Fall Series #2 Wrap-Up

Greetings PRSA Sailors!  As many of you know, I’ve been writing reports from our spring/fall series racing for the Lightning fleet over the past year.  We’re going to start posting these write-ups here as well, in the hopes of starting a conversation among all the fleets and sailors out for our regular races.  I’ll do my best to capture what I see on the racecourse each Sunday, but here is where we need your help: if you are sailing in one of the other fleets, go ahead and post a comment with your own experiences from the racing (just click the little “no comment” link above the post to add a comment).  We definitely want to hear from you, and we hope to start a pattern of weekly postings and emails (via our listservs) that recount the day’s racing and generate some enthusiasm for the next event.  So read on to hear about Fall Series #2, but more importantly, feel free to chime in with your own voice!

The PRSA Fall Series #2 was another day of tricky river sailing.  Light and variable NE winds combined with a strong current and stiff tidal flow made for challenging strategic and tactical decisions.  If you went south to get a patch of breeze, you then had to fight your way back north against the current to get to a mark.  If you sailed to far into the NE corner under Hains Point you found yourself being pushed down the river with no breeze to power you across the way to the leeward mark.  As with any given Sunday, there was an element of chance involved…but in talking to folks afterwards, it became clear that the boats that did well also made good decisions–most notably, in “connecting the dots” between patches of breeze.  Overall, we were thrilled to see Chris Kozel and his team (Palmer Phillips and Chris Lewton) win their first race in Lightning Fleet 50 on Sunday–congratulations Chris!  It was also great to see a few new faces out on various boats, and to welcome back some folks that we hadn’t seen in a bit.  Keep reading for a detailed wrap-up of the day’s racing and post-race fun, and be sure to post your own comments and stories from the weekend here!

The key question at the competitor’s meeting was whether we should postpone on shore or whether the RC should tow boats up to the racecourse so that we were ready for the breeze if and when it filled.  That already tells you how little wind we had at 1000 on Sunday (none!).  The RC determined that we’d leave the docks on time and tow boats up, and most teams took this option.  It was a good thing, too, as we had the best breeze of the day in the late morning just after the towed boats had arrived and the RC had set the course.  PRO Jeff Neurater and his RC from the Albacore fleet did a great job of getting us two W2 races in these challenging conditions.  They also deserve credit for recognizing a dying breeze and sending us in for some quality beer-drinking and BBQ time once the wind finally died for good.

With the river flowing out hard, and with some noticeable right shifts in the breeze, a boat-end start was favored in both races.  A few boats attempted a pin end start in the second race, but the angle was not at all favorable and heading off the line to the right side of the race course (going south) only meant that you were farther downriver by the time you came back across the course (broadside to the current) to get to the windward mark.  Even as that first leg of each race seemed painful, we were all wishing that we were going upwind once we finally made it to the windward mark, rounded, and found little to no breeze to take us back across the current to the leeward mark.  With fairly regular right phases in the breeze it would seem to make sense to jibe set at the top mark.  However, the strong current/flow, it typically paid to head north for a while on starboard jibe.  In particular, I saw Red Fehrle (sailing with Sue Humphrey and Will Philippe) do quite well by staying north, nearly winning the first race with this strategy!  Rick and I, sailing with Alan Rukin, just managed to get past Red on the last leg of race #1 for the win.

As tough as it was to make it across the river to the leeward mark as you were pushed south by the current/flow, it didn’t always pay to favor the north.  Chris Kozel (sailing with Palmer Phillips and Chris Lewton) won the second race by spotting a great patch of breeze to the south on the second downwind leg and then heading south to grab it and drive past the lead pack, round the final mark first, and then defend against Frank (sailing with Trey Goggins and Mladin Karcic) to net his first victory in Fleet 50.  Great job Chris!  We were one of those boats that Chris passed for his victory, and Team Sinistra just managed hang onto third place behind Frank on Resistance is Futile and ahead of just ahead of Mark Ewing (sailing with Greg Close and Rolf Fraser).  It was great to see Mark and his crew back on the water, and they definitely made a strong charge at the finish of the second race.  In addition, it was great to see Jeff out on the water sailing with his regular crew of Becky Mach and Bruce Heida on Ariel, and Joe Warren was also out with Peter Humphrey and Scott Cullen on Bony Buns.

All in all, I think we’re all hoping for a bit of breeze for next Sunday’s fall series races and I look forward to seeing you out on the water!