Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Oct. Racing Column for the Alberg 30 Mainsheet

Ahh, fall racing in Annapolis.  If only the heat would subside...then it would feel like fall!

We had very nice race to and back from Oxford this September.  Four Albergs made it to the starting line: Argo, LinGin, Second-2-Nun and Windswept.  While the weatherman predicted 5-10 knots out of the north on Saturday, but the weather gods had their own plans: we saw 0 to 5 out of every direction except the north.  Go figure.

There were 185 boats across all classes entered in the race down and the Albergs were scheduled to start first.  Starts in such conditions can pose some challenges: 

  1. You can't watch the other classes start to help you develop your starting strategy.
  2. You don't get much time to prepare for the start; it's usually a 5 minutes and BANG! you're off.
  3. It's quite possible that you'll be trying to start with dozens (or in this case a just shy of 200) other boats encroaching on the line.

In this case, it was pretty rough.  The wind was light at the start off of Tolly Point at R2, but in my opinion, a very raceable wind.  The race committee felt otherwise and with about a minute to go before our start, postponed and move the line a mile south just past Thomas Point Light.  I suppose they felt there might be a little bit of breeze coming out of the South River.

Once back in the starting sequence, the wind really started to die.  It was at this point we became nervous.  There were boats everywhere crowding around the line and killing the very light westerly breeze.  To top it off we had a ripping current dragging us south.  With a minute left before the start, Argo was clearly in the best position: slightly north of the line with a little bit of speed.  We aboard LinGin were in a dangerous spot: barely north of the line and moving ever so slightly to the north.  Second-2-Nun and Windswept were in an agonizing position: both were stuck south of the line, battling the current and clearly destine to be over early.

I was so worried that we would be swept over the line early that at 1 minute that I scrambled frantically and grabbed my little anchor out of the starboard locker.  Dang!  It didn't have a line attached to it.  "Why had I removed that?", I wondered.  I grabbed a line, then looked at the depth gauge: 26'.  The line was too short.  Dang!  I found a good, long line and tied it to the anchor.  I quickly heaved it overboard a couple feet and noticed that if we dropped the anchor here, we'd have to drag back a couple of boat lengths before it would hook.  Then we'd be over early.  Dang!  By this time there was nothing to do other than wait for the starting gun.  

BANG!  I listened intensely to the VHF.  Would we be called over early?!  Nothing.  This was odd; I knew at least two boats were over early and they should be called.  Inspecting the radio, I quickly realized the channel had somehow been switched from 77 to 78.  Dang!  My crew assured me we weren't over early, but I hate going on a 30 mile race not knowing for sure  whether I was over early.  Oh well.

Argo had a nice start and quickly set their spinnaker to take the lead.  We both set about the task of getting to the deepest water we could to take advantage of the favorable current, while trying to staying in any pressure we could find.  Windswept and Second-2-Nun battled their way toward the line.  The race committee postponed again and moved the line further south for the remainder of the fleet.

After an hour or two of very light conditions, we passed Argo by catching some pressure that they missed.  We then plodded down the bay in the brutal heat and sun.  By the time we rounded the first mark we started to wonder if we would finish by the nine hour time limit.  Thankfully we caught word on the radio that the race committee shortened the course and was finishing the race at the second mark at the entrance of the Choptank River.  There was hope.

Enduring another becalming and dealing with our second "spin-out" due to waves and no wind, we caught site of Second-2-Nun and Windswept.  They had caught up considerably and with the light winds, anything was now possible.  Apparently our wind in the front of the pack had died before theirs did, allowing them to close the gap.  The racing was getting more intense!

In the end the wind picked up just in time for our finish: we finished with 13 minutes left on the clock.  Windswept crept up and took second 9 minutes later and in a photo finish, Second-2-Nun beat Argo by 4 one hundredths of a second!  I love racing these old boats.  They're so evenly matched!  Nine hours of racing and still a remarkably close finish.

Division: Alberg 30 (5 boats)

1  244LinGinWilliams, TimothyAlberg 30117:46:39.01.0
2  562WindsweptHelms, LannyAlberg 30217:55:28.02.0
3  484Second-2-NunGamber, HarryAlberg 30317:59:23.03.0
4  247ArgoWilliams, T.C.Alberg 30417:59:27.04.0
DNF  152AndanteCole, AndrewAlberg 30DNFNo TimeDNF6.0

After an enjoyable night in Oxford, we were treated to a beautiful 10 to 15 knot breeze out of the south, making for a relatively quick trip home.  The start was upwind and we were able to time our start at the pin just the way we had hoped: with speed and clear air.  Argo started right below us, but unable to push us above the pin.  Windswept and Second-2-Nun crossed the line slightly below Argo with good speed.

Making our way upwind to the first mark, our thoughts mainly centered on covering the fleet.  We need to put in a hitch to avoid shallow water, and did so about halfway up the leg.  The others followed.  We went a bit further than we'd planned on before making our next tack, but we kept every one to leeward of us as we made our tack and headed toward the mark.  We kept close eye on the Cal 25s that had started before us and we pleased to see that the wind seemed to be lifted ahead, but not so much that we'd overstand the mark.  We gained good separation by the first mark, rounding ahead of Argo, with Windswept and Second-2-Nun following in order.

The next two legs were reaches that basically cemented the positions; no one had a significant boat speed advantage to change the places.  Rounding the penultimate mark, it was an 8 mile spinnaker run to the finish.  The breeze made a very hot day bearable, but dead downwind it was still very hot.  We finished first followed by Argo, Windswept and Second-2-Nun.

Official Results from the Hammond Memorial Race (the race back from Oxford) were not available at the time of publication.

It's quite possible that you're reading this before October 18th.  If you are, please consider coming out to race in the Canadian Friendship Races, or to attend one of the evening events.  Everything is taking place out of the Potapskut Sailing Association's (PSA) club up in Pasadena and we'd love to see you out there!

See you on the water!

Tim Williams