We had a full schedule for this weekend. Friday night for the Encinal series, Saturday the fully crewed Farallones race on Ocelot and Sunday the HDA South Bay race. Andrew and Rob would be on JetStream both Friday and Sunday.
After attending the life celebration for Rui Luis of Rooster Sails (both him and Rascal will be missed) I went to get JetStream ready for a little Friday evening racing. Rob free climbed the mast to retrieve the main halyard that I accidentally skied after the last raced. Rob indulged me by wearing a harness and a safety line, but the guy is a bit of a climber.
There had been plenty of breeze all afternoon but it went a little light towards the start of our race. A windshift during our start sequence put us in a bad position for our start, and we were just half a boat length from clearing the fleet on port. But we didn't and the boat that did ended up winning the race. Instead, we were forced back to startboard (going the wrong way) and locked in that tack for too long by a boat that refused to tack and head up the Estuary. Oh well, that was pretty much our race. We had to pick through the fleet and manage to crawl back for a 5th place.
An early dock call had Andrew, Rob and me eating breakfast at Ole's at 6:45. A full belly and we were off to Ocelot for a race to the Farallones. The forecast was calling for strong winds (20+) and on Ocelot that is ideal. So the crew was pretty excited.
We got off the dock and I headed over to the 'daddy corner' to catch up on my sleep. There are a few sleep deprived crew on the boat with small children, and the hour delivery to the start is an ideal time to crawl up on the forepeak and take a bit of a snoozer on top of the spinnakers.
As expected, as we got to the starting area the wind was already hovering on the high teens. The #3 went up and we got ready for the long slog to the Farallones. Kokopelli, Ocelot and Condor, left the gate in that order and we will remain as such all the way to the islands. 4 long hours of sitting on the rail beating in some significant wind chop and 20 - 30 knots. It is not the funnest part of sailboat racing, but most of the time you have to put the time on the rail before enjoying the rewards of high speed downwind sailing. A bit of a sidebar, the conditions outside Pt. Bonita were quite similar to the ones during the SSS Farallones race that we tried a few weeks back. Amazing what and additional 10 feet of waterline and 3 feet of freeboard makes. Ocelot gracefully powered over the tops of the waves, while JetStream tried to cut right through them. Needless to say it was a bit more comfortable on Ocelot with no sense of being overly exposed.
Back to the race, we rounded the Farallones in second place and we got ready for our speed run back hoping to make some of the ground on Kokopelli. Where did the wind go? As we came out of the back of the Farallones our talk changed from 'would we need the A5 for the tight reach back' to 'why did we leave the A1 on the docks'. The wind shifted to the West and dropped 10 knots... aargh. All that pain upwind for a mellow cruise back. Shouldn't complain, as I was on one of the fastest boats on the fleet, and the rest of the fleet was looking at a really long day ahead of them. 15 miles later as we exited the longitude of the channel we found the pressure closer to shore. We approached the bay entrance from the North and we were moving now steady in the low teens. As we got close to the South Tower, the wind continued to build and we still had the A2 up. At this point we were running on kite alone with the main out and vanged off. The boat just kept accelerating toping at around 19 knots. This is what we had hoped to do for a couple of hours, not just the last 15 minutes of the race. At this angle we weren't making the finish and an attempt to try put us into a broach, which we conveniently used to get the spinnaker down. We finished with main and stay sail still doing over 12 knots. There were smiles all around.
A late 1PM start allowed for some good family time in the morning. Rob and Andrew were back on JetStream. A beautiful day, the sun finally came out around 11 as the fog cleared and the temperature started to rise. We headed towards South Beach for our HDA start. After a few practice runs we were ready to go. There was some really nice flat water and as the minutes ticked the wind continued to build which is always good for us. I would estimate we raced in between 12 - 18 knots.
Today it would just be one race. A huge disappointment was the low turnout for the race. I have been hoping to get some of the other sportboats excited about coming out and getting a fleet established. But out of the 6 boat entered only 4 showed up, and two of the 4 decided to race in the non-sportboat division, WTF? The Henderson and the Ultimate 24 didn't race with us. So our race would be a match race between JetStream and an 1D35, with the boats crossing the finish line within 3 seconds of each other. The race would be Start - W - Reach mark - L - W - L -W - L - Finish. So a nice long race (I think about 10 miles).
Both boats went for a pin end port start as it was highly favored. We must have just made the line as the gun went off and slightly won the start. We stayed in front 3/4 of the way to the windward mark before the 1D35 got ahead of us. Those boats are an upwind machine with better speed and point and killer when the wind goes light (at least compared to us). The next leg would make our race. We had tried out the angle before our race and made the call of going with the smaller reaching kite (A5) as opposed to our big kite (A2). That made the difference in the day. We set immediately around the windward mark and went on a screaming reach into the mid teens. The 1D35 instead reached high with its white sails and it was halfway up the leg before they set their kite. In that leg alone we measured a 4 minute advantage between the boats. We would need that buffer.
We held our lead down to the leeward mark before heading back upwind. We worked a loose cover on the 1D35 and hedged towards the left side which seemed to have more pressure. There was enough separation that both boats were on different wind so we just had to play our shifts. We got around the windward mark ahead but the 1D35 had made a significant gain on the upwind leg, cutting our lead in half.
Now the big kite went up and with the building pressure we were easily doing 12 and 13s towards the mark. Us playing our 'power' angles while the 1D35 was pretty squared back and going on a more direct course. We managed to gain a bit of our lead back.
We repeated the upwind leg, with similar results. This time the 1D35 rounded just about a minute behind us. The wind dropped some for the last downwind leg so we didn't gain much back on the other boat, so it was going to be a tight upwind leg to the finish. We got ourselves into cover mode and worked a tight cover on the 1D35, but little by little they chipped at our lead. Up to about 100 yds to the finish we were ahead and went to protect the right hand side. But it wasn't to be. A tack duel ensued and in the lighter conditions they were faster and got the gun by something like 3 seconds. At least we put a good show for the race committee and we will still correct to first place.
A nice spinnaker run back to Alameda and finished the day watching the Mav's beat the Heat while enjoying an all you can eat Prime Rib dinner. I think I'm going to be full for the next three days...
Coming up: Coastal Cup
My favorite race of the mid distance Ocean Series. San Francisco to Catalina Islands starting on Wednesday. I'll be back on the J111 'Invisible Hand'.