John Pitcher Regatta 040508

Wednesday before the regatta, I found out there’s a race on Saturday.  Since Keith and I had made arrangement to work on the boat a bit, I didn’t round up any crew for the race.  At the last moment, we couldn’t resist the temptation of racing the boat against the competition, so we did the minimal tasks such as adjusting the shrouds between skipper’s meeting and the starting time and rig the boat for non-spinnaker race.  We are afterall, an ISO-9000 boat and need to test all repairs to make sure all of our repair is verified, right? The course was #8, which is a figure 8 course of Z-A-4-C-8-Z with Mark A and 4 to round on starboard and Mark C and 8 to round to port.  It’s mostly a reaching course, so there’s not much to think about for strategic decisions:  Given the waning flood, we head inshore a bit to get on the inside track then tack to the windward mark. From there, we crack off the sail for a close/beam reach to Channel Marker #4 and round to Mark C; From C, we gybe and do a run/broad reach to Channel Marker #8 hence to finish.  

We had a good start, just a few seconds late and we were leeward to Paradigm but since we can point higher, it’s not a bad position since we can control our own destiny.  Indeed we started to climb up on Paradigm and after a bit, Paradigm tacked away while we continued for another 100 yards then tack to cover her.  However, during the next tack we didn’t seem to have as much speed and pointing ability that Paradigm was able crossed ahead.  We followed Paradigm around Mark A and head for Channel Marker #4.  Paradigm decided to head high inshore to avoid the current, but given we thought the current is near slack, we kept to the rhumb line and made some gains, but lost a bit when the wind got lighter and being caught in Paradigm’s wind shadow. As we approached Channel Marker #4, there were two fishing boats stationed by the channel marker.  One of them was actually tied to the ladder of the channel marker.  We had to round the mark, but given Paradigm rounded first, she chose to go between the two fishing boats and raised a lot of angry words from both fishing boats. We followed suit and created more antagonism from the two fishing boats.  Ironically, one of the fishing boat was named “Anger Management“!  It seems, the owner of that boat needs more work on his anger management as his cussing certainly didn’t seem to be under management as we thread across his stern and the other fishing boat’s bow.  As we left a trail of wake and insults, I can only chuckle at the thought of the other seven boats that are following our tracks and wonder if this is an unscripted part of his treatment for anger management as there’s nothing he can do except to vent as the rest of the fleet follow the prescribed race course.

After that little levity, we set a rhumb line course to Mark C and at this point we neither gained nor lost distance to Paradigm.  At Mark C, we gybed the main and winged out the jib to run DDW until we had to head up a bit to make the Channel Marker #8.  Once rounded channel marker 8, I took over the helm for a bit to get a feel for the boat in the increased wind range now blowing at 20 knots.  The boat felt pretty good, but I still think we need to have more weather helm so we can steer by feel rather than by sight.  We’ve overstood marks consistently and I believe it’s due to the fact that we are focused on steering because of the lack of feedback from the helm.  In the short leg that we had before the finish line, we climbed ahead of Paradigm but failed to pay attention to the layline and tacked after Paradigm had tacked which gave them the shot gun finish and us the horn.  Despite the second place finish, it was a fun race and I was plenty sore from having to do both the jib trim and the main sail after a long absence from crewing. 

sbyra 2008 w#4 cpyc

Took advantage of the crew showing up to the race, we set up a few extra telltails for the shrouds and back stay for light air, but the wind is forecasted for 10-15 knots building to 15-25 later in the day. MIST is more comfortable in this wind range than the typical winter light air. When we arrived at the boat, I had them take down the 125 jib just so we wouldn’t be complacent and leave it up if the wind is light. But as fate would have it, the 125% was just the right size sail as the wind build little by little as we headed towards the starting area. By the time we start, the wind was 10-15 knots and we were moving nicely with the 125%.For a simple and short course, there was quite a bit of tactical decision regarding which was the best course to sail given the ebb and the wind direction and velocity. MIST sailed on the East side going towards Mark “C” after the start even though the risk of stronger current because we like the pressure on the East side and we did not feel the delta of current between going further inshore warranted the risk of lighter pressure given our 125% jib.We were positioned to leeward of First Light right after the start – smack in her wind shadow. We considered a tack to keep our air clean, but the wind pressure on the right side (West) didn’t look as strong, so we decided to tough it out – hoping our longer waterline and slight footing off will give us enough speed to nudge our bow out in front of First Light’s wind shadow. After a few looong minutes on the same tack, First Light tacked towards inshore presumably to get into lighter current. We assessed our options and decided that a heavy displacement boat like Mist needs more wind pressure and opted to stay on starboard tack to gain further separation from First Light and to have stronger pressure for better boat speed. Once we sailed close to the layline, we tacked to port and when we converge with First Light again, we were well ahead. However, our call for the layline was a little off and required us to do two tacks in fairly quick succession to round the “C” mark.

We were a little late in setting the chute after rounding “C” in part because of the two quick tacks as well as some miscommunications aboard. After hoisting the chute, we noted Paradigm sailing ahead on a higher reaching course given her asymmetric spinnaker, but Mist (and a few others: First Light, Black Sheep et al) with symmetrical chutes opted more or less rhumb line to Mark#4. Mist only altered course on this leg when wind pressure felt light and Skipper Keith “heated” up a bit to keep our VMG optimal. Mist made up a quite a bit of our lost time from a late start (about 20 seconds) on this leg to round ahead of Paradigm by about 3 boat lengths – not enough to make our handicap. We knew we wanted to head inshore to the final leg to lessen the impact of the ebb, but again, we saw better wind pressure in the middle part of the bay versus the inside and opted to stay on starboard tack as long as we can keep a loose cover Paradigm who was on the same tack. This means that we won’t risk much sailing on the same tack as long as Paradigm is in the same current. Once Paradigm decided to tack inshore after a bit, we were tempted to tack to cover, but again chose to stay with the pressure until there’s a bit more separation between us. We kept assessing the water depth delta between Paradigm and us. The rationale being that as long as Paradigm in in relatively same water depth as us, we should have approximately the same ebb current. After a significant separation developed, we noted that our depth is about 30 feet, and Paradigm is undoubtedly much less, we tacked towards shore in a pressure zone and monitored the water depth for a chance to tack back to starboard when either of the following conditions: 1.) water depth is less than 20 feet; 2.) we are on the layline of the finish. There was only one problem on the last leg for MIST: in the increasing rain and haze, it was a hard to ascertain where the RC boat is exactly and there was no other boat ahead to give us a reference. The GPS was indicating one thing, the crew was identifying another, so we weaved up and down a bit and sailed the leg like a drunken sailor. While we finished first on actual time ahead of Paradigm by about a minute five seconds (according to our watch), it’s doubtful that we have enough margin to correct out ahead of Paradigm. There’s alway going to be that next time for Mist….

Congratulations to Luther and crew for their victory,s/v MISt, signing off…NOTE TO SELF: Boat seems to point higher on starboard tack than on port compared to Paradigm in 15 knots of wind. The helm still seems to have a bit of lee-helm since even in 12-15 knots I need the main trimmed tight and pulled up to weather to get a slight helm. Possibl we will need to loosen the head stay some more to get a more weather helm. Also possible the shrouds have loosened up more and needs more tension as the shrouds appear to be a bit more slack than before.