Saturday, May 22, 2010

SYSCO Spring Series Race 4, May 20, 2010

This race was from 14-A-U-A-U-14. When the race was posted the winds were 6 to 8 knots out of the East. But when the race started, they were 3 to 4 knots out of the east. So it took forever to get by the committee boat without hitting others. The fast fleet was still trying to start when our start went. But that was compounded by our not knowing the starting time. I did not pick up the count when I should and really did not pick it up at all. We finally started when I realized there were no more flags flying on the committee boat. Not good.

Early sailing helps sort out the wind direction sometimes. I had the chart running from the slip and noted that one the port tack we crossed the river while on the starboard tack we went up the river. So the thing to do was to start on the starboard tack. But we waited too long as stated in the above paragraph. We crossed the start line a full 5 to 7 minutes after the start. This was better than some of the bigger boats who were still trying to start when we finally broke free. It took is six short tacks to start.

When we finally started we took a longer tack to the center of the river until the mark was well abaft the beam before tacking back to port. We had to look for the mark, which was not there. It had drifted downstream and only got back to almost its proper place when we needed it. Poncho reset it. They also indicated that it was the mark. Again we had to do two short tacks because the wind shift kept backing us.

When we made our first windward mark, we were playing with Vim again. They do seem to get in our way a lot. Looking at our track it shows that the wind was shifting southerly as the evening progressed. We used a long port tack to gain up river distance and waited until the mark was again well abaft beam before tacking to it. But with the wind shifting slightly more we tacked too soon and had to do a starboard tack to the mark which again we misjudged or were scared by the shoalling shore. We tacked at 10 foot depth. We did not quite make the mark and had to do two short tacks again.

The run downwind to Mark U was quick and fun. The crew put up the pole and we zoomed down to the mark. By the time we got to U the wind was falling and still shifting south. We rounded the mark and went into a port tack and started straight for the mark. The wind kept shifting and falling. Until we put out the anchor. This is the second race in a row we have had to use that tactic. I don't like it, but I would rather to that than drift downstream and loose valuable ground when the wind dies. The wind died due to the rain squall that hit us. So we sat for 10 minutes. The wind picked up and we sailed some more. Then the wind died again. Again we anchored. But this time it was for only a few minutes. My crew was working pretty hard hauling anchor. We started sailing some more. Very slowly. Making less than two knots over the ground.

Poncho came out about this time. And went to Cepheron, who was upstream from us. They must have told them they were shortening the course, because they turned around and headed for the finish line. Poncho then came to us and told us that as soon as Cepheron went by we could head for the finish line. She did. We did, too.

Upon reviewing the race, we agreed that our timing the start needs work. I did a horrible job this time. We were too far from the committee boat to watch the flags without binoculars. I was the only one aboard responsible to the timing of the start. I had done OK for the three previous starts but this time I lost track of time. So we decided to designate another crew to keep track of the start time. This will leave me more time to consider strategy.

The race start timing is simple for one race but we have 5 starts. The first signal is at 6:30 and is the 5 minute warning for the first start, which could be any of the five starts. The start is identified by a number pennant which is raised at the 5 minute warning. The start order is determined by the race committee on the committee boat. It could be any of the five starts. They even could combine starts if they wish. It's all in the signaling of the flags. Our fifth start is a yellow-blue pennant. The usual order is 1 to 5. The next warning is the 4 minute warning and the preparatory flag is raised. At one minute before the start the horn blows and the preparatory flag is dropped. The start number flag is lowered at the start time. The next start flag is raised at this time. The cycle starts over again. The preparatory flag is raised at the 4 minute warning and dropped at the one minute warning. This progresses until all starts are completed.

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