Sunday was a nice day. The air was warmer than it had been the previous week, and the sun was shining. Everything was perfect, except for the wind. While on shore at the start of the day, the wind felt sporty but manageable. I was running a radial sail. The airport reported 13 knots from the south at noon. When sailing out, it was clear that conditions had changed drastically since then. Significant breeze to plane was found in the lagoon, however the area of the course was experiencing a very weak wind from the south. This was very quickly replaced by a very strong wind from the northwest. At 1, the airport recorded 15 knots gusting to 27. The course was set and racing began.
The first race I was OCS, and decided to tack to port and duck the line. I stayed on port for a long while and found a large right shift. This was noticeable throughout the day, the wind was oscillating between weaker wind from the west and strong puffs from the northwest. I made most of my ground back up on the right side and rounded the weather mark mid-fleet. The downwind was a lot of fun in full planing conditions, and most of the boats that I saw doing well stuck close to the rhumb line. Almost no boats gybed more than once. I maintained position for this downwind and had a fairly good mark rounding that put me in pretty clean air. I made a mistake in staying too far to the right on the second upwind and lost a boat or two. I saw one or two boats capsized near the windward mark. The final downwind leg was very similar to the first, except near the end I hit a puff wrong and auto gybed. I managed to stay upright and finished the race somewhere in mid fleet.
By the time of the second race, the wind had increased greatly. At 2, the airport recorded eighteen knots gusting 28. I put on all the controls as tight as I could except for the vang, which was in block to block position. I was late to the start, so tacked out early again. By this time, I was not really trying to be in the optimal spot on the course. My tacks and gybes are not very good, especially not in wind like that, so I did my best to play it safe and minimize the risk of capsizing by minimizing the number of tacks and gybes. I did not tack again until the layline, and ended up overstood due to another right shift. Still, I rounded in the top half of the fleet. The downwind was a survival leg. I saw at least two boats flip and when I pulled up my centerboard a little I immediately began to oscillate. I left the vang on for stability and because I wasn’t sure I could get it back for the upwind. While the wind was challenging, the waves were relatively small and there was sufficient power to go over them without much worry. This was when things started to get crazy. Almost half the fleet capsized at some point. I autogybed downwind and spun out, but managed to dry capsize and get moving relatively quickly. By the time I got to the second upwind mark rounding, most of the fleet was sailing in. I dropped one place on the final downwind but managed to stay upright.
By race 3, only six boats were left on the course. The wind had now increased to 30 knot gusts and sustained winds over 20. I was on time to the line, but hit some waves wrong and lost my lane. Again, I tacked out early and tacked back at the layline. I set a rule for myself, two tacks or one gybe were allowed per leg. Even if I didn’t capsize, my tacks often ended with the boat heeled over like crazy and side slipping. I rounded the weather mark in fourth. Race committee had set a triangle course, so the downwind was a lot of fun and very simple. I tried to stay a little low on the first reach to get the puffs that would come from the right. On the second reach, I would sail to the mark or maybe a little high for the pressure. On these reaches, the boat began to hum and I had to fight the tiller to keep going in a straight line. I left all controls on because I didn’t think I could adjust them safely while being ready for the puffs. On the finish leg, I caught a boat that had capsized right before the finish.
Race 4 started similarly. I was late due to a bad tack and again hit the right corner. While definitely not optimal, this strategy was pretty close and got me to the windward mark with no complications. I rounded in fourth with lots of space between me and third. On the first reach, all three boats in front of me flipped. They got up before I reached them, but I closed almost all of the distance. A massive puff was chasing me the entire first reach, and I barely gybed before it hit. I had to hold the tiller with both hands on that reach to keep from spinning up and out. When I got to the lee mark, I had passed a boat. I let the boat round up, but lost control and flipped. I dry capsized, but had been overtaken and got fourth in the race.
Overall, it was a hectic but incredibly exciting day. I capsized more times than I can count on the way in and on the course. Race committee did an excellent job balancing rescuing boats and maintaining the course. I don’t think that I was sailing at peak in terms of boatspeed from hiking or strategy, but getting around the course with as little capsizes as possible was far more important. I don’t think there was a single boat that didn’t flip at some point. I was very surprised by my third place, but I think that I was consistent throughout the day and did well as a result. My starts were often not quite where I wanted them to be, but the general conditions and small fleet size reduced the importance of the start significantly.
23-24 PRSA Frostbite Series #7