Sunday, September 29, 2013

My First Match Race

I took part in my first match race yesterday and had a great time.  It is so completely different from fleet racing.

We raced in Beneteau First 7.5s with symmetrical spinnakers.  And we had 3 ISAF Umpires - the 4th one scheduled to come was unable to come because apparently he gave priority over us to some commitment he had with some other match race on San Francisco Bay which lasted longer than anticipated.

My main take away from the weekend was how concentrated everything is in match racing. The races were short and every second was filled with concentration. It was like a fleet race that had only a pre start and crowded mark roundings. You concentrate on boat speed of course but strategy/tactics are constantly taking up much of the bandwidth of the skipper and crew.

We were fortunate to have a skipper and main trimmer who were both experienced match racers and we learned a lot from them.  We ended up in 2d place after losing the final that was a real boxing match.  We were Yellow and got off to a good start with a penalty on Blue near the start line. We were virtually even to the top mark where got into a real tussle as the downwind started.  We drew a penalty (I think it was because we were leeward right of way and apparently changed course a bit too quickly) which cancelled Blue's penalty. The Blue skipper then wisely sailed away from us to make it harder for us to draw another penalty and we went after him, focussing on drawing a penalty.  We drew together and were inches ahead of Blue and we were working to keep him from establishing a leeward overlap.  In the twisting and turning we saw the Yellow flag go up and our frustrated skipper was yelling at the umpire - "no overlap, there was no overlap" but in the excitement we had not realised that Blue had gybed quickly onto starboard just before the incident and we were still on port.  So, we now had a penalty and our only chance was to lengthen the race and hope for a cancelling penalty on Blue. We got below him and luffed him upwind away from the leeward mark. We kept going for quite a ways upwind but finally could not get close enough to draw blood and he was able to head back downwind and beat us.

Great fun and some good adrenalin rushes. I am ready to do it again.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Current Trumps

I have written several times about how tide trumps most else in a race and I was reminded of this once again last weekend.

I had a great start and was feeling pretty good - almost keeping up with our Kiwi sailor to the first mark, until he eventually turned on his Laser engine or something and became a distant speck on the horizon as he usually does.

And I was also feeling a bit smug because I was staying ahead of a rival (admittedly he had not been sailing for several weeks - but I wasn't about to let such a detail interfere with my smugness).  Then, he passed me when I did a sloppy upwind mark rounding and it was basically downhill from there.  I did everything I could think of to catch up and did so at one point, crossing just in front on a beat.  But the tide was running with the wind and that proved to be my undoing.

The windward mark was a channel marker which meant that to round it we had to sail quite high and point over to it, while being swept down by the tide.  My friend sailed about 50 meters higher on starboard before tacking to head to the mark and that made a huge difference by keeping him in the shallower water longer.  I tacked sooner, thinking I had enough to compensate for the tide and, in one sense, I did since I fetched the mark (barely). But I was struggling and pinching some of the time, while my friend was chugging away.

Live and learn - or rather re-learn a lesson I thought I had already learned.
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