Saturday, May 01, 2010

Thursday, April 29th SYSCO Spring Series Race

This was one for the story books. A couple of misadventures that make for great tales for cruising and racing budies happened this evening. At least we made it out of the slip without problems. I did forget to check for water in the exhaust, but we did by the end of the fairway and there was plenty. We actually arrived at the boat 10 minutes early and Bill was waiting in the cockpit. We got the boat ready in short order, ate our sandwiches and was off by 5:30.

The wind was about 11 knots. The river was rough and since we have not had that much experience with this level of wind we sailed. We actually went upstream under main only and was doing hull speed. We were all bundled in jackets and I always insist on everyone wearing PFDs. We were so early Poncho and the committee boat was not even out yet.

After a practice rounding of 14, we decided to reef the main. I know, racers don't reef, but tonight since we had time and we needed the experience, we reefed. We actually started with reefed main and head sail only unfurled to 100%. It is a 135 sail, so that means the head sail's clew was just back to the mast. She sailed well. We were still doing hull speed.

The committee boat showed and we went by it once under main only, but it was before the come-by-me flag was up. We circled around when the come-by-me came out and discovered our course, C-2-C-B-C. The race committee added a leeward mark and another windward mark to our race from last week.

Since we were going to 2 which is more to the Washington side of the river, I discarded the port tack start and joined the crowd on starboard tack start. The crowd would probably hug the mark away from the committee boat. They did, but we were behind them. We watched a couple of the lead boats being forced to turn around and restart. They were forced above the mark. They almost looked like they were rounding up, but upon reflection, they were forced above the mark due to leeward boats forcing them above it.

The wind was calming down, but we still had our reefed main. We let out the head sail. We tacked to port. The wind was calming even more now. The white caps were gone. So we shook our our reefed main. Tacked to starboard at the Washington shore. We waited until the concrete wall on the Washington shore was abeam until we tacked to port again. We were crossed by Vim. I just had to ask him how he did it? His boat is a fast little one.

About that time, a tug with 4 barges coming upriver from I-5 bridge tooted its horn. Most of the fleet was heading to the first windward mark and right in its way upriver. More toots. We decided discretion is the better part of racing a tug. Sail boats are bad enough. So I told the crew we were going to do two short tacks. This would mean instead of approaching the windward mark on starboard tack with rights, we would approach the mark on port tack without any rights. But it worked out. We were second around the mark. The tug and barges were part of my strategy. They worked for us. (right!?!?!). I am going to ask a tug to come through each race about that time. The tug will make the race more interesting.

We rounded the mark and went to a starboard broad reach over to the Oregon shore like the big boys do in their races. This takes advantage of the lesser current in the shallow waters. We turned and put up the pole to port when the line with C mark was right for wing on wing. I might go a little more over to the Oregon side next time. Looking at the plot of the course I turned early.

We rounded the leeward mark without incident and went to a starboard tack. We stayed on the starboard tack for a short time and went to port tack staying in the deeper water and thus the favoring current. Again looking a plot of our race, it looks like a port tack at the mark, staying on that until the mark was abeam would have given us better current. I don't remember the wind at this time. We tacked to starboard tack when the mark was abeam, but the wind had headed us and we tacked early. Thus we had to add two short tacks, again. The crew must like them. On the final coming about of the evening, one of the crew stepped on the tiller splitting it. As long as it stayed in the rudder head I could steer.

We rounded the windward mark and had problems broaching. The tiller could not be raised high enough to keep the main from dragging us around on the jib. We put the pole out to port again. I managed to keep the tiller in place. This set us up for a protest from Vim.

Vim was leeward and to starboard. I was busy keeping the tiller in place, when I hear a hale saying "We are leeward. Give me room." By this time I had overtaken Vim. He was overlapped and had rights. If I steered to port my head sail would have been out of shape. I had the room. So far no results have been posted so I don't know if Vim filed a protest.

By then I had lost all track of the race, being very busy with the tiller situation. We crossed the line in second place behind Second Half. But just barely. We traded places with him from the last race. I finished first last race next to the committee boat. He finished first this race next to the committee boat. I was the one by the mark this time.

After the race I started the motor and the crew stowed the sails. We made it back to the slip without mishap. This was really a good race. Especially for the story value.

Here's the plot of the race. It looks like they moved the finish marker and committee boat a little between the start and the finish.

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