Fun and Mayhem on the Lake
The Rio Grande Sailing Club's spring series started off Saturday with great conditions. After some very light initial breezes, the wind filled in nicely from the south at about 10 knots and remained at around the strength, with some occasional gusts, for most of the day. Twelve boats competed on Saturday; 3 Etchells in their fleet; 2 J24s and 2 J22s in the A fleet; and 5 boats in the B fleet, including a Newport Mark II 30, C&C30, Newport 28, and a couple of MacGregor X's.
Our boat did reasonably well, despite a broken spinnaker sheet and a couple of other minor mishaps, consistently finishing second over the line in each of the three races on Saturday and in the one race Sunday in which the Etchells fleet participated. Of course, we need to eliminate some mistakes and sail faster, as is evidenced by a few boats that corrected over us to place better on corrected time, and by the "horizon job" that Zorro did on us and the rest of the fleet. Particularly well sailed was the C&C 30, which kept up just fine with the A and Etchells fleets. (Of course, the owners of LunaC had a secret weapon in the guise of a British sailor who sailed on our lake for the first time ever.) We believe that, for every percentage point faster that we can sail, we should pick up about one place in the race standings .... assuming we improve faster than most of our competitors this spring!
On Saturday, the Etchells and A fleet racers completed two "full sausage" G courses and one half-size H course. Sunday's first race was a C course consisting of a triangle followed by a windward-leeward-windward finish ("Charlie Morgan" or Olympic/Gold Cup course).
Heavier winds had been predicted for Sunday. As a result, some of the cruising boats decided not to race that day. One of the other Etchells (White Lightnin') and a couple of the cruisers appeared on the course, but didn't race. At first the winds seemed reluctant to appear, and the two Etchells based at the southern end of the lake (Carol Anne's Black Magic and Zorro's Constellation) considered getting a tow out to the race course. But, the winds did appear, and how! We had winds of 20 to 25 knots prior to the race start, with gusts in the thirties. Fortunately, the winds settled down a little for the start and most of the first race and were only blowing about 18 kts, with stronger gusts.
During the race, we had some small mishaps, including an initially slow spinnaker hoist, overstanding a mark by a few boatlengths, a spinnaker guy flying out of the jaws of the spinnaker pole, a halyard fitting that didn't click and a halyard cleat that slipped, a topping lift tangle, a torn jib batten pocket, and a couple of near-misses when the spinnaker and the boat considered going in different directions.
Our worst snafu was at the final leeward mark, when a bad jib hoist resulted in the jib wrapping around the forestay. We couldn't point up the final beat, but instead had to sail far off the wind, losing distance rapidly as we sailed away from the race. Finally, the jib was set right, after we'd sailed a few hundred yards away from our course, and we could beat the final 3/4 mile or so to the finish. By this time, once of the J24s, Kachina, had passed us and was well on its way to the finish, and other boats were close enough to easily beat us on corrected time.
We sailed as well as we could to get back into the race, and were somewhat encouraged when, after a few tacks, we were only a few boatlengths behind Kachina. However, we kept on stretching our legs with each succeeding tack, and managed to cross the finish line a few seconds ahead of them. Even though we were well behind on corrected time, it was still a hoot to catch up with and pass the other boat in the final minute of our race.
After that race, Zorro, knowing the forecast had stronger winds predicted for the afternoon and having to take his crew to the marina in time for an appointment, ended the racing for the Etchells fleet. A second race was held for the remain boats, but likely should have been cancelled, given the strong winds that did build up, along with the wind chill and frigid water.
In that second race, one of the cruising boats had a halyard go off on a jaunt of its own, wrapping itself around a prop and causing some damage and overheating. One of the J24s got a bad tear in a spinnaker and a very difficult, time-consuming takedown, and the other J24 had a frightening spinnaker broach.
Worse was yet to come; Zorro on his way south had a serious car accident but fortunately had his seat belt on and escaped severe injury.