I’m very fortunate to have Jim Watson who is a lifelong racing sailor as my team member. On the ride in from Gloucester we discuss the forecast, the tide, what conditions we expect to see that day, and most importantly what we learned the last time we sailed. This helps us both focus on what we want to do that day and get into a racing mindset. The wind forecast for the day was NNW backing to WNW and increasing from 9 to 14 knots with gusts increasing from 12 to 17 knots over the day. The forecast also showed the overcast sky clearing around midday with temperatures in the upper 30’s. High tide was mid-afternoon.
My experience said that a clearing northwester should shift right before backing into the west, and this turned out to be the case in the second and third races. My experience with tidal current in the harbor is that it flows out most of the time from shortly after high tide until 2 hours before the next high tide and that it runs hardest down the middle with significantly less up close to the shore. We tuned up the boat to get a nice comfortable feel on the helm before the start. I pulled on about 6” of backstay to blade out the top of the main in the puffs and to keep the headstay from sagging too much when I eased the mainsheet. We had to pull really hard on the main halyard to keep the draft forward and the wrinkles out. Finally we pulled just enough on the jib halyard to keep the sags out. We always remind ourselves that tightening the backstay will tighten the jib luff, and these jibs don’t like too much tension. The jib cars were mid-track and we sheeted fairly hard once we were moving. When we were fully hiked the boat had a nice easy weather helm and not too much heel. If the boat felt bound up, I eased the mainsheet just a bit and went for more speed. We were fast upwind all day. I know that my weakest point is getting good starts, partly as a result of spending most of my life sailing dinghies and not allowing enough time to get a heavy keel boat going. I know that I want to be “on the line, going fast, with clear air” and that it takes a good 20 seconds to get a Rhodes 19 up to speed.