Friday, July 29, 2005

WNR - Series III - Race 1

Crew: Brian P., Scott, and Glen
Competitors: N/A

The weather reports were typical enough: evening thunderstorms. However, when we rounded the spider bouy at 1800, and only saw 4 boats, we knew something was up. Turning on the weather radio, we heard, "t-storms moving at 35 MPH, 60 MPH gusts, and penny-sized hail..". Hmm...I wonder if they cancelled the race?!

We could see the sky darkening, but there was time, so we set the spinnaker and ambled back to Whitehall without the noise of an engine. Just as we came around the point to Mom's pier, the storm hit, and did it hit! We saw a crazy osprey try to fly in microbursts which was amusing. The storm snapped trees, and knocked out the power basically in all of 21401!

We lit candles and ate our sandwiches while watching the storm. Mom didn't get her power back Thursday around 1800!

Here's to better luck next week.


Solomons Island Pictures

Brian Palmer, LinGin Crew, Artist and Skilled Photographer, has provided us with some cool pictures from the Solomons Race. Truth be told, in our 15 hours and 15 minutes of racing, we only flew the spinnaker for about 20 minutes. However, it did bring the wind when it was dead. (This is when Brian took these pictures; we look pretty excited, don't we?) The spinnaker also makes for prettier pictures too. IMHO.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

WNR - Series II - Race 6

Crew: Brian P., Scott, Mark and Glen
Competitors: 550, 247, 484

It looked like it would be a light air night according to the weather reports, and on the way out we weren't sure. The race committee wasn't sure either and gave us easily the shortest course we've ever had.

A spinnaker start, we chose to start toward the pin end of the line while everyone else duked it out at the boat end. The boat end was favored, but we felt the better angle on the wind would give us the extra speed we needed to beat them to the first mark.

As it turned out, there was a bit of a thermal breeze near the shore that gave 550 and the rest a bit of a head start on us, but in the end our bet paid off. The angle gave us speed and we beat them around the mark.

While 550 was able to get their nose inside us on the rounding due to a large group of boats going around all at once, (there was no room for "wide, then tight") we exhibited good boat speed, and bearing off a bit took the solid lead.

There is some disagreement among the crew about our next move. Heading up wind to the red nun, we decided to tack and stay left. My thinking was to stay in clear air and to have an inside position at the mark. Towney, however, decided to go right. This gave him the ability to get outside of all of the big boats coming into the mark, where as we had to stay inside of them. I think we should have stuck to the age old advice to cover them while you're ahead. Certainly when we have better boat speed.

Once around the nun, it was a reach into the finish and while we did a great job of catching up, we finish about a boat length behind at the end in second.

The crew did a great job--especially Scott in flying the chute to the first mark--and I look forward to our next shot at Towney!


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Solomons Island Race

Crew: Brian, Glen, Scott and Tim
Competitiors: 247, 484, 57, 227

With new batteries, a new hatch cover, new instruments up and mounted, and our wealth of experience from last year's win on our way to Solomons, the crew of LinGin set off Friday evening, looking forward to the adventure that lay ahead. I felt like we got off to a pretty good start; we weren't late, and other than Brian making the revelation that Glen had forgotten to bring the power inverter to power the laptop (Doh!) we seemed to have what we needed.

The forecast was lousy: HOT, light air out of the south, and thunderstorms. (Did I mention HOT?) We had a fair amount of discussion about the effect of the current on the race, and how that should play into our plans. "Current is king," I had said before the race. Along the lines of "don't forget stuff", I told everyone to print out the race particulars and all the current info. Well, that happened and we had plenty of data.

Our start was great. Close-hauled on starboard tack with clear air, Glen had sighted the line so we were about 1 1/2 boat lengths closer to the line than anyone else. With about 6 kts of breeze we tacked out of the Severn and made it around Tolly Point leading the Albergs.

As we came upon Thomas Point Light, the sun was long gone and darkness set in. At that point we knew 57 was behind by roughly 10 to 15 boat lengths, with 247 not much further back. The breeze began to falter at this point, and I worried that we were not doing a very good job of keeping the boat going. Night racing is hard in part because all of your visual references are obscured; many times you may think things are going well, when in fact, if you could turn on the lights, you'd see how poorly you were doing.

Ring, ring! At 2330, Andréa called. "There are HUGE thunderstorms up here in Annapolis, are you guys okay?" We were fine, and by God's grace, we had been watching the lightning north of us and south of us, but hadn't even felt a drop of rain! As it turned out, we never hit a storm throughout the whole race.

As Brian and Scott worked to chart a course for us, we decided the western shore would be the best route to take. Trying to time your position, you want to be in deep water when the current is with you, and shallow when it is against you. However, at roughly 0200, Glen pulled out the current data he had printed out, and guess what. It completely conflicted with what Scott and Brian had printed out. On the boat, the only way to really know what the current is doing is to pass something that is fixed in the water (e.g. a crab pot, a navigation mark, etc.) and look to see how the water is flowing against it. (If we were confident we had the knotmeter tuned properly, we could have compared our speed through the water--from the knotmeter--to our speed over the ground--from the GPS; but we're not very confident in our knotmeter.)

With that disheartening information, we plowed ahead with our westerly strategy, feeling a bit less confident. At night you can't tell who is who, so while you can see the lights of other boats, and at time pass or are passed by other boats, you really don't have much of an idea as to where you stand until the sun comes up. We were a bit concerned because we didn't see many lights all.

As the sun rose, we didn't see any Albergs. The wind completely died around 0600 and I awoke from a nap to find Brian in the bosuns chair hanging from the boom. Something about getting the sail shape right for light air?

Note the heavy breeze on the water.

After Brian came in, Scott was sure the wind (what wind?!) was coming from the north, so with some prodding, we set the spinnaker. And guess what? The breeze came up almost immediately. It was out of the south, so down the spinnaker came.

We located 227 behind us a short while later, and sadly recognized 57 ahead of us as they rounded mark 76. Brian made us some great omlettes which tasted really great after staying up all night. He double the water for the pancakes, and I took over for him to cook them. Two lessons learned:

  1. When it's 98° out and 90% humidity, cooking on a butane stove down below is not an ideal way to cool off.
  2. It's not easy making pancakes on stove that is not gimbled when going upwind in 9kts of breeze healing over 15°.
I learn new stuff every race, I tell you.

At that point it was a foot race to the finish line. The only real question left was whether Argo (247) was way ahead, or way behind. We flew the spinnaker across the finish line about 10 boat lengths behind 57, and a half mile ahead of 227. We were then informed that 247 had finished two hours earlier!

When we caught up with T.C., Argo's skipper, he said his whole tactic was to ignore the current and take the rhumb line (the most direct course) down the bay. So much for "current is king". Here's what our course looked like. The rhumb line is in purple and our course is the dotted, zig-zag line. (Except for the line at mark 76...that's what you get when you change the batteries on the GPS.)

So, a third for Solomons this year. Next year, maybe we'll go with Argo's strategy. Maybe we'll buy some real current charts? Who knows, but whatever we do, I'm sure it will be a blast!

Everyone did a great job, and it was a pleasure to race with you! Thank you wives, for sharing some precious weekend hours to allow us to do this crazy thing called sailboat racing. You are the best.


p.s. Glen and I dropped Brian and Scott off at Solomons and took off for home almost immediately. After a short fit of worry due to our inability to find the coffee we pack, we found it and we're quaffing some of the strongest coffee I've ever dared. With the southerly still prevailing, we put up the spinnaker and until we hit a lull before a storm about 5 miles south of Thomas point, flew the thing all the way home. Again, while we saw a lot of lightning, other than some heave rain off Tolly Point, we had a dry--but VERY HOT--ride home. Thanks, Glen!

Monday, July 18, 2005

WNR - Series II - Race 5

Crew: Brian P., Scott, Mark and Glen
Competitors: 550, 247, 484

[Editor's (Tim's) note: Due to a late Wednesday work appointment, I was unable to make this race, so Glen graciously voluteered (or did I tell him he had to?) to skipper LinGin.]

Sweating in the stillness of the ride over, we started wondering if
there would be a race. The Etchells started 5 mins late, which both
gave us extra time and confused me. (I still don't have the decoder
ring that makes starting sequence signals clear, so if the sequence
gets out of whack all bets are off.) And to add to my green skipper
dilemmas, it was a spinnaker start. We decided on the old stand-by
tactic: follow Towney. As it turns out, in the barely-a-zephyr
breeze, I didn't even do that very well. Most of the fleet chose the
slightly-better downwind sailing angle of the pin end, while we ended
up on the boat end. And got lucky for it: the building breeze on that
leg reduced the advantage of a larger tacking angle downwind. Since
the AC course led us past R4 and the spider, we had a more direct line
to the first mark and were doing well. At R4 we had a 5-6 length
lead. Occasionally, it truly does pay to be lucky rather than good.

Just after passing R4, our new course and the slowly clocking breeze
required a jib hoist/spin douse. Building and clocking
simultaneously, the course to the F drop mark turned into a proper
windward leg. And build it did. With grey overcast skies the
embedded thunderstorm was invisible until the wind jumped and the
stinging rain hit at the same time. Just a wee bit overpowered, we
worked slowly through reefing the main. Afterward Scott alertly
repacked the chute in case the storm passed by the time we rounded F
and embarked on the newly-downwind leg.

Sailing delicately, my main goal being to not break anything, Argo
passed us and rounded first. Rounding the mark we did a
long-way-round tack rather than gibing in that wind. Towney was about
5 lengths behind rounding the mark. We were under reefed main and
full jib running almost dead downwind. We tried wing-and-wing for a
few minutes with some success. At this point I happened to look back
to see a distinct line on the water. I hollered for the jib to be
doused. It turned out to be merely *harder* rain and not a gust.
(BTW, all this time we're sailing with no companionway hatch cover.
The temporary plywood very susceptible to the wind and us with no
spare hands to lash it down anyway. I wondered idly what Tim's
response would be to us sinking the boat with rain water.)

Other than Towney and a couple big boats ghosting through, we had no
visible references. Slowly the spider came into view and even abeam
the spider, Greenbury Point and the southern bank were obscured.
Scott, having been busy on deck dropping and securing the jib, had a
chance to look around, smiled, and asked, "Just for reference, where's

During this time, I have to say, was a very cool experience. With
limited visibility, high wind creating very uniform chop waves, heavy
rain giving the water a matte texture, and colder rain on warmer water
causing small bits of mist to form in the troughs, it was an unusual
sight. It's too bad we weren't carrying a submersible camera.

With the jib down and most things stable, we talked about our options.
I was not sure I wanted to sail the harbor in those conditions. We
decided to keep going that direction and hope the storm passed. We
got inside R4 again and, with no signs of clearing and the knowledge
that we'd have to pound back upwind in 25kts to round the spider to
get home, we decided it was time to abandon. We started the engine
and motor-sailed back under reefed main eating soggy sandwiches and
reveling in our choice of hobbies.

Except for the bummer of not finishing, it was a fun race. We didn't
get the boat too soggy, it was hot enough that rain didn't chill us,
and we got some exercise...both physical and mental. It's too bad Tim
wasn't there to see it with us and take us over the finish line, but
we had a blast none-the-less. As it turned out, only Skybird and Argo
finished so we ended up with 3 points and retained our lead for the

Thanks to Mark, Brian, and Scott for doing all the hard work!


Thursday, July 07, 2005

WNR - Series II - Race 4

Crew: Brian P., Scott, Glen, Andréa, Steve & Kirsten Brown and Tim
Competitors: 247, 484

Oldfriendss made this race all the more fun. Steve and Kirsten Brown came along, and other than a wet ride over due to a strong southerly, appeared to enjoy themselves a great deal.

Towney was out this week, as most of his crew was on an Alberg cruise.

With a poor start, we wound up in the back of the pack coming off the line in a good strong breeze. It was good to have extra crew along to help hold down the rail. Argo (247) was in front of us and a bit to windward at the start. We bore off to get power and speed to hopefully move by him to leeward. It looked like this strategy would work, until Argo came down and covered us. It was a good tactical move on his part, because we couldn't get behind him at that point (we were too close to passing him), and we couldn't bring him up (we were the overtaking boat).

We had the same course as the previous two weeks, and with the wind from the south, it was a straight shot out to the channel mark, then we fell off to head north to the first buoy. Argo stayed high at this point, and we took the rhumb line. However, at the mark Argo had an inside overlap, so we had to give him room. Here's where we made some errors.

In the picture, LinGin is in red and Argo is white. Our strategy coming around the mark called for us to tack immediately after the rounding. It was the longer tack, and as it turned out, you could make the mark as soon as you rounded if you tacked. What we hadn't considered was, what if Argo didn't tack! So, around we came, all ready to tack and Argo didn't. We had the snatch block on during the leg, and had forgotten to take it off, so when we tried to stay on starboard tack, we couldn't get the sail in. We sat in Argo's bad air until he tacked and we were able to come over and head for the mark. We were way behind before we got things back on track.

Now it would be a sad story, if it weren't for some excellent work by Scott on the spinnaker, and some very odd maneuvering by Argo. We took them on that leg, mainly by simply sailing the rhumb line, while they stayed very high. (Perhaps they didn't see the mark?) Once around Scott had a great set, and he simply locked Argo out of the rest of the race by the distance he put on them.

Entering into the harbor, we took the gun greatly enjoying the win. Andréa and I jumped off with Steve and Kirsten for dinner. (We can now recommend the Rockfish for dinner!)

The crew went back through a very fierce looking thunderstorm that somehow they completely avoided. You can see how wild it looked from a couple of shots Brian snapped.


Tim on the 2004 Solomons Race
(Photo: Brian Palmer)

See how much I like Solomons? It just makes me smile!