Aug 082012

While the total number of boats competing this year was low, the total mileage delivered has never been better! One boat from Quebec City, another from Charlottetown PEI and three Lake Ontario boats descended upon Oswego, NY for our North American Championships, held in conjunction with the Lake Yacht Racing Association (LYRA) Annual Regatta.  The race organizers must be complimented on hosting an spectacular event.  Excellent on the water management, great parties and congenial hosts made for a truly wonderful experience.

Historically, our NA’s have consisted of both a distance and a series of course races.  The LD has always been a 30 mile day race, but this year we had a 74 mile overnighter. This was my first OD overnighter, and it is weird not knowing exactly where all the boats were!

The race began with a three mile beat to Ford Shoal into a 10-12 knot breeze, followed by a 27 mile reach/run to Galloo Shoals. The fleet stayed relatively close, with Panther maintaining a nice little lead. As the sun set, it was difficult to track who was who, but I believe the rounding order at the leeward mark was Panther, Old School, Surfer Girl with O’Naturel close by, and Ghost closing the fleet.

Now for the upwind slog, 19 miles to the Prince Edward weather buoy in a veering upwind in moderate conditions. We lost Panther in the mess of lights, but we’re able to maintain contact with SG and O’Naturel. Sailing upwind with 839 pounds on the rail compared to the 1100 plus of my colleagues was a bit painful, but we elected to keep the #1 so we had some punch through the waves. Some boats went with the blades. We called the layline in the veering wind 9 miles out, and we’re only 100 yards short! O’Naturel had to contend with a freighter on the nose, but survived unscathed. At the windward mark, it was Panther, O’Naturel, Old School, Surfer Girl, then Ghost.

Now for the fun… A 25 mile reach back to Oswego in 12-15 knots and building while backing, under a beautiful, bright full moon. The last 10 miles grew increasingly tight, to the point we had to strip down to the #1. The waves were still aft, and we enjoyed some 10 knot surfs.

Panther won the race with an elapsed time of 12:23:15.  The others were: O’Naturel 12:34:52; Old School 12:46:54; Surfer Girl 12:52:20; Ghost 13:06:06

We had the remainder of Thursday to recover from the race.  An excellent impromptu rum party broke out in the evening, which morphed into a margarita party at a local Mexican cantina.  $2.75 margaritas are a dangerous thing.  ’nuff said.

Friday saw the beginning of course racing in light and consistently veering wind.  Old School was able to capitalize on its light crew weight, and was able to string together three bullets.  O’Naturel and Panther usually shared second and third, with Ghost sneaking in one third.

Generous Oswego Yacht Club members Ron and Dianne Palm hosted the entire regatta to a delicious chicken and rib dinner on Friday night.  Beer and rum were flowing quite quickly during the party.  Juicy from Panther and Les Quebecois made sure everyone was having a great time.

Saturday brought powered up #1 conditions with a bit of lump.  Panther sailed consistently fast, posting two firsts and a second, with O’Naturel two seconds and a first.  Old School was showing some pain, with Ghost and Surfer Girl mixing it up regularly.

Going into the final day of racing, Old School, Panther and O’Naturel were all tied with nine points in course racing.  With the distance race considered, Panther had 10, O’Naturel 11, and Old School 12.  What a setup for an exciting final day of racing!

On Saturday night the club threw a great Caribbean themed party, complete with steel drum band, jerk chicken, plantains and plenty of Mount Gay.  Seeing the setup for Sunday, I must admit that I did my best to keep my crew away from the party.  Didn’t quite work out, though.

Sunday’s conditions were predicted to be a touch windier than Saturday, with scattered thunderstorms from a quickly approaching front.  When the day dawned, the winds were stronger than originally predicted, with a gusty and building 20-25 knot side-offshore wind.  With the presenting conditions and predicted storms, several fleets elected to stay ashore.  Not the Olson’s though!  We had a trophy to win!

There was quiet excitement at the dock.  Not too much chit-chat.  A bit of rig tuning here and there.  Ghost elected to stay ashore to prepare for their long delivery home.  We left the dock a bit late, so ran under spinnaker the 2.5 miles to the start area.  We saw a couple of other Olsons that were prime targets for fly-by’s, so we did.  Game on.

The racing on Sunday was very physical.  All boats were in full depower mode upwind, with three of the four reefing their mains.   Yes, apparently some boats have reef points.  O’Naturel, Surfer Girl and Panther were able to control their boats well, but Old School had to go into full depower plus feather mode.  Strangely enough, this mode proved to have very similar VMG to the other boats.  Panther and Old School were very tight at the first windward mark (I actually forget who was ahead).  Old School popped her chute immediately, while Panther delayed for a moment.  This gave us (or extended) our lead, and we were enjoying 14-15 knots surfs almost DDW.  We saw one immense gust rolling down the course.  Once it hit Panther, she immediately fell into a SPECTACULAR broach.  You have all seen the pictures of the infamous HOOT broach, right?  Well, this broach was definitely on par.  Bruce Rand on O’Naturel, who was in third place, confirmed that Panther is indeed pink all the way to the bottom of her keel.  Unfortunately, Panther had to cut the running rigging to get out of their predicament, letting their chute float away.  O’Naturel had to avoid it in the water.  From what I understand, there may be video of the incident, but we will see if it is released…  The rest of the race was relatively uneventful, with Old School winning, Surfer Girl second, Panther third and O’Naturel fourth.

The top three boats’ NA Championships points going into the final race, including non-discardable distance race, but one course race dropped:

Old School 13
Panther 13
O’Naturel 13

Kind of tight.

In the first race, O’Naturel seemed a touch off the pace upwind, while Panther was very close in speed to Old School.  At the time, I did not realize that Panther did not have a spinnaker, so I was very concerned about her.  Old School covered Panther for most of the first upwind leg, with O’Naturel not far behind.  At the windward mark, we set the chute, and were surprised to see that Panther did not. O’Naturel and Surfer Girl passed her on the downwind.  At the leeward mark, the proverbial shit hit the fan for us.  We had a somewhat messy rounding, then as the jib was being brought in the starboard car exploded, nearly taking the foredeck’s ear off.  We tack to starboard in order to repair the damage, then I notice that we have lost two battens in the jib.  We tack back to port to cover the others, and our new primary halyard’s cover parts.  Grinding then lashing it to the winch, we continue on with significant lost distance.  O’Naturel and Panther are both quite quick on the next upwind, but we are able to just hold onto our lead.  At the windward mark, my foredeck informs me that the spin halyard appears fouled.  Quick switch to the secondary.  Up goes the chute, which just as quickly drops as the soft shackle on the halyard lets go.  CRAP! Secondary halyard at the top of the mast, primary halyard on the still-hoisted jib, spin halyard fouled.  I order the jib down, but then the foredeck discovers that the spin halyard is indeed fine.  Up it goes, and we are off on a 15 knot screaming (figuratively and literally) run to the finish.  O’Naturel finishes second, Surfer Girl third and Panther fourth.

It was a quiet beat back home.  Lots of reflection, some congratulations among our crew.  The conditions don’t really allow anyone to go hang out on the way back, so we all make our ways home alone.

The awards ceremony was a nice event, even with the 60 mile an hour thunderstorm squall that tried to take the party tent and all the trophies away.  Everyone retreated to the small interior bar and the tiki bar and marvelled at that power of nature.  Once it was over, the awards continued in the bar over several beverages.

I would like to take this moment to thank my new friends from Prince Edward Island, Peter Scott et al on Ghost, for making the trip.  It is not often that you find a crew that will deliver their boat 1000 miles each way to race against four other boats.  Thanks for making the trip, and we look forward to seeing you next year!

I also welcome new friends from Bronte, ON, Bryan Sims et al on Panther.  Even though your boat is pepto-pink, it is very fast, and I am sure you will enjoy many trophies with her.  Welcome to the fleet!

And to my old friends, Cinquante AKA Surfer Girl…it is always a pleasure sailing with and partying with you guys.  You are the life of the party…keep it up!  I was a bit disappointed to see all the Coors Light around you guys this year, though!

And of course O’Naturel.  They live two docks down from me.  We race each other every week and have lots of fun.  It is always a pleasure racing against you guys.

See you all next year!

      Points LD 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1 Old School Mundle 14 3 1 1 1 3 (4) 3 1 1
2 O-Naturel Rand 16 2 2 3 2 2 2 1 (4) 2
3 Panther Sims 17 1 (4) 2 3 1 1 2 3 4
4 Surfer Girl Savard 31 4 (5) 4 4 4 5 5 2 3
5 Ghost Scott 38 5 3 5 5 5 3 4 (8c) 8c