Today's weather serves as a not-so-pleasant reminder of how lucky we were for the sun, light but steady wind, and warm conditions that we experienced this past Saturday. My summary of events will be brief, as this week we have a highly entertaining guest blog from Cole Constantineau. This past Saturday wrapped up our "Winter Series." Next weekend will be our Valentine's Day Regatta - this means there will be normal sailing, but it does not count for series scores, so bring your sweetheart and have some fun with it!
As a thank you for all our Frostbiters, and in light of the terrible luck we have had this past series, Courageous will be offering an extra day of Frostbite sailing on March 22. As this is a late addition to the calendar, it will not be counted towards series results, although races will be scored. On to the recap!
The only way I can describe the tone on the race course this weekend is "enthusiastic." One spectator, viewing from the Courageous office, noted, "That was like Nascar racing out there!" People were not always sailing smart, and there were many instances on starts and around the course that reminded me of Opti sailors let loose in 420s for the first time! People were just sailing fast and happy, and occasionally that meant a crash tack to avoid that starboard tacker ("Where did he come from, right?!") or a friendly exchange regarding room to tack before your boat and the Courageous Pier achieved a new level of togetherness.
We initially set in the south wind just off the pier, allowing everyone to quickly get out to the course. The first signal was at 12:00 on the dot, but, being that everyone was so eager and happy to be sailing again, the start was recalled. A second start, this time under the I-flag (the round the ends starting rule) was successful, and the race went off at 12:10. Each leg was 6-7 minutes for the leaders, leading to a nicely paced Course 4.
Shortly after the finish, Race Committee was notified by harbor police that we had 15 minutes to clear out for the outbound LNG tanker, which brings with it a serious security zone. We ran our Course 2, picked up, and moved into the cove in front of the Constitution. Here, not knowing how long we would be postponed for the tanker, Judith Krimski (the pin boat and occasional blog writer) suggested we set a short course and keep racing. That is exactly what we did and since the police were about two-hours off in terms of when the LNG would be coming through, I am glad we got some racing off. We ran W4s and W6s, after deciding there wasn't room for a triangle course. With the pier on the left side and little runway to leeward of the starting line, our Frostbiters got the experience of some arena-style sailing! Extreme 40s, Moths, 49ers, and now Rhodes 19s have gotten to show off in Boston Harbor with this condensed-course style of sailing, where the start and boat-positioning means so much more than speed.
Congratulations to our winners, results are attached below. Thanks to John Tagliamonte, our volunteer protest chair, who delivered expert justice swiftly and got everyone to the bar on time!
Now on to Cole's guest blog:
What a fun and interesting day on the water this past Saturday! Despite the great fun had last weekend doing some barstool sailing with a bunch of the fleet at Mead Hall, it was nice getting down to the dock with mild temperatures the sun out.
As I chipped the massive chunks of ice out of the bilge, I was starting to get worried about actually getting a series in, as the wind was non existent at that point. The forecast was for the wind to pick up from the south, then shift east..but this wasn't supposed to happen until mid afternoon, with predicted velocities in the 4-6 kt range (woo hoo!). So, trying to lower expectations a bit, I texted my better sailing half, Manlio: "not much wind man"... Things changed for the better about 10 minutes later, as Mark Lindsay and Jim Watson came strolling down the dock towards their boat, a nice 6-8 kt southerly followed right behind them: it looked like the shift to the south happened way earlier than expected, maybe we'd get some serious racing in after all! Also, it was definitely a tad uncanny how the wind seemed to follow Mark and Jim...
With the course set lengthwise up the harbor, the first start was right off Pier 4. Initially Manlio and I had a hard time seeing where the wind was strongest coming down the course, but the line was slightly pin favored, and the forecast was for the wind to swing from south through the east--we decided to set up mid line, trying to create a runway to work to the left side of the course. As we sailed below the line on port tack with about a minute to go, the majority of the fleet was still in the vicinity of the committee boat..perfect! We tack under the leading boat, and luff them up a bit to open something under us, the only boat worrying us to leeward was John Pratt-- but I knew we were in a good situation..John had a good runway open in front of him--and we knew exactly how he would behave on the line. At this point I said to Manlio, ok..we're just going to mimic Pratt. In perfect sync we powered up at the same time, with open lanes above us, totally nailing the start. But of course, that first race was a general recall, doesn't that always seem to be the case when you get those perfect starts? Our next attempt was pretty much the opposite. We tried opening a lane about mid-line, as we had done before, but this time the boats around us were a little less predictable--we ended up getting totally gassed for about the first minute and a half of the race. Finally tacking for some clear air, we were pretty deep in the fleet, and at this point, I think we were only crossing a handful of boats who had gotten jammed up on the committee boat. We diligently focused on boat speed--Manlio was up front constantly playing the jib, and I was doing the same with the main. Easing in the puffs, then slowly working on point after gaining boat speed: the adjustments are constant--but they're starting to become automatic. The decent boat speed, and trying to work to course left after tacking free off the start seemed to be paying some dividends, by the top of the beat we were probably sitting mid fleet. We managed to make up serious ground on a few boats that were over standing the marks significantly (current was tending to push people past the weather marks). We continued to grind away, just focusing on sailing our own boat, and keeping clear of others. By the last downwind, we were in the top 5, but our arch nemeses, Team Jen and Dylan, were making some serious ground on us by sailing more towards East Boston! We decided to converge with them a bit more, to try to get the wind they were in. At this point, we were right on Matt and Cheney's stern, they warned us against trying to roll over them, but we reassured them we were just going to windward to protect against Jen and Dylan. I think they believed us, because they didn't fend us off as intensely as they normally do. All three boats ended up converging at the pin end of the line--fortunately for us, we had gotten into Jen and Dylan's personal wind patch quickly enough to hold them back for now...
The intensity level was quickly turned up to an '11' as the wind piped up a bit as we shifted to the short course inside the basin. We noticed on the shortened start line, that many boats were tending to stack up, stalling one another out as they tried to hold onto their positions. This essentially happened to us on our first race starting in front of the Constitution--we were in the first row, but we didn't have much speed...we narrowly missed rubbing rails, and were generally forced to sail pinched off the line. The next race however, we got off a great start. With the I flag up, boats were generally being pretty cautious around the start line, sailing slow. Waiting for our time to pounce, Manlio found a pretty good gap in the middle of the line--above a couple boats, but still below the line. Because we had boat speed, we were able to better take advantage of the gap that opened. Several boats wanted to sail where we went, but they couldn't, because they had no flow over their foils-- The start was perfect--we were fully powered up and at speed as the start gun went off (probably were about a boat length under the line still). We again focused on boat speed--in addition to our straight line work adjusting sails,calling headers and lifters, and trimming the hull, we also focused on roll tacking the boat as best we could. As crew going into a tack, I prepare the new jib sheet by taking slack out of it, and position my weight a little more leeward to help steer the boat into the wind. As we pass head to wind, I then run back to where I was just hiking (the new leeward rail), holding onto the old sheet for support and to back the jib. As soon as there is pressure in the jib, I release the old sheet and trim the new one. Typically here, Manlio would then flatten the boat as soon as the main and jib are powered up on their new side, but occasionally in bigger wind I try to help out with my weight. Things typically get easier when there are no boats around you, but focusing on these simple boat handling and boat speed things at all times, whether your in 1st or last can really make a HUGE difference...
Going into the last race of the day, we knew we were in the hunt to win the day--which for me is all you can ask for, especially in this fleet. After an ok start (slowly and narrowly sneaking between Dave and the committee boat), and focus on our speed and tacks, we neared the top of the course on port tack (as we had done most of the day). Jen and Dylan were rounding the mark (in 2nd I believe) and behind them was Matt and Cheney. Behind them it looked like we had a decent sized hole to sail through, tack and then round. What we didn't immediately notice, however, was that this trailing boat was Mark and Jim. After sailing behind Matt and Cheney, it still looked like we were going to clear Mark and Jim just fine, but right at this moment, we got a ~10-20 degree header! Our sails were luffing, we bore away to power up...but now we were NOT clearing Mark and Jim!!! We spun our boat to try to avoid them as much as possible, but it was pretty clear that Mark bore off a bit to avoid us. We heard his protest, and his reminder that we were within the 3 boat length circle....ouch! So--if you saw a boat sailing the wrong way above the mark during that last race, yup, that was us, trying to do some circles. As we looked up, the entire fleet had passed us!
Wow--the racing is sooo tight! Making mistakes can really hurt in this fleet---if in doubt, give boats extra room--if the boat has Mark Linsday in it, you might want to give extra extra room, after Saturday I think he can actually shift the wind... But--despite our mistake, and our amazement at the powers of the Mark Lindsay force, we sailed on--again, going back to the bread and butter--boat speed. We fought as hard as we did all day during those last three legs, scraping back 4 places-which made a difference for the overall scores for the day..
Anyways--it is really great sailing in this fleet! The racing is very competitive, with position changes happening constantly, and it's a great environment for learning--I know I have benefited greatly as a sailor the last couple of years sailing with you guys and girls!