Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sunday pre-start at the Bristol Cup Regatta 2008, Elephant Butte Lake

Boats move toward the line for the start of Sunday's first race of the Rio Grande Sailing Club's Bristol Cup.

For those who like math, the times for the first boat to complete a race this weekend ranged from 44 to 75 minutes, the average interval between boats finishing was four minutes, the average finishing time difference between first and second-place boats was 106 seconds, between 2nd and 3rd place was 199 seconds, and between 3rd and 4th was 521 seconds. The proportionately biggest time gap was in Sunday's second race of the day, in which the last-place A fleet boat took 51% longer to finish the course than the first to finish boat.

Bristol Cup 2008 Race 2 Start, Elephant Butte Lake

For Sunday's races, the weather forecast promised only the barest hint of more breeze than Saturday's predictions. But, unlike Saturday's feeble breeze, Sunday's winds were far more successful in living up to predictions, ranging from about 4 to 12 mph. The time it took to complete the courses was a telling difference; on Saturday it took 105 minutes per nominal mile of course length, whereas on Sunday's final race the boats only required 12 minutes per mile and were just about fully powered.

Start of Sunday's first race with the J/22 Scirocco's Song in the right foreground.

Five Planks follows the PHRF A Fleet at the start of Sunday's first race.

Nessie, C&C no. 1176, joins the race.

Nessie chases the fleet.

Nessie heads upwind while the PHRF A fleet leaders tack.

Downwind at the Bristol Cup Regatta

Two J/24s and a J/22 sail a spinnaker reach during Sunday's first race. The race started at 11:08 AM Sunday, October 26, 2008, sailing a 2.1-mile nominal 6G course to marks 6 (25B) and 2 (17). Winds, though light, were far better than Saturday's puny pufflets; this race was sailed in 4 to 6 mph breezes (BN Force 2)

J/24s with red-trimmed chutes approach the halfway mark downwind.

The J/24 Hot Flash passes the pin buoy halfway down the run leg of Sunday's first race.

Oso and Five Planks Downwind at the Bristol Cup Regatta

The J/24 no. 1275, Oso (red hull), and the Freedom 21 no. 124 (blue hull) Five Planks duel for position near the mid point of the downwind run during Sunday morning's first race (race 2 of the Bristol Cup weekend).

Bristol Cup Regatta; Lost in the Bermuda Triangle

The J/22, Scirocco's Song, in a nice breeze at the start of Sunday's second race, Race 3 for the Bristol Cup 2008. Winds ranged from 6 to 10 mph, typically around 8 mph or 6 to 7 knots in mild Force 3 conditions.

The regatta weekend was named after long-time Rio Grande Sailing Club member John Bristol, who used to race the Catalina 25 Andale to great success in the cruising fleet. John always loved to sail a reach leg on a triangle course, so in his memory we ran a 5A long triangle course.

Because we only run a few triangle courses in a year, have some new racers, and some buoys are not properly marked by local authorities, a few crews found navigating the course a challenge. However, that wasn't true for the first two boats to finish; a J/24 beat the sole J/22 over the line by only 9 seconds, but lost out on corrected time by 21 seconds as the boats completed the nominally 3.7 NM-long course to marks 5 (buoy 25A), 3 (green buoy 23), 1 (13A), and back to the start/finish line in just over 47 minutes.

J/24 1275 Oso enjoys a nice day at Elephant Butte Lake at the start of Sunday's second race, the third race of the Bristol Cup weekend.

Nessie sails by on starboard while Five Planks, a Freedom 21 rigged as a sloop, approaches the line to finish her first race of the day and her first series race under her new owners. By the time the B fleet boats had finished their first race of the day on Sunday, the PHRF A fleet boats had already started their second race of the day.

The C&C 29 no. 1176, Nessie, powers enjoying the force 3 breeze, while the J fleet boats sail a reach leg under spinnaker in the far background.

Portrait of Nessie.

Bristol Cup 2008, race 4, What a difference a day makes...

What a difference a day makes! Sunday's last race started at almost the same time as Saturday's only race but conditions were dramatically better, wind winds ranging from about 8 to 12 mph during the race. The committee boat's back-up anchor dragged, mostly because of short scope, so we had to reposition the boat to make sure the finish line would have the same shape as the original starting line.

The course was a 5G "full sausage" with a nominal round-trip length of 3.2 miles and was a bit of a respite to the crews who had some difficulty in figuring out the previous course's turning marks.

The boats stayed reasonably closely grouped with the second finisher within two minutes of the leader, and the third and fourth boats within 20 to 30 seconds of the second boat.

Boats heel just after the start of the Bristol Cup's final, fourth race (Sunday's third).

Zoom view of race 4 start with the Rock Canyon Marina visible in the background. Sunday's third race was the fourth race of the weekend because only one light-air race was barely able to be completed on Saturday.

Two J/24s find their proper course down Elephant Butte Lake.

These two J boats had the course figured correctly and were on their way to a great finish.

Bristol Cup Regatta 2008, Rio Grande Sailing Club

Although the rest of the J fleet raced both days, Kachina only had crew on Saturday, so she missed the much better winds of Sunday.

Saturday's conditions were "challenging" -- and not because of rough weather. Indeed, it was a picture-perfect brilliant sunny postcard sort of day. However, it wasn't a great day for sailing, other than perhaps with the iron genny. When the committee boat crew dropped off the pin buoy, conditions were so light that we drifted around for a while to get a feel for what little wind there was. The breeze seemed to be coming from the WNW, so we set a starting line.

A bit more breeze built in, sometimes veering to the W and WSW, so we prepared to set a 3F or 2F ("half sausage") course upwind to the west and back for a downwind finish at the committee boat. With about 3-4 knots, racing a short 1.1-mile or so course looked very do-able.

Then the wind faded to some fraction of a knot, perhaps a whole half knot. Not good; even well-crewed boats barely had steerageway; the usable wind had only lasted for perhaps ten minutes or so. The postponement flag stayed up. There just wasn't anything to race in; nothing resembling fair sailing could be held.

After a while, a wind line began to build in the north, off the shore of Long Point. At first, it looked to be a strictly local effect, confined to the water near the shore. But, the wind area broadened and crept gradually closer. I began to have hope that this would be a real wind that would let us hold a race. I moved the committee signal boat back to the east to re-align the starting line for the hoped-for breeze. We signaled a short 4F course toward the Rock Canyon Marina and back, a nominal round trip distance of about 1.6 NM.

At last we got off the starting sequence and there was still some usable wind as the first boats crossed the line. The leaders were able to move up the course a few hundred yards and make their first tack. The breeze was quite light; these clearly weren't championship conditions and wouldn't have done for a grand-prix race. But, for club racing on a mountain lake, it was usable.

But, here, there, and everywhere, the wind was not building; it was becoming flaky and fading. It veered back to the west, putting the tail-end boats on a wimpy reach. The ripples faded from the water surface, leaving painted boats upon a painted lake with just the barest bits of breeze remaining. This was beginning to look ugly.

At forty-five minutes into the race, with the lead boats still a good way from their turning mark, so we made our move. Up came the committee boat anchor and on her motor; we detoured around the creeping fleet to the upwind mark and set a finishing line, displaying the S flag with two horns to signal the shortened course. All five of the J boats were able to finish the shortened course in under two hours with elapsed times ranging from 75 minutes to 102 minutes. By getting a boat to the finish within two hours, we'd salvaged a scoreable race and also, cleverly, gotten the boats close to the marina if they had had quite enough of the marginal conditions.

After the race, a tiny bit more wind got at least some ripples on the water, and most of the boats stayed around to practice light-air skills. The breeze faded again, leaving some of them back away from the marina, but some of the boats had motors, and conditions were exceptionally mild, with mild temperatures, fair skies, and few other boats out on the lake.

Race crew concentrates on getting everything out of the light air

A J/24 picks her way upwind in the fading zephyrs

J/24 and J/22 glide up the course

Oso and Nessie at the Bristol Cup, Elephant Butte Lake

Nessie, at left, is a C&C 29 based at the Rock Canyon Marina at Elephant Butte Lake. Oso, at right, was one of four J/24's participating in the day's racing.

Oso, red-hulled J/24 with sail number 1275, starts her race

Nessie approaching the starting line

Nessie at her start with PHRF A fleet boats visible in the distance ahead

Nessie moves past the starting line

Oso at left, Nessie at right

Saturday after the first Bristol Cup race

Boats at the mark

After Saturday's race (some might have termed it more of a "crawl"), most of the J boats stayed around the mark buoy to enjoy a bit of light air sailing. A wee bit of a breeze came up -- not much, but enough for careful maneuvering -- and boats and crews made the most of it to practice their skills. However, the breeze wasn't very long-lived, soon it and the sun both descended.

Scirocco's Song and Oso

Two J boats on a lovely lake

Oso and other J boats enjoy a gorgeous day in spite of minimal breezes

Under the bright New Mexico sunshine are Oso and two other J boats practicing their skills near mark 23

J/22 and J/24 in tandem

J/24 Oso, the bright red-hulled boat

J boats and crews in beautiful autumn sunshine at Elephant Butte Lake.

Scirocco's Song

J/24 Oso and J/22 Sciroccos' Song

Future chase/mark support boat?

Port quarter, Starcraft motorboat. After concerns were raised about the need for a support boat to be a mark boat, chase boat, and support our regattas, two club members generously offered to provide boats to the club. Here is one of them, a Starcraft bow-rider fishing-type boat. The engine that the boat is mainly set up for is in the shop for a tune-up and replacement of wear parts.

Starboard quarter

Stern view

Port dash

Starboard dash