Monday, September 13, 2010

2010 NASS Race to Oxford

From 2010 Oxford Race

The NASS Oxford proved once again to me that you never know what you'll get. The race saw light winds out of the north for our start and a finish you'll probably hear me talk about for years.

Most of our fleet headed toward Thomas Point from our R2 start, trying to stay out of a flood current in the beginning of the race. We on LinGin timed the start pretty well and built a growing lead on Windswept, who was right behind us at the gun.

Laughing Gull headed to the Eastern Shore before most and was rewarded as the wind died down to the west. A tug pushing a barge forced us to make a decision a little sooner than we otherwise would have: stay west or cross over to the east?

We chose east and that turned out to be a good choice. Laughing Gull had came back east as the wind died and wound up in a huge hole with much of the other Albergs. Word is they became hot and bothered at one point and all jumped overboard for a swim. Jonathan said it was lucky the wind didn't kick up; it would have been a tough swim to catch her had she taken off.

Windswept and LinGin both got the wind first as it "filled" on the east. I say "filled" because it didn't last very long! In addition to more pressure it also shifted more to the west, giving us further advantage over those that were west of us. (We were all going downwind.)

The most bizarre (and most interesting) part of the race was the finish--and you can see this in the finishing times. As we came up to the finish in very light wind on a port tack reach, I noticed Rick Born on Windborn about 10 lengths from the finish, under spinnaker and heading parallel to the finish line toward Solomons Island.

Now Rick was an avid A30 skipper and racer when I was a kid and he was really hard to beat! For a couple of years it seemed like we were always chasing him. So, when I saw him doing that, I immediately said to my crew, "why would he do that?!" We checked the charts and GPS. No, we were pretty sure this was the right mark. Then it dawned on us: it must be the current.

The current bends around Black Walnut Point there and while many (LinGin included!) thought we were being swept into the Bay, it was actually exactly the opposite. There was a ~1 kt current pushing us into the Choptank!

We quickly gybed and set the chute and to our dismay noted that Windswept had kept a much better line to the finish line, having kept further away from the point. Here we came, ever so slowly under spinnaker on starboard tack heading parallel to the line that was maybe 1/4 mile away, trying to cross Windswept who is on port and heading, what appeared to be straight for the line.

Many times our foredeckman, who was focused on the sail, ask, "are you sure you don't want to tack and cover him?!" It was tough to trust what we knew to be true, but was difficult for our eyes to believe. We were inching toward the line and Windswept was being pushed past it toward the point at ~1 kt. There were plenty of other boats doing the same thing; some on starboard under spinnaker and other on port on a close reach.

In the end we crossed the line sideways. The current pushed us through. Windswept was swept toward the point and while we were moments before a boat length apart, it would take him the better part of an hour to get through the line. During that time, Second-2-Nun came from way back and crossed before Windswept. Lanny had a very tough race that day and we felt quite lucky that we figured out what was going on when we did.

Easily one of the strangest finishes I have ever seen.

Here are the preliminary results:

From 2010 Oxford Race


  1. Tim, thanks for posting a write-up. It was a fascinating finish.

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