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We found ourselves caught in a corner on the wrong side of a shift, and we were lucky make it out of the day with our lead intact.

January 21, 2011
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Nick Turney

What a strange day. We started out with an hour postponement on shore due to very thick fog and a light, unstable breeze. After an hour under AP, we left the dock and sailed right into the fog bank that was our racing circle. Just trying to locate the race committee boat was a challenge, but the RC did a nice job of broadcasting the coordinates of its location over the VHF. They set up a course so that, when the fog finally lifted, we were ready to go.

Aboard Kontiki, everything went according to plan. Our first start, we got very lucky. With about three minutes to go, we decided our boat didn’t feel right—weeds on the keel—so we backed down. The wind was light, and it took us a long time to get the boat moving forward again. Luckily, we found a great hole in the middle of the line and got off cleanly. We sailed a great race, finishing second behind the Beneteau 44.7 Galilee.

One thing we learned from the first race was that the current was moving across the course. According to the tide chart, we should’ve seen a slack tide and change in direction, but we never saw that change. The current stayed the same all day. It’s always important to use every indicator you can find—crab pots, the angle of other boats sailing upwind, the anchor line on the RC boat—to determine the direction and strength of the current. Today, you had a huge set approaching the weather mark, so you really had to give yourself plenty of room on the starboard layline.

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Prior to the second race, we noticed that the boat was heavily favored, and we found ourselves setting up above the starboard layline to the RC boat—a death sentence. Being trapped above that layline allows other boats to stuff you out and take advantage of your vulnerable position. We stalled the boat and were forced to sail behind the pack after the start. The only good thing about that start was that the J/109 Rush, our main competition, was right with us. We’ve got a great battle going.

In today’s light, shifty conditions, we weren’t very aggressive about playing the shifts and often found ourselves out on a corner. It’s risky being caught out on the edges with leverage; it can either work out really well, or not so much. The first beat, it didn’t work out, as we found ourselves on the wrong side of a big left shift, sailing up current. Not a good race to be. We ended up fifth in the race, and Rush came in fourth. We still have a 2-point lead over Rush, with two or three races left tomorrow, the final day. I’m having a great time sailing the new J/111.

Notes from today:
1. Minimize your leverage to consolidate your losses if you’re behind and manage the fleet if you’re ahead.
2. Always use the resources on the course to monitor the strength and direction of the current.
3. Know your place in the standings, and use this as part of your strategy towards the end of a regatta.

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