Today was a beautiful day for sailboat racing. Three very tight races were held for the J/80s in 5 to 13 knots of breeze. The Rumor moved up one more place, and within closer reach of the top three. Although delightful, the sailing was anything but easy with a shifty breeze, unsteady velocity and a talented fleet.
We found ourselves in a nice position right off the start of race one. We were the second boat from the pin in a slightly left angle, holding our lane nicely. Unfortunately, when the extra left angle came, we were pinned from a tack, allowing most of our competitors to hitch onto the lift without us. Before we knew it, the breeze was back right, and our lead from the start was gone. The rest of the race posed similar difficulties to staying in phase with the shifts. Our fleet’s depth makes the importance of getting that first shift crucial.
The next race was a slight rollercoaster that fortunately ended on a high note. After being unable to hold our lane off the start, we tacked out on a decent angle, and were looking pretty good as we entered the windward mark approach in the top five. The fleet was as tight as ever, so we decided to go for an early gybe after the offset mark for clear air. I swung the boat when suddenly my brother John was yelling for more heat. Seeing the chute pop nicely, I figured this was unnecessary until I saw the reason for the call. There was a boat approaching the windward mark to leeward of us. So we dropped the spinnaker, and started spinning. We quickly lost at least five boats. Fortunately, we sailed well the rest of the race, and crawled back to a fourth. Lesson learned: remembering to double check your blind spot is as important on the race course as it is on the highway.
The wind had been varying in strength all day, and we started the third race in a bit more breeze than the second. After another good start, the velocity quickly dropped off to less than we had seen all day. At one point, we had all of our crew off the rail and crammed in the middle of the boat. The good news was that we happened to be extremely fast in these lighter conditions–fast enough to get us to the mark in first. With a five-leg course, we were able to lead until leg four, where we got caught in some light air on the run. With four classes going around the circle two and a half times, the downwind legs can get a little hairy in lighter conditions. Rounding just outside of second place at the leeward mark, we used what we had learned about the shifts so far to regain second place.
We currently sit in fifth place and seven points behind second. With two more races tomorrow, we hope to chip away at a few more places. The tight racing and tricky conditions will keep it challenging and fun.
_ Access SW‘s complete coverage of Quantum Key West 2012. _