should have been the priority.
- The final race called for similar strategy, but again I didn’t prioritize positioning over boat speed. I started to the left of Farley and James. I didn’t have a good enough start or boat speed to cross to get to the right. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this until after I tacked. I ended up ping-ponging back and forth a couple of times before I could get across. At this point, I was in 4thand stayed there the rest of the race. The big takeaway again was to prioritize where I wanted to be after the start and minimize tacks in the first few minutes.
Overall, I feel that I sailed well. I had very good speed downwind and made gains on every downwind leg. Upwind, I had good speed at times but being a bit heavier I don’t feel I shifted gears as well as I needed to to stay fast. From a strategy perspective, I didn’t always execute my plan as closely as I should have and it cost me. It is imperative to keep your head out of the boat. When I did this, I did much better than when I got too focused on the mechanics of sailing the boat. All in all, I great day on the water and fun to see everyone!