Thursday, February 25, 2016

J/27 Midwinters @ Mardis Gras Race Week!

J/27 sailing MidwintersA.K.A.- Lessons From the Local Heroes!
(New Orleans, LA)- Four local boats and three guests from Texas, Georgia & Canada respectively attended “class” for this year’s J/27 Midwinter Championship (February 12, 13 & 14, 2016) hosted by the Southern & New Orleans Yacht Clubs as part of Mardi Gras Race Week.

Day 1/ Lesson #1:  30 Degree shifts still count as oscillations?
Yup.  It started out much as forecast with a steady 10 ~ 15 Knots for Race 1; Norman Vallette’s DEMITASSE (the 2015 Midwinter’s Champion) besting Andrew Riem’s CURVED AIR (the 2015 North American Champion). And then, the weirdness started!!

J/27 sailing Midwinters New OrleansRace 2 & 3 for the day signaled the return of classic Pontchartrain conditions and a master class in how to manage them by DEMITASSE who notched up another 2 bullets to be perfect for the day with Merlin Wilson’s ALEGRE in hot pursuit.  Not to disparage the Southern Hospitality of our hosts, but the guests all struggled through the random drops in pressure and direction.

Day 2/ Lesson #2:  Down is a Wind Direction!
So, it started much as day one, and ended up following the same pattern.  The only way I can explain how two boats can be pointing the same direction on opposite tacks with one stopped and the other heeled over is the wind must be coming straight down.  What I can’t explain is how to play those “shifts” that equally randomized the results.

J/27 Alegre sailing Midwinters New OrleansDEMITASSE looked good all day but got caught out as much as everyone else losing 3 points to ALEGRE for the day and Al Gooch’s WIND SHIFT coming from the back of the pack to win the second race of the day prior to the wind totally shutting off for lunch break. 

When the wind finally did return (some 120 degrees left of where it was) it filled in at 4 ~ 6 knots allowing for one more race.  As a testament to the closeness of the competition the entire fleet arrived at the leeward mark of race three at the same time creating a “Full Fleet Pinwheel” which ALEGRE escaped from to gain the “right” side and the bullet.

J/27s sailing downwind- Midwinters New OrleansDay 3/ Lesson #3:  The forecast may not always be right but sometimes that doesn’t matter!
Unlike day 1 & 2 which was forecast to be a steady 10 ~ 15 all day, day three’s forecast was for starting in 18 and diminishing quickly, so the “pressure” was on to get some racing in.  Perhaps that accounts for the General Recall at the start of Race 1 as everyone pushed the line early and, in the ensuing melee to return, INSTANT KARMA missed ducking SEAMMA resulting in a collision/holing.

An hour delay ensued while SEAMMA received fleet, local and Coast Guard assistance to get her and her crew safely back to shore (everyone was OK and SEAMMA will race again after, like most ladies her age, a bit of plastic surgery).  When the racing did resume DEMITASSE continued her “master class” in managing Lake Pontchartrain at the other end of the wind scale being a constant 15 ~20 knots.  Those winds provided an opportunity for CURVED AIR to save some of her reputation as current NA Champion in perhaps the most consistent wind of the regatta by bulleting in the Race 1 and hanging with DEMITASSE who took Race 2 of the day & Alegre mixing it up in the top 3 and in hot contention on both races.

At the end of the day, despite all the wrong forecasts and variableness of the winds, both DEMITASSE & ALEGRE with their consistency proved you can make sense of Lake Pontchartrain with DEMITASSE doing the better job on this occasion by 4 points.    For the rest of us, it is either back to the shed for repairs, or to our home waters to ponder what we were taught.  Thanks for the contribution from Andrew Reims!  For more J/27 Midwinters sailing information