"Six of eight registered boats made the first start. Winds were out of the NW with 12-15 knots, but blowing up to 20+ regularly. There were three races, with diminishing participation in each one. Results have not yet been posted, but let me say that it was apparent that those who reefed and/or used #2 or #3 jibs did much better than those who didn't! Thank you to our Race Committee, and those who came out for some outstanding racing, including another Johnson 18. Damn, they're fast!"
There was the Rhodes ranger, a Cal25, and two Catalina 27s, so we were giving 50 seconds a mile to the next fastest boat, while match racing the two Johnson's. Chris Drury is a better upwind sailor than I am but Jeremy and I always got it in gear headed down wind. There were puffs to probably 25kts, which made for some seriously brutal upwind beats. But I wouldn't be surprised if we hit 15 knots in a couple of the puffs with the kite up.
Bob and I had hit 13 before the speedo quit working a couple years ago, and this was really sustained winds of 18kts with puffs to 25kts; the boat gets pretty squirrelly steering wise when it's going that fast. It's tempting to hike a little but not a very good idea since it's so skittery. Anyway, we didn't dump her and took all three guns. Results are not posted yet, so we'll have to see if we were far enough in front. It was a blast and sailing from 10:30 to 3:30 in that much wind certainly takes it out of you!
Our borrowed tender (towboat to the Club) didn’t start and we decide to sail for the race area. I called the rest of the SSA fleet and asking them to register us with race committee, saying that we would see them out there on the course. The wind was good, 12-15 knots, and forecasted to hold and even build all day. We had to beat up the Severn River from Round Bay, pass the Naval Academy and turn left around Greenburry Point to reach the racing area. One way I figured was about 8.2 miles from our launch to the race area. So we were good and warm (tired even) by the time the Race Committee got out and setup, and we made better time than we’d anticipated beating the rest of the fleets out there. The main point is that we missed the skipper’s meeting and didn’t get the race instructions. Luckily the Lightning fleet was starting ahead of us and we would be able to watch them sail the course ahead of us.
Race #1 was a standard windward-leeward two laps with a down wind finish: The wind was at steady at 15-17 knots with puffs to the low 20s, which made for some FAST reaching in the pre-start with the Johnson 18 fleet of five easily planing at 8+ knots. When everyone finally squared up to head for the start, #132 appeared out of nowhere and her boom threatened to take out our teeth, us being to leeward of where she’s tacked. But after a bit of hollering and powering through below #132, we got a clean start in clear air just a hair closer to the boat than the pin. With the rest of the fleet to leeward and #132 stalled directly behind us. Tactics were not nearly as important as boat handling, so we basically covered #132 all the way up the course on both upwind beats.
Down wind was such a fast ride that we set and gybed once for the first lap and there wasn’t really time to plan out tactics between surfing 2.5 to 3 foot seas, and driving down with the puffs. We gained on the fleet each leg. Hiking paid premiums, as did smoothly bearing off at the peaks of the chop upwind. However, we did miss the skipper’s meeting and missed which finish line the Johnson 18s were to cross. Race Committee had set a line of the other side of the boat for the Lasers and Bytes who started behind us. We also didn’t watch the Lightnings closely enough to tell which line they’d finished on ahead of us.
So on our final downwind, with a 30-40 second lead on #132 in second, it was decision time. We hedged about as long as possible driving straight at the Race Committee boat. But cruising at 9kts in the puffs and surfing, we soon had to decide which line it was. I chose the port and we passed the normal jibe angle back to the starboard line. At that very instant we saw a Lightning sailor who had finished, pointing at the other finish line. So we crash gybed 5 boat lengths to windward of the race committee boat’s anchor rode.
The boat laid right down on its side on the new starboard gybe and Jeremy and I scampered toward the hull that was appearing out of the water trying to keep the tip of mast out of the water. Jeremy had done a great job bringing the kite over during the gybe, but I was facing the wrong way when we came back vertical. I sat in the bottom of the boat still facing the wrong direction, somehow able to successfully steer hot enough so as not to snag the anchor rode, then we bore away to finish 20 seconds or so ahead of second place; who surely would have passed us had we actually dumped the boat. Not to mention the embarrassment of leading the race wire to wire then capsizing and drifting into the Race Committee five boat lengths from the finish. #116 capsized on the first downwind leg after pulling her stick out of the mud they were probably good and tire and retired for the remaining races. That left the fleet at four.
Race #2 was windward leeward 2.5 laps with and upwind finish: We lost the race that was a real race. I stalled the boat by tacking in a huge wave and burying the bow 7 boat lengths from the line at 30 seconds to the start. The boat was actually pushing backwards, with water rushing up the cockpit from the open transom. By the time we finally reached off to get some speed and then beat back towards the line we started 4th; 45-50 seconds behind eventual race winner #132. Up wind we got in the groove, by hauling hard on the vang and main sheet. We sailed faster and higher, due to hiking, more conscientious easing on the main the puffs and smoother handling through the waves. We rounded the windward mark in second after sailing past the other two around half way up the leg, passing them from behind to leeward. Down wind we gained significantly on nice surfing, pumping both main and kite in swells and driving down in puffs.
We were still in second and WAY ahead of 3 and 4 who had opted not to hoist kites in the wind. We gained a bit to windward on #132, but showed real speed down wind again. Again not knowing the course had changed, we were nursing a small lead, though on the right side, while #132 was over to the left headed down wind. We didn’t see any Lightnings sailing around near the starting line, but committed to actually turning the leeward mark too late and gave up 6 boat lengths to #132, and had an awful douse and a wide rounding. I then initialed a tacking duel, when #132 flopped on us when we went over to starboard following the rounding, after 4 tacks, #132 let us get away to the right side, and they went left, we gained after a couple more tacks, and we finally forced him to dip us a boat length or two from the line, but Race Committee’s line was not square and #132 charged through the line on Port after dipping us. We flopped but not in time, and crossed 3-5 seconds later than #132.
Race #3 was windward leeward 2.5 laps with and upwind finish: Race Committee combined our start with the Lightnings (who were down to one boat left in their fleet). So those with sharp eyes were on time. We lead wire to wire, despite running over the kite on our first set, caused by the lousy douse in the previous race. We were stopped for what seemed like and eternity and got #132 within 10-15 seconds of us. We nailed the douse and held them off for the upwind leg covering each tack. Fatigue was obviously becoming a factor and neither of us opted for a tacking duel. #132 drove over his kite on the second down wind (returning the favor) and never threatened again as we while we had a perfect leg and legged out on the fleet.