HWS Day 3 Report from With Alacrity Ė 24 Oct 2010
This was always going to be a tough day at the races for With Alacrity, we are incredibly proud that most days we want to go racing we can attract a crew who, by now, have sailed with us enough to sail the boat to a decent standard. Sometimes though the well runs dry, and with most of the folks who normally sail with us away or unavailable, we very nearly scratched from day 3 of the winter series. We were saved this Sunday in the form of a great group of students from Solent Uni, most of whom hadnít sailed a Sigma 38 before (but hey, a Sigma 38 is kinda similar to a Spitfire catamaran!) and they did an amazing job to get us around the race track in good shape. ††As ever, the difference between mid-fleet and the front was wafer thin and deciding which way to go is where we came unstuck on Sunday Ė Festina Lente made the better decisions all day and bagged two convincing wins in fine style.
With a port bias to the start line and the left hand shifts indicating the left side of the beat would be favoured we duly managed to be first boat sailing down the line so we could protect the pin end. With 30 seconds to go I suffered an attack of start line conservatism (my recurring Achilles heel) and did one more slow-down weave when it should have been bow down to the buoy to build speed. We still were closest boat to the pin but 3 boatlengths up from it, sailing slowly and too shy of the line which meant we had to sail free to keep clear air and were controlled by the boats above who could decide when to tack onto port. One by one the fleet tacked off and we hung on for another minute after we were clear to tack looking for the next header to go on. After tacking, the left lift came in as we approached the windward mark but we had overstood and had to ease sheets into the buoy to round close to the pack in 2nd (I think), Festina had judged it best to round 5 lengths clear ahead and we had to sail a good downwind leg to hang onto 2nd place.
Somewhere towards the middle of this race the wind softened from 10-12 knots to 8 and we closed the gap to within a boatlength of Festina as they slapped a determined tight cover on us. With Rapscallion gaining ominously we made a deliberate decision to let them go (or, maybe it was the realisation we didnít have much choice?) and cover Rapscallion to make sure of 2nd place.
I will be kicking myself for this start for many days to come. Before the start we saw several fleets ahead forming scrums at the buoy end of the line and we sailed down to the buoy to have a good look at the strong tide setting along the line towards the pin resolving to keep well away from this trap. With a big port bias on the line though I couldnít resist tacking ahead of the fleet to try for the pole position and we, predictably, ended up being swept down too early without enough boatspeed to luff around the buoy at the start. †We were in good company though as we gybed around to start behind the fleet along with Nuance and Marta.
From here on we never really worked out which way to go upwind. We had two pretty good theories, first that the Northerly wind blowing down Southampton water would fan out as it joined the Solent forming port lifts where we were sailing on the edge of the Hillhead plateau. The second was that the Northerly wind coming across the shoreline at Hillhead would try to cross at right angles to the shore forming starboard lifts by the mainland shore. Unfortunately these theories were diametrically opposed in terms of which way to go and we never worked out which of these theories was right (or was there another explanation we missed?). Perhaps the truth is that the wind itself was yielding at different times to the two competing influences Ė but either way, a theory is only any good if it helps you go the right way and we didnít manage to resolve this one during the race.
†The other feature of this race was the big holes downwind. Finding the pressure was as important, if not more so, than the tide or shifts and huge gains were made by boats behind who sailed down on lines of breeze. At one stage on the first run Festinaís lead was looking very vulnerable before the breeze finally reached them so they could scoot round the leeward mark with a decent lead intact.
†We scrapped our way around the course, think we made our way up to 3rd at one point before dropping back again. At the final leeward mark we rounded ahead of Light in 4th place before being caught undecided about which way to go or whether to cover Light. Light tacked off just before us and with an awesome display of upwind boatspeed sailed past us to finish an astounding 43 seconds ahead at the finish!
So ended another fantastic winter series day of close one design racing. With 2 races a day only for the first half of the series we are in the strange position of already being half way through the series. If we get 2 races in next Sunday we will have sailed two thirds of the possible races before going into the mid series break. With one discard kicking in after 6 races and a second after 8, the points are really starting to close up and looks like there will be clusters of boats throughout the fleet separated by just one or two points. Itís all to play for !!