I missed blogging yesterday so now have two days of racing to cover in a short space of time whilst at the gate waiting to board my flight back to the UK…
Thursday dawned very foggy and light, and consequently the PRO delayed the start by an hour. But we stuck to our early 8:15 dock-out time and got straight into the continuation of the rig tuning from the day before. We started off sailing in the cut, in six knots of wind and dense fog, in order to make sure the rig was setting up the same from side to side. We then ventured out to the race area, still in dense fog but with about eight knots of wind. We worked hard getting our check stays calibrated and investigated the effect of different tensions and angles of attachment. We also looked at the effect of adjusting the rake and settled on a base setting.
At around 10:30, the fog started to clear, and the fleet came out to join us for the 11:30 race, only for the fog to close in again, which made for an interesting first race. Unfortunately, the racing did not go well for us. The focus on boatspeed had taken its toll, and although we felt that we’d made big improvements there, the whole team was off the pace on the racing side of things. For my part, my howler for the day was putting us over a layline in the fog. That put us into last place in Race 1. Some other silly mistakes cost us in Race 2, and we picked up another fifth. But we ended the day genuinely believing that our boatspeed was now in the right ballpark, and we were finally actually ready to go racing. So we agreed that we’d approach the last day as a race day, where we would focus on results and not, as in previous days, on getting lined up with the other boats so we could compare our setups.
Friday again brought fairly light winds and, after an early-morning rain shower cleared, Key West’s usual sunny conditions. The PRO brought the first race forward to 10:00 in order to get three races in for the day. For the first time in three days, we left the dock with the rest of our competition and prepared for the racing. The difference was immediately noticeable. Instead of being already mentally tired from the effort required to re-tune a rig with which we are only just becoming familiar, the whole team was fresh and fired up for the racing. And, all of a sudden, that was what we were doing. Racing. Whilst, earlier in the week, by the time we got to the top mark we were normally already out of touch, now we had our elbows out, and we were fighting for places at the top mark. We picked up 3-2-4 for the day.
For sure we made mistakes, and we still have a great deal of improvement to make before we can think about winning a regatta like this, but now there certainly is light at the end of the tunnel, and the whole team is looking forward to getting into the short-course racing in San Diego in March.