Wednesday, March 17, 2010
After we changed the halyard of the genoa, we chug from our home port Brouwershaven towards Port Zélande. A porpoise accompanies us from the exit of the port until we dock in the marina. A good omen? During the palaver we’re informed that we’ll be sailing three windward-leeward races, that we’ll share our race course with the First 31.7 fleet and that we’ll be starting at 11.40am us usual. So we have some time to reheat ourselves and share a cup of coffee with our fellow J80 sailors.
Prior to undocking, we tune the mast in light weather setting to generate enough power in these light conditions. A half hour before the warning signal, a 13 boat strong fleet is present. A new crew on board Jachtig is fully prepared to make things hot for the rest of us.
The wind is blowing steadily 6 knots (90-100°). After the more than 100 boats of the different tour and race classes have started and the 31.7s have shown us the way towards the windward mark, it’s our turn. A quick wind and start line check learns us that the pin end is slightly favored. We win the pin with speed and gain immediately several meters on our closest competitors. We round the windward mark in first place followed closely by Joie de Vivre, Jachtig, Jalapeño and Juul. We are able to establish a loose cover on our pursuers during the three windward-leeward loops and finish the race in first place.
The second race turns out to be identical to the first one. We get off to a good start. The unpredictable shifts seem to favour the middle of the race course. However, based on local knowledge, Jalapeño and Jachtig head for the left layline. Their gamble works out fine and they round the mark in front of us. Sailing downwind we try to sail as a team: we (try to) minimize the usage of the rudder by weight-steering the boat and everybody has his specific task to keep the concentration level high: the gennaker trimmer informs the helmsman on the pressure in the chute; the forward crew member looks back for puffs and keeps track off the closest competitors; the mainsheet trimmer looks forward and weighs the different tactical choices; and the helmsman steers the boat for optimal VMG based on all the information. During the final leg, we gain a few places and we obtain our second bullet. Jachtig ends in second place, followed by Jalapeño and Joie De Vivre. In the middle of the fleet, the fight is just as fierce. Yes, Juul and Jippie J all finish within 30 seconds difference.
For the final race, the committee decides to relocate the pin end and to restrict the number of legs to two due to the freezing conditions. An overeager start gets All Ears an individual recall. The rest of the fleet is clear to start. Jippie J together with Jachtig and Jalapeño lead the way toward the windward mark. A good mark rounding and quick hoist enable us to fight back to first place which we maintain until the finish line. We close the day with several meat croquettes – a local delicacy- and beers in Le Bateau together with the rest of the J80 fleet. The highs and lows of the day are discussed and tips and tricks are shared. Results of this race, which is part of an unofficial J80 Benelux winter championship can be found here.