Monday, September 26, 2005

CORA Inshore Race 4

Below is my recap from gameday.
Sunday’s Fall Race #4 began for Temptress with a malfunctioning compass. True wind functions, VMG’s, and corrected GPS functions were right out, so we had to go at it the old fashioned way. With the breeze forecast for east-north-east at 7-9 knots and an incoming current the strategy seemed pretty straightforward from the get-go. We planned our pre-start to be able to start near the pin with speed and not let Hoodoo or Emocean above us for the fetch to BP. Both are larger, heavier boats with longer waterlines and we felt being in the drivers seat at BP was at a premium in the flat water. But then there was that Melges. Brand new and fresh out of the shrink wrap Reggie Fairchilds latest “Wireless” looked sharp with her carbon mast, and even sharper nailing the start. We spent the whole first leg trying to chase her down, but Melges sail right through their hull speeds in flat water. Oh well. We also noted during the pre start that the wind was going right. What we planned as a fetch to BP turned into a beat, and a look out to Ft. Sumter saw the flags showing sea breeze.
The weather forecast had commented that localized inversion could result in a sea breeze amalgamating with the gradient to produce onshore flow. Funny, that’s what we saw on the first beat. As the morning moisture burned off and the plumes grew we saw pressure and right shift all the way to ESE by the middle of the first beat. We chose to stay close to the JI shore, even though the incoming current is strong in the south channel. Wireless went with us even after we were able to cross and begin to extend on him shortly after BP. I noticed Hoodoo and Emocean choose the left- presumably to get out of the south channel. We chose to let them split knowing the current rushes around the flats in a myriad of directions and strengths. We have had some good luck when the whole fleet is forced on to the flats, but seldom have we had the flats pay on a flood tide. As we worked up the beat picking shifts and trying to force the Melges to the left of us (yeah, right- outmaneuver an anklebiter) we noticed Icepac going strong with us and holding her own. I thought back to the first Ocean Race when Icepac played inside the south channel brilliantly and made huge gains. Must be something going here. As we approached Ft. Johnson a quick look back across the harbor told the whole story. The breeze on the right was much more right and seemed to have very good pressure. Hoodoo and Emocean looked helplessly stuck in a convergence zone over the flats. While they would both occasionally catch an eddie and look oh-my-god great for short periods of time the right paid big.
We have learned that even when gybe setting seems like a great idea at R2 it pays to hold starboard gybe and run the boat back up on the flats. Unfortunately for us Reggie obviously knows this too, and held out on starboard longer before gibing. He was in obviously favorable current and as the righty died off and the lefty filled back in Wireless slipped by and put a hurting on us- and the fleet. The second beat was our big chance for redemption. Wireless rounded BP with almost a 4 minute lead, but a solid beat playing middle right slashed into their lead.
Emocean seemed to make a big gain at the beginning of the second beat. They went WAY inshore towards JI, and came out with a ridiculous angle and pressure. Here they come… But as the opp (own personal puff) died they came back to earth. They did make a gain, but not one big enough to get back into phase with the leaders. Icepac continued to roll, and was right with Emo at BP. The beat was much like the first. Play the right and stay out of the heaviest currents in the south channel.
We both chose long laylines in R2, but Wireless went further right and brought right pressure into the mark with speed and gained a little back. Off they went with their kite on starboard. We rounded and followed, but with the pressure were able to sail lower and faster for a few minutes. Then, our chance came. Wireless had wandered to the north side of the flats and was having to stay very high to keep pressure while the North channel began sucking them in. We gybed and realized an immediate gain. But as we sailed back through the convergence zone they were able to reach in flat water at a tighter angle and got through our shadow and back into the lead for good.
We did close near the finish, capitalizing on a late shift and pressure catching a well sailed melges is a tall order. As soon as the breeze reached them they were able to squirt out from under our shadow and take the race across the line. Good job guys!
At the end of the day Emo and Hoodoo had reinforced a tactics lesson that I have stressed over and over. You don’t have to hit every shift, but you can’t miss the first one. Albeit there was no way to “tell” that the wind would go to slop over the flats right as they were approaching, but having watched Icepac successfully play the inside of the south channel the last time we were headed that way we thought we had a strong basis for letting the fleet go. With the wind showing right trends pre-start (even without our demonist HAL-2000 supercomputer) we saw no reason to go any further left than we had to.
Other notes--
· It seems as though that CORA is mobilizing for an all out attack on Key West Race Week. Temptress will be there, and so will Emocean. I believe Hoodoo is planning on attending, and Teddy&co. will be racing the SantaCruz 70! There may even be more, but I don’t remember CORA ever sending such a strong group south to compete in the big pond!
· I have to wonder when measurers are looking at the “date” and the “deltas” if they take into account races like yesterday. We got most of our lead on the first beat on one shift. All of a sudden we correct to nearly a 12 minute margin over a bigger faster J/120. Great race for us, but does it mean we should be rated 9 instead of 69? In a race where 60 seconds a mile wouldn’t have changed the outcome I wonder what difference changing a rating by 3 or 6 seconds a mile would do. Having raced very successful J’s like Love that Chicken (J-109) and Eurotrash Girl (J-120) on the Chesapeake with a competitive SR-33 (Outrageous) I know just how hard it is to compete against them with the current rating delta’s. Every second counts. LTC won the regatta with Outrageous 2nd and Eurotrash 3rd. The SR rated 66 up there and the 109 69. They scored two firsts by correcting out over us after we beat them across the line by a half a boatlength or so after 12 miles racing- twice. Eurotrash was 51 up there, and if the delta had shrunk from 15 seconds per mile to 12 they would have beaten us. Conversely if the SR and 109 were even we would have won. After four days of being separated by less than 3 boatlengths we observed that the SR was a little faster downwind, and the 109 consistently quicker upwind. Same pace, but better point. How much of that is sails? Helm? Bottom? Rig? I don’t know. I don’t think most handicappers know either, no matter how much “data” they have. It’s a good thing we have David down here- his verbal policy for years has been to not fix what isn’t broke. As we all wait for the KWRW “PHRF lottery” I wonder what will be in store. SR’s have been rated from 81 to 66 at KW and continued to win and place. Is it really that hard to rate a boat? Funnier still is that Outrageous received a 75 rating for Block Island (they did not attend due to schedule conflicts with the crew.) But can anyone say lay-up? That’s a 9 second spread between two of the biggest handicap regattas in the country. I wonder if anyone’s watching. At 75 here we would have won virtually every race we sailed for the last two years. At 63 we may never win another one. I know IRC is on the way and we experiment with Americap, but won’t it be a wonderful day in paradise when at the very least ratings are consistent?
· There is a new J-100 in town. She is owned by the owner of the local SeaRay dealership who purchased the boat as a spicy day-sailer to enjoy with his children. I have spoken to him and encouraged him to join CORA (he has a long background in racing) and hopefully he will.
· Where’s Arrow? · Does anyone know who bought Crosswave?
Henry R. McCray


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