Sunday, May 10, 2009

MRSA Spring Classic

4 Albergs showed up for the first of what we hope will become an annual Magothy River Spring Series. This year's event was abbreviated because a number of previously committed skippers had schedule constraints. Unfortunately for the fleet, Andrew Cole had mechanical problems and had to get towed into the yard on Saturday morning. Also sadly, Jonathan Adams had a serious illness in his family and was pulled away from sailing to attend to that. We all hope that everything ends up okay for the Coles and Adamses. I got coerced into the breach when Tim Williams got tapped for an unplanned lacrosse coaching contingency so I found myself packing my neuroscience books onto LinGin (#244) together with 2 of Tim's regular crew members (Glen Becker and Garrett McWilliams) for what turned out to be a pretty epic day of sailing. Larry Morris (Solstice #501), Lanny Helms (Windswept #562), and John Maliszewski (Tatus II #262) rounded out the fleet of four boats. This was not quite the turnout we had hoped for, but considering the aforementioned unplanned contingencies and the fact that it was Mother's Day weekend, not a bad turnout, all things considered. Larry and John had both pre-registered for the 'white sail' division which looked like a wise choice with the breeze forecast to be in the upper teens.

With a brisk southwesterly breeze of around 10 knots at start time, the course was set up for DHA 2 laps with port roundings. The beat was relatively close to square for the start of the first race, but with the boat strongly favored, everybody decided to head to the boat end of the line. This made for some sporty jockeying for position during the pre-start and I have to be honest, we on LinGin got a little bit schooled. However, Glen showed some serious helming skills and we managed to salvage a not bad start with strong speed of the line and room to leeward we footed out from under Larry who had started close to windward of us (in fact, he had rolled us at the gun with greater speed). Lanny was on our lee bow and was pretty punched out in front, with us struggling to hang in his upstream backwind. By footing below Larry we were eventually able to shoot the return off our main into his course and he decided it would be better to tack than continue to hang in that position. Once he tacked, we decided to go as well as the breeze had entered a left phase and port was now the lifted tack. Lanny went as well and set up to windward and ahead of us. This was not ideal but we didn't have to put up with it for very long as the lifeline that he was leaning against came loose and he fell in the water! Fortunately, due to (I am guessing) his strong grip on the tiller and some quick crew work, he got back aboard, but not without getting mighty wet! He said later that the water was refreshing! After all that, we came into the top mark in the lead by a few lengths. Our layline call was made with surgical precision (and a healthy amount of luck!) as we laid the mark by only about one foot. It was shifty at the top, which definitely made it challenging. But once again, Glen's helming skills really came through as he scootched us around clean. Tim had better be watching out or he might get replaced as helmsman on LinGin...

The run turned into a fairly tight reach as the breeze had stayed pretty far left, and each puff seemed to be a stronger lefty. We elected to go with a 'stay high and come down late' strategy which worked well as we went into the early-and-clean douse with a comfortable lead over Lanny. After the rounding, it was not quite a close hauled course to the next mark (A, which was the start line pin). On LinGin, we were confused to see Lanny tack away to starboard and head left which we couldn't figure why he would do that as he would miss one of the marks of the course. When we got to the A mark, we tacked immediately to reconnect with him and realized that indeed he had sailed the beat to the wrong side of the 'A' mark. He later retired, but for the time being we decided to make it a race anyway. When we reconnected, we had a close crossing with him on the first cross with us narrowly ahead on starboard. But by the time we came to the 2nd cross, he was in a strong position and able to force us to duck. From there, Lanny did not make any mistakes and kept himself between us and the marks, sailed the boat fast, and held on for the bullet. It was a good race and a lot of fun.

During the lunch break, the breeze started building and I would say that for the start of race 2 we had a strong 12 with some puffs of 15 or maybe a little higher. This time, we had no pre-start comms malfunction between tactician and helmsman. Glen took the bull right by the horns and got us a great start at the boat going full speed ahead. It was masterful work on his part executing a textbook Vanderbilt timed run. We all felt good about having a strong start. The first starboard tack was a short one as the left-shifted breeze had turned the course into very nearly a one-tack beat. We crossed the fleet on starboard then set up on the left hip to protect the left side. We were struggling to keep the boat from being overpowered as the freshening breeze put us on our ear several times. There were a number of discussions about how best to handle the gusty conditions with the #1 and full main we were marginally overcanvassed. Garrett did a great job playing the main traveler though and Glen was starting to develop a feel for how to keep the boat driving in the gusty conditions. Clearly he was doing an excellent job as we came to the last cross of the beat close behind Lanny who we had to duck on port. Lanny is a fast helm in heavy breeze as we all saw last fall at the Canadian regatta, so it's again a testament to Glen's helming skills that we hung on so well. Unfortunately for Lanny he had tacked just a bit too early for the layline and he also was rolled by one of the PHRF boats which forced him to double tack at the mark and this was enough for us to squeeze in front of him.

Despite a significant spinnaker malfunction on the run, we managed to hold onto our lead position coming into the bottom mark and this time there was no splitting. We hardened up past mark A with Lanny a scant 3 lengths behind us. The 2nd beat became a drag race between us and Lanny with Lanny pulling even during the early part after rounding mark A but on LinGin we did not give up. We refocused on our main trim and on Glen's helming and after some adjustments we held our own and then we were able to pull ahead by a couple of lengths. By this time, we were shooting our main return in Lanny's direction, but in the left phase one-tack-beat, there was not much he could do to avoid our jetwash. By the time we got to the layline, he was 3 lengths directly astern and we were seeing clear ahead to a bullet of our own. As we came to the layline there was a huge right shift that had us overstanding by a signficant amount, but that was okay as we were on the same ladder rung as Lanny anyhow. After the mark, it was a fairly uneventful run and final beat to the finish with LinGin taking the gun this time. With racing for Sunday canceled, we made a hard left and headed home.

Larry and John also saw some close racing in the white sail division with Larry ultimately prevailing to take the first of the white sail trophies. I haven't received it yet (it is supposedly in shipment). But I will make sure to present it at the first available opportunity. It was good to see some people come out and compete in the white sail division and I hope that we will have some more 'white sail' participants on the line for the Miles River Race for memorial day.

Overall, it was an excellent event. It was a real treat for me to get out and sail on another boat, with new people. I can't say how much I enjoyed sailing with Glen and Garrett. We had an absolute blast all day on the water. I just wish that I could have been more social but with the neuroscience final coming up on Thursday I was pretty distracted thinking about that... Thanks to Larry Morris for doing the organization for this event. Thanks to everybody who came out and sailed. For those of you who could not make it, truly you missed one excellent day of sailing. I hope that some more of you folks who live up on the Magothy will put this event on your calendars for next year, come out and join us for some great racing put on by MRSA!

I will post results once they have been put up on the MRSA website. As of now they have not yet been posted.


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  2. Agreed. Garrett did an incredible job of working both the point and the main, as well as trimming. He did, indeed, manage to be everywhere!

  3. J, great write-up. Thanks for the detail; I can never remember the sequence so well. :) And thanks for coming out with us, it was great fun and educational as always.

    I also want to say what a great job Garret did. Between main trim--critical in the slightly overpowered regime, tacking, and foredeck, he was everywhere. He's picked up foredeck especially well and put in a solid error-free performance up there. Both of you handled well the puffy, shifty conditions with an inexpert helmsman...even when he accidentally let the afterguy run free. :)

    Thanks to everyone who came out. It was a great day.

  4. J, great write up. It seems you and my crew get along pretty well...don't get any bright ideas, okay?! ;-)

    I'm glad everyone had a good time. It was killing me spending the day on shore with all that wind. Just killed me.


  5. Tim-

    I am made of bright ideas, buddy.

    It was a great event, and I can't overstate how much I enjoyed sailing with your crew. Truly a wonderful boat and a great crew.