|Elite Keel at San Francisco Yacht Club||May 14 - 15|
|Keeping the tradition of regatta recaps alive, here are some quick notes from the Elite Keel. Since sailing is always a learning experience, I put in a brief ‘lesson learned’ from each race.
This regatta was another squeeker for the Attack from Mars crew, holding out by only one point over the strong Sunday push from Moxie
My regular crew (including Heather Harrington, Chris Michini, James Hawkes, and myself) was augmented by fellow Express 27 owner Chris Gage (Ergo). Saturday we eagerly anticipated the strong afternoon winds, but started the first race under #1 genoa. Winds were a bit more south than usual, and we expected both a shift to the west, plus there was strong late ebb coming out of the north bay. We had a poor first beat, but cut the corner on the fleet by gybing early on the downwind leg and worked our way into 2nd. Moxie set the stage by posting the first bullet of the regatta, and we followed them in 2nd with Xena in 3rd. Lesson of the race: pay attention to jibe angles—we passed 3 boats or more by not jibing too late on the downwind run.
In the second race, the winds started coming on strong and we led the race the whole way. We lost some time when the jib halyard cover shredded and the jib sagged way down. We ground it up and left it on the winch—no way to take it down until the end of the day (the cover wouldn’t feed back through the line clutch). Then, on the last downwind we started to have some more trouble—rounding the far gate, having trouble getting the kite down (and taking the jib sheet into the hatch with it), and losing the spin halyard. Moxie was coming on strong, and upon converging near the finish they engaging us in a tacking duel. After losing several boatlengths on the first tack I realized we were best to just go fast and pray, which worked out for us and we led Moxie across the line by a boatlength. Magic Bus, delayed by electrical problems with the hoist at StFYC made it for the second race and came in 3rd. Lesson of the race: taking the far pin of the gate hurts a lot—you lose boat lengths getting there and also getting back out again. We lost 4 boatlengths in one rounding because of this. Another lesson: don’t panic when gear fails—keep going fast and let one person work on it. We had several problems—jib halyard, spin sheet wrapped badly around the pole, lost spin halyard—in each case we just kept sailing and worked on sorting it out. Also: it is no problem to leave the #3 up downwind when it’s blowing hard.
In the final race, the wind was still on (committee reported 22-26 knots). This time we did everything right, leading from gun to gun. The crew work was great and life is always easier out in front where you can go where you want. Moxie was chasing us in 2nd most of the race, but did us a favor by tangling up with another boat (Salty Hotel?) and the resulting 720 put them in 5th for that race. Playing the left upwind paid off all day, contrary to my early thoughts on this. Lesson of the race: the sideways sweep was a huge payoff on port tack, as it pushed us directly upwind (lee bow effect). On starboard, because of the angles, it was a bow-down sweep, pushing us away from the mark/finish (as several J24s found by getting swept onto the weather mark). Thus, despite my original thought that the right would pay (getting to the sweep earlier), the left paid all day due to this lee bow effect.
Sunday winds were expected to be less, and we also had a good point spread, so we were looking forward to some conservative racing. But we did want to improve our starts, and in our quest to hit the line hard we were over early in the first start. Fortunately we were at the pin end with nobody below and were able to clear quickly. The entire fleet had now figured that the left paid, so we knew we’d have a tough fight from the back of the pack. We had been paying close attention and knew where the port layline to the weather mark was, and we suddenly realized we were there. We tacked out and expected several boats to sit on us, but fortunately were blessed with a clear lane. Many boats kept going and in overstanding the port layline let us slip into 3rd place by the weather mark behind Moxie and Great White. Moxie and Great White kept on the gas pedal the rest of the race, and we finished in 3rd. Now we had only a 2 point lead over Moxie and a tie on bullets, so we had to stay close to them in the final race. Lesson for this race: pay attention to laylines in big tides. We called the port layline from very far away because we’d paid close attention to the strength of the sideways sweep and this allowed us to climb out of a big hole after the start.
Last race we were again a bit buried at the start, and Moxie was launched, so it was looking bad at first. We footed out from under some boats and soon found ourselves at the port layline again. We were able to pick the layline perfectly again and followed Moxie around the weather mark. From there it was just fast sailing, putting a big lead on the rest of the fleet (again—many boats overstood on the first upwind beat. Spring ebbs are huge, particularly in a big snow year like this one). In the last downwind Magic Bus led the rest of the fleet closing the gap as wind started filling in from behind, but we held on for second place and a 1 point lead over Moxie for the regatta. Lesson: sticking with the plan despite being buried at the start was better than trying to tack out for clear air immediately after the start. Had we tried to clear our air by tacking we would have had to duck several boats and ended up on the wrong side of the course. Instead, we footed (a lot) for clear air, but were able to nail the layline and get back in the front row.
Again, thanks to everyone for making this such a great fleet,
Attack from Mars
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