Sunday, July 12, 2015

Cleveland Race Week Report

J/70s sailing Cleveland Race Week (Cleveland, OH)- Tim Finkle from RCR Yachts provided the following report on what it was like to sail Cleveland Race Week on a J/70.

“There is a lot to talk about after this regatta, so I am going to split it up into two parts and hopefully get some other competitors to write their stories too...stay tuned.

Sailing is a tough sport and no matter how much you prepare, sometimes you are thrown curveballs.  Looking at the score sheet certainly doesn’t tell you the whole story, so here goes.

Going into this regatta, I was very excited about our potential to do well.  I had recruited some excellent sailors and my crew deserves mention because they did an awesome job.  I had Kris Werner of Quantum Sails Rochester calling tactics for us and brought a brand new set of Quantum Sails.  My trimmer was Justin Hays, who I’ve sailed with a bunch on the J70 and who is one of the first people I always ask to sail when he’s available.  Last but not least was Anna Heubschmann on bow, who had just finished up a very successful freshman year of sailing at Eckerd College in St Pete, FL.

So with that crew, my mindset was on starting well, keeping the boat going as fast as possible at all times and staying out of trouble.  I had total faith that Kris would put us in good spots on the race course and we’d see how we measured up with the fleet.  This was a three-day event, so it was about putting up some keepers on day one.  We got out to the race course plenty early and with a building breeze, we cranked down on the rig and felt good about upwind speed.  We turned the corner to practice in some planing conditions and even worked on “blow through” gybes.  Now, we were ready to get the racing started.

First race…….was a disaster!  You will notice that we scored a DNF and here’s why.  Kris had called for us to start at the pin end of the line and with a minute to go we had set up nicely to start right at the pin.  There was just one problem, I punched it a bit early and we were called OCS.  Of course, I disagreed with that decision but we went back and started again.  We had a nice claw back sailing well to get back into about the 4th or 5th spot at the top mark and ready to set the kite and start planing off downwind and trying to pass some boats.  Just as we got there, a boat ahead of us had just hit the mark and started to drag it down the offset leg.  Now it is blowing pretty good, around 18-20 knots and the boat could not get the rode off their keel, they must have dragged it 20 boat lengths.  We were in a tough spot just behind them and knowing that we needed to round that mark, we followed them.  What we didn’t know was that there was no weight tied to the mid-line of the anchor rode, so it was streaming straight back just under the water.  When we thought that boat stuck on the mark was far enough ahead of us, we ducked down and set, thinking we would just sail by.  Just as we popped the kite and started to take off, we came to a screeching halt.  We looked down at the keel and saw anchor chain wrapped around our keel.  Big problem!  We proceeded to try everything we could to spin off of it, but there were two issues.  One was that we were so far down onto the anchor rode chain that it hooked on the kelp cutter on the leading edge of the keel.  If that wasn’t bad enough, the Danforth flukes of the anchor wedged themselves on the trailing edge of our keel.  After about 15 long minutes of trying to free ourselves, we decided that the only way to get it free was to jump in the water and dive down to pull it off by hand.  Luckily, Justin Hays stepped up to the challenge and did the honors.  By the look on his face, the water was pretty cold.  At the end of this debacle, I decided that we should radio the race committee and retire from the race so that we wouldn’t hold up the next start.  I never want to be the boat that everyone else is waiting for.

It is never a good plan to use your throw-out on the first race, but here we were.  We now knew we had to sail pretty much a flawless rest of the regatta to have a shot at winning.  It was going to be difficult, but we had to try!”