With my credibility on the line, I took a gamble digging into a port-tack header...
Today’s forecast was going to challenge not only my patience, but the team's patience, as well. It was a light, dying breeze, and the race committee wanted to get in at least one race before the breeze shut. I knew the day would test the team's confidence in me, and I wanted to be like Veruca Salt, the spoiled brat who always got what she wanted. I wanted—no, needed—to get the tactics right today. With these conditions, anything can happen; it would be easy to end up last.
An early morning rig-tuning session helped us get up to speed in the RC 44 class.
Today dawned pretty much as forecast, with a very light southwesterly breeze. As planned, we met for a 7:30 breakfast and left the dock at 8:15 to give us some time to re-tune the rig before racing. Motoring out to what looked like a complete glass-out, we wondered whether it had all been worth it. But we're sailing an RC44. I would not recommend the boat for a weekend cruise down the coast—the accommodation is a bit lacking—but it sails like a dream, and in these conditions absolutely comes into its own.
Hooking a crab pot at the start only added to our tribulations.
Today was another tough day for us on Ironbound. Yesterday, our problems, along with many others here in Key West, were seaweed-related. Today, our problems were unfortunately more of our own making, although lady luck certainly had her part to play. A judgement error on the start line saw us over in Race 1, and although we stayed close to the fleet, when there are very few shifts and only five boats, it's very difficult to make any great inroads.
When you're not sure what the breeze is doing, a conservative strategy will keep you in the game.
Light and lumpy is the best description of today. Especially on starboard tack, keeping the boat up to speed was a real challenge. We were not particularly fast, so I'm not going to offer any pointers in this regard. What I would like to address is how to decide on tactics when you have no idea which side is going to pay.
Day 2 turned out to be another episode in my personal Willy Wonka land.
On my way down to the boat this morning, I remembered someone once told me, “You're only as good as your last race.” Today’s forecast showed a slight right trend all day, which had me thinking this was shaping up to be a pretty easy day to get around the racecourse. Just protect the right.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Instead, the day turned out to be another episode in my personal Willy Wonka land. Not only did we have to deal with the crazy “Gloop” weeds again, but there was significant current swirling around the course.
After another day of searching for the breeze, we find ourselves one point out of first.
Day 2 was a carbon copy of Day 1, and good times were had by all onboard the J/111 Kontiki. We've made it a pre-race tradition to have a pre-race beer before the first race of the day, and it seems to help calm the nerves and cure the Key West hangover.
As guest crewmember aboard the RC 44 Oracle Racing, I got a sneak peak at the upper echelon of sailing. (It looks a lot like the middle echelon.)
One of the perks of Key West Race Week is it affords everyday racers the opportunity to mingle with the best in the sport. Today, I got to rub shoulders with Russell Coutts, literally. I was the guest crewmember on the RC 44 Oracle Racing, and my spot at the back of the boat put me right next to Mr. Coutts. We shared the windward running backstay as a handhold—very romantic.
Today, we found new focus—solving a case of the slows.
The first day of a regatta is often a defining one. We practiced on Saturday and Sunday with some informal tuning and some slightly less informal match racing with our competition for the week. Conditions had been between 12 and 18 knots from the north, and in those flat-water conditions, we'd been going well, certainly holding our own against the more established teams. But as is so often the case, the first race day was a completely different scenario.
Now I know how Augustus Gloop felt when he got stuck in the river of chocolate being moved off to some undetermined location.
At about 3 a.m. this morning, Key West Race Week started with a bang—then a flash of light, another bang, and a swoosh as the heavy rain poured through the gutters. That unexpected alarm clock jolted me awake, and then my brain turned into question mode.
Even when racing at Key West, it's important to remember Martin Luther King Day. Just don't forget about the seaweed on your rudder.
Firstly, let us all remember that this is Martin Luther King Day. In the heat of a regatta, sometimes we forget these things, but, to me, MLK was a great man and a great American: a person who embodies the ideals of fairness, equality of opportunity, and pursuing the right thing, even if it seems impossible. The world is a better place for people like Martin Luther King, and he sets a high standard for all of us to live up to. So many people in the sailing world get consumed by selfish and trivial concerns. How can I make my boat a little faster? How can I get a better ride?