The big night! The engine is repaired and running. The crew have had two practices, they must be experts, right? So, out we go to race. Due to the engine problems, we missed the first week of racing. But, everything is a green light for the second night.
As folks begin trickling on to the dock, we start rigging. During practice, we had swapped spin sheets and guys, to get the load on to the main winches. Rigging up, confusion ensued. Then, there was more discussion about the jibs. The first few weeks, I supervised the jib rigging. Tonight, our experienced guy on mast was supervising, and he thought we couldn’t rig because the larger, inner boltrope wouldn’t fit into the track. Eventually, my arguing won out. I looked at my watch…and we needed to leave the dock 15 minutes ago. We do agree to tuck a reef in, because the wind is gusting to 18kts, we have the #1 jib up, and we’re not even certain it’s rigged correctly and may blow the luff tape off.
Now, we’re rushing to get up the river to the start area. Luckily, the wind is on our beam, so we pause, haul up the main, and make tracks. We arrive about 10 minutes before the start of the sequence. As we pull up to the start area, the RC begins reading off the marks over the radio. I’m driving, and I have the radio. I can’t write. In the future, I’ll set the main VHF to RC’s channel 72, and let someone else transcribe.
After a quick swing by RC, we have the course and head off to kill time. Sailing away from RC, we end up missing the horn for the beginning of the 5 minute warning to the start of the 5 minute sequence. At this point, I ask who else has a watch. No one. I hand my watch to Lisa, on jib, and pray she starts it on time.
I sail out for 2 or so minutes, and tack about. As we run the line, and are passing RC, I watch them swap flags, and sound a horn. “Lisa, quick that was our 5 minute!” She’s fast and actually starts the watch directly on time.
I begin to execute the start plan I had imagined all winter long. We’ll head way out on a starboard reach, for half the sequence, come about, head in on port, and then find a gap, tack, and cross just as the gun goes off. It’ll be beautiful.
Two minutes away from RC, I look back, and they look MILES away. OK. Maybe using the full sequence for this maneuver was a bad idea. I come about, and head back. We pass RC 200 yards below them, and we’re halfway along the line, when I hear a horn and the radio crackle to life, “all clear!” But, we have 1 minute left…damn the race started. And we’re nowhere close to the line.
I immediately tack, which no one was prepped for. The boat ends up in irons. It takes us a minute to sort that. We start to accelerate on our starboard tack and now I have to cross B fleet. We make for the committee boat, and 2 lengths away, I realize I’m not going to clear them for a starboard tack start. We flop over to port, cross the line and finally start our race..almost 3 minutes after the gun.
After things settle, I replay the start i my mind, and realize I had told Lisa the horn we heard was 5 minutes, but it was actually the 4 minute warning. Damn.
The course ended up being two upwind/downwind legs, with a close reach finish. With the wind gusting to 18, a slow start and a green crew, as we tacked on to our last port tack on the upwind leg, we decided to round the mark before rigging the spin. Once rounded, we decided to skip the spin entirely. Halfway down the leg, the leaders of the B fleet come up on us…and pass us.
We round the next mark with the B fleet leaders, tangle a bit with them on some of the headers, and hold our own against much slower boats until we round again. This downwind leg is shorter. We decide to rig the spin after the rounding. As we get the spin plugged in finally, I realize we’re at the turning mark. Oh well. We round and head to the line.
We crossed. I looked around. I had all my crew aboard. Nothing broke. No protests were filed. All the marks were rounded. I’ll take that as a success.
We ended up finishing in 5th place…out of 5 boats in A fleet. We were 18 minutes off the leader, and 14 minutes off the 4th place boat. We had an awful start, we had a reef in, and we didn’t use a spinnaker. Had we fixed all of those problems, we probably would have ended in 5th place. So, I’ll take a relaxed sail where we all survived.
Only one way to go and that’s up.