Warsash Spring Series Race 6 17 April 2011 Report from With Alacrity
For the second week running the black fleet drifted around or anchored for several hours under postponement. This week the water was even more glassy and the chances of getting a race in looked slim. After 2 hours we were, again, just on the verge of edging our way back to Hamble when the race committee started to move the line and set up for a start sequence near Hill Head in a very weak SE breeze. We kept the sail covers on for the IRC 1 start, they took an age to clear the line and I was not convinced there was enough to get a race away in Sigma 38s in the strong adverse current but the breeze steadily built to 5ish knots and we were ready for our start sequence where the Sigma 38s were to be combined with IRC 3.
The start line was on a bearing of 067 degrees but our course over ground on Starboard was only 080 degrees and on port 105-200 degrees. Eek! that means we were effectively tacking through nearly 120 degrees as a result of 1.5 knots of tide the windward legs were going to be slow and getting max tidal relief was going to be key. Double eek! this also means the line was so biased we could barely make it across the line on starboard starting on starboard at the favourable pin end it was going to be tough to scrape around the pin spotter boat and thats without the likely dirty air from lighter IRC 3 boats. Finally it was a long line almost exactly 500 metres. After some head-scratching we decided a port tack start by the pin would be best, on such a long line and so much adverse current we were sure a space would develop, and even if we had to duck loads of boats we would at least be away in precious clear air. It almost worked, Mefisto were the only Sigma 38 nearby and we crossed the line with speed one length down from the pin after ducking the first two starboard tackers - we were through the first line of starboard tackers and looked to have a clear lane through the next line but at the last moment we decided we werent quite going to cross the X-34 that was going horribly fast in the light stuff (sigh if only we could have a one-design start!) and had to tack under them and sail past the pin boat with about 15 metres to spare. OK not quite as planned but still pretty good.
It was then we noticed Rapscallion had popped out 50 metres to windward, an amazing start or OCS? I guess it is one of the frustrations of yacht racing that we will never know for sure... What followed was bizarre, though no second gun or X flag the VHF crackled into life announcing that Rapscallion had joined the race from the course side of the line. No one on With Alacrity had heard anything like this before how can a boat be OCS without an individual recall signal and flag? We have all been taught to look for the X flag to force the decision whether to re-start if you think you are close, with no individual recall you keep going! There was a lot more head-scratching, what should we do tactically now ignore Rapscallion and focus on covering our next nearest rival for the series Kindred Spirit? or throw everything into catching Rapscallion in case they do end up being given a place?
By now we were approaching the windward mark just on the edge of the Bramble bank and had our hands full with other decisions. KS had tacked off onto starboard and crossed 5 lengths behind, we decided not to cover and sail on to the starboard layline. This was on the basis that minimising slow tacks in light stuff was good plus we were in amongst the tail end of the previous start as well as a lot of IRC3 boats so clear air and right of way would be key at the windward mark. Wrong!!!! As we sailed off the bank into deeper water we started to go sideways fast in the stronger current, KS were gaining massively by hanging onto starboard in the shallower water and approaching the windward mark on port. We had to stop the rot and tacked back KS went from being 5 lengths behind to round the first mark alongside Raps with us finding a gap to trail round 5 lengths further back.
The next leg was a short beat/not quite a starboard fetch to another buoy on the edge of the deep water. This time we learned from our mistake and sailed way past the mark in the shallow water before tacking to approach it on port. Raps & KS were stalled in the strong current and this time we gained back loads and managed to find a gap to round close to KS with Raps a few lengths ahead. After the spinnaker hoist we gybed off early to do our port gybe spending more time in the stronger current, this was enough to ease clear of KS and we rounded the next leeward mark 4 or 5 lengths behind Raps in 2nd (or 1st?) place.
The wind was sometimes up to 8 knots now and the tide was turning inshore so we banged left to keep our mainsheet happy (she gets a bit agitated every time we decide to go right upwind!). We tracked up this beat being loosely covered by Raps, somewhere around here Light were on a charge and passed KS to give us a small cushion. The next run was a bit patchy, at one point Light found a gust and sailed deep and fast to gain a huge distance in just a few minutes. Now we had to work hard to hold them off and had to put in a few extra gybes to keep between Light and the mark before the final beat to the finish which passed without incident.
Well there was certainly no shortage of drama at the end of a fantastic series!
Rapscallion finished first on the water but were recorded DNS, they requested redress but it was rejected on the basis that they were 10 lengths above the line at the start. I find that very hard to believe, they were not **that** far ahead when we first clocked them a minute into the race and difficult to imagine that such a well sailed boat would mis-judge the start by such a big distance. My best guess is that they were probably just over the line, maybe by a boatlength or two, which would have been enough with clear air and good boatspeed to get them to the position they were in a minute after the start but if so there should have been an individual recall to give them the chance to decide whether to re-cross the line. Just speculation on my part, I didnt see them at the start, but I feel for them and hope they manage to get the redress hearing re-opened as there was something very wrong about what happened. The distinction between being scored OCS with an individual recall and DNS also appears to be quite a murky part of the imperfect rules we sail under.
Whatever the outcome, it has been a great warm up series for the season ahead. I think everyone who sailed will be a bit faster in light air sailing than before! Rapscallion sailed a great series and but for the shenanigans in the last race were surely odds on to win overall. Kindred Spirit have also been outstanding, last year it was clear they could sail the boat well as they had some good results but this spring series they have added consistency to their game and were always in the hunt. The overall points score show a big gap to 4th place, but it never felt like that on the water as the standard of the fleet is getting better all the time and just about any boat is capable of breaking out and winning races. I think the Nationals in just 2 weeks time is going to be agonisingly tight racing!!