WRCRA /CRAC Lighthouse Race 2002

As Viewed From the Overall Winner!

By Chris Bolton

Oh boy, what a wonderful, wet, wild, workout of a day!  Both David Nees and I had lined up crew who were not too happy about sailing a race that promised to be windy AND chilly, so we decided to team up.  I was planning on using my big yellow chute on my Hobie 20, and figured this would give David a good introduction to chute 101.  However, after getting up early Sat AM and checking out the Thomas Point Light website, I decided that this was NOT a day to run a chute.  They were reporting a steady 20+ knots from SSW since midnight, and the 6 AM reading was 24 with gusts to 27.  Too much for me to want MORE sail area.  We decided that this would be a good day to sail heavy and have fun.  It was. 

The course was set as 4 laps between a buoy at the mouth of the West River and Thomas Point Lighthouse.  However, we also had to start off the Pirates Cove dock and head south for a bit to an upwind turning mark before going out to the Bay.  We got out early and checked out the starting line and the upwind mark.  Clearly you couldn’t make the upwind turning mark from the port end of the line; you needed to tack.  From the starboard end of the line, however, it looked like you had a real shot at a no-tack drag race out to the mark.  With this in mind, we played around the line and came back towards the Pirate Cove pier with about 1.5 minutes to go.  We sat there until 40 seconds before the gun, then went into the lane between the piers, tacked around, and took off down the line.  Just a touch early, but there was no one behind us and no one close below us, and we were screaming down the line at the gun.  Head it up and there is the mark just below us; we’re on the layline!  We used this speed to get there first, but I was so excited at being first around that I cut the mark way too close and snagged the anchor line, pulling the mark into the boat.  By the time I did my penalty circle, half the fleet had steamed by us.  We got the boat humming in the flat water, though, and were very elated to get almost out the river and be the lead non-spin and still in touch with the spinnaker boats.  Weren’t real pleased to see that orange stripe Nacra  5.8 hanging right with us, though.  That’s when I decided the wild thing might pay off, and just about the time David went low, the bow stuffs in, the boat stops, and then slowly capsizes.  The mast gets hung up on the bottom for a minute, we finally get it up, I fail to grab on and over it goes the other way! !#$%&*!  We saw several of our non-spin competition blow by us before we took off again.  However, most of the fleet was heading out into the bay, and we had already decided the fast way up was to hug the western shore and stay out of the big waves as long as possible.  The fact that we came up on that tack didn’t hurt either.

The flat water definitely helped our speed, but we couldn’t see any non-spin boats when we came back out to the Thomas Point Lighthouse.  We DID see some spin boats behind us, though, and rolled over two more going back upwind into the South River.  With the fleet so spread out, it took us two or three laps before we became fairly confident that we were the lead non-spin boat.  We really had no idea how many Inter 20s were in front of us; we saw chutes in front but couldn’t track them.  We had raked the mast back to run the chute, and figured it would add stability, so we left it raked, and I also cranked the diamonds wires up for more prebend.  With the jib cars outboard, the main traveled down 6-10 inches, the downhaul maxed, and sheeted in tight, the boat was just right for going upwind.  Our combined 370 lbs on 6’2” and 6’4” frames didn’t hurt either.  Very seldom did I have to let out sheet, and the hull wasn’t flying up either.  We could easily keep it skimming 6“ up, and moved very well upwind.  Our only problem was getting knocked off the boat by waves.  Going out into the bay on starboard tack upwind was something you did as little as possible; this brought you right into the waves and you alternated between jumping crests and stuffing the bow.  Downwind we figured out pretty quickly this was not a day for optimum angles.  Better deeper and slower than high and bows-go-under-fast.  On the last two laps, the wind shifted from SSW to south.  This was good upwind; you could stay on the smoother port tack longer.  This was bad downwind; you were now on the layline to the lighthouse as soon as you came around the windward mark.  Driving down in a puff put you BELOW the layline, and now you had to find a way to come back up.  This wasn’t too bad on the third lap, but we immediately noticed an increase in wind speed on the last lap, and now the straight-line downwind leg became VERY tricky.  I would wait for a flat spot, head up with the bow smoking under water, then dive down with the jib flapping as the next wave or puff threatened to bury us.  I think the jib was flapping half the leg.  Don Sievert told us that with a chute he could not hold the layline, so he took his Inter 20 down low, and tried to jib-reach back to the lighthouse.  This was too crazy, so he furled the jib, and still was on the verge of control trying to get around.

Coming back upwind after the last leg was nice, especially as we got into flat water, and especially as we saw only two Inters in front, and no one close behind.  A lot of shifting gears in the West River as the wind came and went, but finally across the line after almost 4 hours of cold wet sailing.  Into the beach and surprise; we’re third one in!  Eric Auler snuck by Don Seivert on the last lap to get line honors.  In the final tally, only 5 of 17 boats finished.  By the second lap, we were convinced that two or three laps would have been plenty.  The GPS said we covered 43 miles to do our 4 laps, and we “only” had a max speed of 20.9.  I bet that was in the river heading out, right before we capsized.  It was fun to blow by several big monohulls out in the bay, especially guys with all the wet rail meat.  Fantastic party at Pirates Cove that evening, with a great sit-down dinner and VERY impressive trophies.  We got to take home first in non-spin and first overall; I think this was all due to the perfect setup for going upwind and a whole  bunch of righting moment.  Excellent job by the West River crew, this is a must-do for next year.

 Thomas Pt Light data 10-19-02  Lighthouse Race

                     Dir    speed    gust (knots)     

10

19

4 pm

 

SSW

22

24

10

19

3 pm

 

S

24

26

10

19

2 pm

 

SSW

21

23

10

19

1 pm

 

SW

16

19

10

19

12 pm

 

SSW

22

24

10

19

11 am

 

SSW

20

23

 Notice the increase at 3 PM, this is what hit us on the last lap.