After many weeks of lackluster attendance and no bottom cleaning, I finally was able to get it in gear and with my 3 PM lecture canceled and no commitments until Dermatology clinic at a lackadaisical 9 AM on Thursday, I bailed out of Baltimore at 2:30, picked up an air tank on the way south, and with dive gear in hand, I arrived at the boat around 4 PM with intentions to clean the bottom. It was a dirty job. I am not gonna lie. We had at least a 1/4" coating of uniformly thick sludge over the whole bottom with a particularly encrusted keel. 90 minutes later, the job was done and we were leaving the mooring.
5 boats showed up to race: Calliope, Skybird, LinGin, Asylum, and Second-2-Nun. In a reasonably brisk southerly, we started the race (course B2...finally something other than A0!) on a pin favored line with Asylum unquestionably winning the start at the favored pin end. The course was close hauled to the first mark. We were a bit late and other boats started further up the line towards the boat. Relatively early, Skybird and Second-2-Nun tacked out and started heading toward Back Creek. We felt fast, played the shifts, and managed to get to the mark in 2nd place. Unfortunately for us, we ran afoul of Lazy Ethel who seemed to think that instead of saying 'protest' and raising a flag, the way to do it was to hit us from leeward when they clearly could have avoided contact, and yelling 'contact, contact, contact, contact, contact, contact'. Clearly somebody needs to explain to them RRS 14 as well as that the word 'contact' does not validate a protest, but that only the word 'protest' does. But I digress. We sailed clear of the course, did our 720 degree penalty and since no damage was done, continued our race albeit in last place. But not by a whole lot. Kudos to Jon, Ken, and Dave for steering and trimming through a great 720 degree turn.
On the reach, we pulled our leads forward, powered up the jib and started reeling in. Once we got to the 2nd mark, it was a beat up to the E mark and we were starting off in a bit of a squall. It took us a minute to get everything situated, but once we did, we had some solid wheels. With the pressure up, we had dropped the leads back to flatten the foot of the jib and that seemed to be pretty fast. At least we were making trees on boats inland. For unknown reasons, the fleet tacked away and sailed in towards the harbor. Aboard Calliope, we were confused as to why people made this choice because the pressure seemed to be clearly better in the middle of the bay. So we stayed on starboard, put the bow down and rumbled. This tactic worked because by the top section of the beat we had passed everybody except Skybird. As we came to the mark (both of us overstood), for some reason they kept sailing high and so we just decided to power up, put the bow down, and punch through their wind shadow. I don't know if it was the clean bottom or our guts, but somehow this tactic worked. There was some discussion about proper course and 'taking us down' but clearly the proper course rule states that we are entitled to sail to the mark. It would not have been within the rules for us to take the windward boat above our proper course, but since that never happened, to my knowledge it was a non-issue. Either way, by the time we got to the mark, it was definitely a non issue as there was no longer an overlap anyhow because we were clear ahead.
The spinnaker set was its whole own fiasco (and sadly not the last one), as we had sheets led wrong, spinnaker hooked up wrong, and basically everything was rusty. Fortunately, Pat the HE-bow-man was able to manage a feat of superhuman strength and disconnect/reconnect the guy to a full kite while re-rigging it to be right. Lucky for us, he is both strong and long-armed. And it was not that windy. Bottom line: we managed to stay in front of Skybird during the set, and that is saying something, because aboard our boat it was not a pretty set. But we got-r-dun. And then we just sailed faster to the next mark. Amazing what a clean bottom will do for you.
We rounded R2 2 lengths ahead of the pack, spinnaker douse and jib set were clean and it was a beat to the harbor, except for one small detail. We had put the jib luff in the prefeeder, but not in the headfoil track. DOH! So we had a jib that was held onto the boat by the 3 corner points only. I was trimming and thought the leech looked funny until Jon the helmsman said to me 'Uh we don't have the luff in the track'. So then it was a quick jib douse and re-hoist in the track and with Skybird pressing us from behind I was a bit worried whether we could manage it before they passed us. Turns out, we did although Dave the pit man did pay a bit of a price with some skin sacrificed to the whistling jib halyard on the way down. In the aggregate, we got the jib back up just about the time skybird's bow was at our beam, with acceleration and wind shadow we pulled back ahead. In the light pressure, pulled the lead back forward to power up and put on our rumble caps. If it had taken us 5 more seconds to do the drop and re-set, they would have punched into clear breeze and been able to get ahead. Again, having a slick bottom makes some difference...
Coming into the harbor, we couldn't lay the seawall, had to dive into the field, went to the wall and tacked, forced Skybird to tack as we came out on starboard, and led them into the finish for the horn. LinGin got the 3, Second-2-Nun the 4, and Asylum the 5. Overall it was a highly satisfying race. Well sailed by all involved. I feel lucky that we managed to win it. Only my second bullet in 8 years of WNR so don't give me any crap about being stoked over it. I have to say it did feel mighty good to go from worst to first though! Honestly, I think the difference was going into the bay on starboard when everybody else went to the harbor on port for the beat to mark 'E'. But also for sure having a clean bottom helped a heck of a lot. It was great to see everybody, and I'll be out there next week! Thanks to all my crew for an awesome race and a great dinner at Davis's Pub afterwards. Hope to see y'all out there next week!