The conditions in Key West could not have been better for racing—18-22 knots of breeze, big waves, blue skies, and warm water. Onboard Warpath, a mix of bad luck and unforced errors forced us to play catch up more than we would have preferred.
Race one got off to a slow start. A bad lane and a late approach forced us to tack out early to the right. The left side of the course was favored, and it became quickly apparent that we had a lot of catching up to do. Cutting our loses, we tacked back to the left, locked in, and found great upwind speed to grind back and round the top mark in fourth. Morgan called for a gybe set coming out of the offset mark, and as we were going through the maneuver, the leech tape of the spinnaker got caught up on the port spreader tip. The kite filled and ripped down the entire leech tape. I was really impressed with how well we were able to bounce back; we gathered the ripped spinnaker, and had the back-up sail flying within a matter of seconds. No hesitation, just good solid crew work. At that point we were in last place, and did nice work to grind back to the fleet. The second beat and run we had good speed and passed a few boats, finishing somewhere in the middle of the pack.
The breeze built between the first and second race and once again we found ourselves struggling off the line. A big left shift left us below the layline for the pin, and we were forced to tack and duck the fleet. Upon finding a clear lane we were off, quickly catching up to the front of the pack. Two thirds of the way up the first beat, we were involved in a severe port-starboard collision. It seemed that the other boat (on port) wasn’t able to bear away enough to get behind our transom, and nailed our stern at full pace. The result was detrimental to our performance; we were taking in gallons of water for the rest of the race. Despite the setback, we were able to keep the boat going and remain focused, leading us to a fifth-place finish.
Samba Pa Ti had a great day winning both races, and looked fast with consistent boathandling around the course. Hedgehog, Mascalzone Latino, and Pisces also had solid finishes in both races, and will be tough all week.
Today was not our best performance on Warpath. Some of our setbacks were within our control; others were a matter of simple misfortune. Either way, the important thing is that tomorrow is a new day.