Tuesday, August 21, 2012

FLEETWING Flies @ Downeast Race Week

J/111 sailboat- sailing fast on spinnaker reach (Northeast Harbor, Maine)- The pinnacle of offshore yacht racing in the Downeast summer calendar is the Downeast Race Week hosted by both Kollegewidgwok YC from Blue Hill, Maine and the Northeast Fleet based in the famous summer colony of Northeast Harbor, Maine.  The event is a fun, eclectic format of three point-to-point races, one per day with a choice of up to five courses for each day depending on wind, tide and fog (of course!).  In between, raft-ups and social events are planned spontaneously on the boats or ashore depending on where the fleet finishes for the particular evening.

This year's event started off the Long Ledge Green bell just outside of the Western Way, located SW offshore of Southwest Harbor (most renown for the Hinckley Yachts boatyard in Manset).  The race chosen was the "Round the Black Islands (two of them!)" to starboard and finish in the gorgeous Bartlett Narrows on the NW side of Mt Desert Island.  It was a very foggy day offshore with a light ESE breeze of just 3-5 kts.  Nevertheless, one of the world's best PRO's- Fran Charles, MIT Sailing Director and Northeast Fleet Manager- was clever enough to send the fleet off on an easy reach around the track that led everyone back into Blue Hill Bay into a near fog-less clearing.  Leading the fleet home after a shortened course 18nm of sailing was Henry Brauer's J/111 FLEETWING, winning on elapsed time for the fleet as well as finishing 2nd handicap.  Tom Rolfe's J/105 SIDEWINDER sailed a nice race and managed a 6th in fleet.

J/111 Fleetwing sailing fast with spinnaker in MaineThe second day of sailing took the fleet on the Hanus Ledge Course- it ran from the Bartlett Narrows, through the Bar Island Channel, leaving Swans Island to port to round Hanus Ledge to starboard and a straight run to the finish off Bosun Island at the opening of the spectacular Eggemoggin Reach (which we never saw due to pea soup fog!).  Starting in near drifting conditions with winds doing 360s around everyone, the fleet was ultimately pushed into a building SE breeze.  Leading the charge out of the bay towards Swans Island was David Rockefeller's well-campaigned IMX 45 CYBELE.  After passing through the two channels and rounding Hanus Ledge (minus snagging three lobster pots and hitting an uncharted "bump" underwater), Henry's J/111 FLEETWING team managed to mow down David's crackerjack team on CYBELE to again finish first on elapsed time and win the race overall.  In this race, J/Teams took 3 of the top 5!  Next up was Tom's J/105 SIDEWINDER in 4th and 5th overall on handicap was an amazing performance by Scott Miller single-handing his J/122 RESOLUTE to third boat to finish!

The last day of racing again saw a lot of fog rolling in at the start off Bosun Island.  The course was simply called the "Swans Island Course"-- doh, just go out the bay, turn left around Swans and head down the narrows between Placentia and the Gott Islands to finish at the eastern end of the narrows!  Simple.  Yeah.  But, complicated as hell when you consider that every turn around that rather large island presents yet another challenge in wind strength, direction and yet more (or less) fog.  After an inauspicious start, Henry's J/111 FLEETWING team managed to snag a pot we called "Jaws" that wouldn't let go just 3 minutes into the race.  After fighting it for a few more minutes, FLEETWING cleared out on port tack behind the entire fleet headed upwind to the SW corner of Swans before turning left underneath Marshall Island to continue the partial circumnavigation of Swans headed home.  Despite catching the pot, FLEETWING managed to snag a 15 degree right shift with velocity to rapidly catch the fleet again. But, "destiny" was not the rule of the day for the FLEETWING crew.  Yet another lobster pot leapt out of the water to snag her keel, and yet again FLEETWING ended up giving several hundred yards to her competitors (remember the one at the start?).  In the end, the FLEETWING team prevailed, winning yet their third race boat-for-boat on elapsed time and sailing well enough to finish 2nd overall on handicap in what became a true "little boat, slow PHRF" race for handicap honors.

In the end, it was quite a showcase for the J/111's ability to accelerate and sail fast across a broad range of conditions both upwind and downwind in the capricious, lighter winds of Downeast sailing!  Remarkably, out of five possible trophies to win, the FLEETWING managed to haul in a LOT of hardware-- winning them all with her 2-1-2 overall record!  Amongst the silverware gracing the FLEETWING trophy shelf are:  The MAX Trophy for 1st Overall DERW; the Paul Nevin Cup for 1st Overall all Classes on Saturday and Sunday; the Becton Trophy for Lowest Cumulative Elapsed Time all 3 Races in Fleet; the Morris Trophy for 1st in Division 2 on Saturday and the Arundel Plate for the Best 2 Days Combined in Division 2.  Congratulations to Henry and the FLEETWING crew!  Tom Rolfe's J/105 SIDEWINDER also sailed a very good regatta, rattling off a 6-7-4 for 17 pts to secure 4th overall.

For a fun video to watch that captures the feel and atmosphere of the weekend on video, please take a look at "Roll Away the Dew" on Vimeo.  For more Downeast Race Week sailing information