Windy Conditions Mark the First Day of the Lands End Houston NOOD

Not everyone made it out to the racecourses on Galveston Bay today, but those who did enjoyed an epic day of yacht racing

"Conditions were a little out of the ordinary," said Harald Tenwolde, bowman on the J/109 Pirate, after the first day of sailing at the Houston NOOD. His sentiment was echoed by many of the sailors who took part in today's racing. A large low-pressure system in the center of the United States influenced by the jet stream brought strong pressure to Galveston Bay. Many entrants, including the entire Ensign and Star classes, decided to spend the day on the dock. Reports from boats on the racecourse about the wind strength varied a bit, especially after sailors spent some time enjoying the hospitality at Lakewood YC, host of this year's NOOD, but sailors on both race circles agreed that it was a 22 to 30-knot breeze for most of the day. The southerly breeze, locked at 180 degrees for the day, kicked up a short, steep chop, which proved a challenge for many boats. At least three sailors spent time in the water, one rig came down, and there was a hard t-bone collision, which left a hole in one of the boats sailing on the Course A. All in all, everybody agreed, that it was a spectacular day of sailboat racing.Pirate's tactician Jay Lutz and helmsman Walter Prater guided their crew to a 3,3, 2 for the day, and now lie in third place behind Jan Halbert's Vitesse, in first, and Steve Rhyne's Mojo, in first and second, respectively. "Mojo's fast," said Tenwolde, " and they sailed well today. Vitesse, Mojo, and Pirate all sailed with reefs in the main all day, and it helped a lot. Unfortunately, we had to drop out of the third race because one of our reefing lines broke."On Larry Blankenhagen's C&C 121 Parrot Tales, the day started badly, when one of the blocks on their mainsheet blew up on the way to the racecourse. "After the block blew, we turned around and headed to West Marine," said Blankenhagen. "They had the block we needed, so we headed back out to the course. We were late for the start, but managed to get across the line before the ten-minute time limit. We finished last, but at least we finished." Parrot Tales scored a third in the second race, but the fates weren't done with Blankenhagen and his crew. "We tore the main a lot and the jib a little," said Blankenhagen. "We decided to withdraw so we could get both sails to the loft this afternoon so we can sail tomorrow. Normally, the wind around here is 10 to 12-knots, and even if it does blow, it's rarely over 20. Today was one of those rare days." Blankenhagen and his crew have a game plan for tomorrow. "We'll be out there and try to hit it hard and see if we can move up a couple places. We'll have a full crew tomorrow, and be a little further up the food chain."Even the crews that did well today had their problems. Robert Onsgard and his team on Fifty-Fifty, a Corsair 28R, didn't have problems with the wind strength, just their timing. ""We misread the Sailing Instructions and crossed the starting line a minute early," said Onsgard. "We were really punched out." After their time issue, Fifty-Fifty began to strut their stuff, scoring two firsts in the final two races of the day. "We sailed with a full main," said Onsgard. "Our last heavy air event was Key West Race Week, and this was flat water compared to that. We enjoyed today." Despite the strong showing in the second and third races, the 10-point penalty for the OCS puts Fifty-Fifty in fourth place in the class, but tomorrow's another day. "Tomorrow, we'll just keep doing what we did today," says Onsgard. "We look forward to it."The forecast for Saturday looks a tad lighter, at 15 to 20 knots out of the southwest, according to the National Weather Service. As a result, the entire 87-boat fleet should enjoy a great day of racing. For complete results, see: www.sailingworld.com