Friday, July 1, 2011

Annapolis WNR 6/29/11 - Photo Finish

Once again we had good winds (8-10 knots) for the Wednesday Night Race in Annapolis. However this time it was from the Northwest, meaning a spinnaker start. Five Albergs were racing this night but apparently everyone had a different idea on where to start. Calliope won the start, running the line towards the boat with a smart turn downwind a quick spinnaker set at the gun while I was still turning the boat back downwind. By the time we crossed the line to leeward of Calliope and started setting the chute, she was several lengths ahead. LinGin started down by the pin but was on the line with her chute up and drawing at the gun, while Second-2-nun and Argo had their own spots on the line.

I felt good during the run, as we were gaining on Calliope. When I told my crew we were hoisting the jib at the next mark my spinnaker trimmer (Jen) at first didn’t believe me. To her it seemed the race had just started, yet we really were well past “A” and approaching the outer mark. Then I looked back to leeward and saw LinGin coming up towards us, closing fast. How do they do that? Approaching the mark I briefed the crew on the plan: gybe the chute, then hoist the jib and douse the chute. After watching LinGin hoist her jib before the mark and remembering how badly we screwed up that same rounding sequence the previous week [my fault, but that's a whole other story], I too decided to shift to the jib before rounding.

Calliope round first, followed by LinGin just ahead and inside me. We did a good job getting the jib up and chute down, but the jib hung up on the topping lift when we jibed. After cleaning that up we were several lengths behind Calliope and LinGin, in their bad air and that of a J/30, so we tacked away.

On the way back into the river the wind started to fade and got a bit spotty. Calliope and LinGin had tacked and crossed ahead, while I stayed on port, with a friendly wave across from a J/30 (thanks, Deck Works). After threading through the Etchells and other classes converging on the red daymark “4” from their own rounding mark, it looked like the boats far ahead were getting headed more and more the further in they went. Looking to stay in better breeze and not end up so far to the right of the nun, I took a hitch left shortly after passing the daymark. Also the fathometer, which had read over 20 as we passed the daymark, now suddenly said 8.7....

By the time we reached the nun LinGin and Calliope were well on their way to Spa Creek. LinGin had stayed on starboard towards EYC while Calliope went over to port and headed towards the Naval Academy seawall. As we approached the creek we seemed to be gaining on Calliope, but I couldn’t see LinGin. Why hadn’t they come back and crossed us yet? Finally, I found them. They were to the left of EYC and had been forced to hold an impromptu swim call....

Unlike the last few weeks when I went through the mooring field, this time the direct path from 1SC to the finish looked clear. Calliope had gone to the right through the moorings so I had a chance, if only I could make the mark without another tack in the fading breeze. I thought we were doomed when some waves hit us about a length from the mark, but we were just able to shoot up and around it. Now we just had to keep our speed until the finish. As Calliope and another boat came around the corner of the Annapolis Yacht Basin and headed up for the finish we were closing from astern and about half a length to leeward. Could we catch them in time? After what seemed like an eternity thinking “are we there yet? are we there yet?...” the RC called “550, over!” I never heard them call 287 over, it was that close. A crewman of mine sitting just aft of the mast said he was even with Calliope’s mast at the horn, so that’s a margin of what, 18 inches? Does AYC have the photo gear set up to record a photo finish? I have never been in a closer race. Oh, and if anyone thinks a clean bottom isn’t that important, Skybird’s hull had been cleaned that morning - there’s no way I could have passed Calliope without a fresh bottom. As Calliope and I headed back out there was LinGin heading to the finish, amazingly recovering to finish third. Tim certainly owes a beer to whichever crew member dove in to push the boat off the mud that fast.

Wow, what a way to head into the July fourth holiday and WNR off-week. Next comes the Race to Solomons. Who’s joining us?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A perfect day: 2011 Annapolis to Miles River Race [LinGin]

Continuing the astoundingly sailor-friendly weather trend this year, the 2011 Annapolis to Miles River Race was treated to...well, astoundingly sailor-friendly weather. Here I make a distinction between sailor-friendly and race-friendly; we're often presented with race-friendly conditions that are uncomfortable, at best, for the sailor or sailor-friendly conditions that are difficult to race in. I might start calling this "sailing weather": our local prevailing breezes south-southeast at 10-15kts, air temperatures 70-75, water temperature 73, clear skies.

I was lucky to make it to the race. First, after a long ten days of "too much work and too little sleep makes Glen a dull boy" I was spent both mentally and physically. Second, thanks to Linda's generosity in driving down to pick us up it worked out my wife Emily was able to go with us, too. Along with Scott, we made it a fun family day with Tim and Andréa and their kids Mackenzie, Darcy, and David. Spending time with my wife and great friends is a way to recharge, no matter the depth of my zombie-tude. I was definitely sucking more energy out of the environment than I was putting in. I'm lucky to have these people in my life.

At the start, with no race preparation, I was below reading the Notice of Race, checking the course, searching for GPS batteries, firing up & figuring out the new chartplotter and generally playing catch up. It is saying something about my lack of mental agility when you realize I was struggling to keep up with the movements of a 9000 pound, full keel sailboat on a 17 mile race.

What I heard was that LinGin started not at the favored end but on the line with speed and going the right way. The ebb tide made the deep water on the left (east) side the place to be for going south quickly. We kept heading left until forced to tack by the large obstruction known as an anchored freighter, in this case named Vega Dream. This tack proved our lucky break. As the rest of the fleet was able to continue on starboard toward deep water, the separation/leverage from our tack put us significantly to right of the fleet when the breeze gave us a gift 10-degree right shift. This thrust us way ahead of the other boats and put us in the comfortable position of simply doing a loose cover of the nearest boats for the rest of the 7-mile beat to Bloody Point light.

After Bloody Point and the reach to the second mark we popped the chute and sailed in a relatively clear lane until the last turn. We two-tacked in increasing breeze up the Miles River and took the gun.

I went below and napped, i.e. collapsed, for the 45 minute sail into St. Michaels where we rafted with Calliope and Skybird. In the perfect weather and perfect anchorage we immediately commenced hanging out, chatting, swimming, eating, and the innumerable things that make up those times which we all look back on as perfect moments. I sincerely hope my comically ragged mental state doesn't affect the clarity and longevity of the memories I will keep of this day.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

2011 WNR Race 4: Finally, a course that isn't A1...

4 boats braved the expected light conditions to start race 4 of the 2011 AYC Wednesday Night Series. In a light 5-10 knot southeasterly, we started on course B3 which meant we were going to have a nice long sail out into the bay, giving us plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful evening. During the prestart, we determined that the boat end of the line was favored. We expected there to be a right shift during the first beat, so we wanted to be able to go right. We made a timed run at the boat and started with good speed. We had Second-2-Nun on our leebow with Argo on their leebow. Skybird started on port at the pin and was behind all of us, but going right. We quickly forgot our overlying strategy as we focused on driving the boat fast. We rolled Second-2-Nun and they tacked away and we were left trying to match course and speed with Argo. As soon as we felt that we could head back to the right without running into the shallow water off Bembe Beach, we decided to go, and Argo went with us. Well, the right had turned out to be the right side of the course after all as we came across, Skybird was now ahead of us by several lengths (they had been several lengths behind when we crossed them initially). The good news is we had good speed and had managed to work up on Argo and Second-2-Nun had not gained. We tacked on the starboard layline to the red mark and with a good tack and good speed, passed Skybird back to gain the lead at the first mark.

The course to the 2nd mark was about a beam reach. Rather than using the kite (we felt it was a little too tight for that sail to be good), we elected to stick with the jib and dropped our leads forward. Skybird had the same thought after rounding several lengths behind us. However, Argo and Second-2-Nun decided to go with their kites and this paid off for them as they were definitely faster than we were on the reach. Second-2-Nun was able to pass Skybird but didn't quite catch us, rounding about 2 lengths behind us.

The next leg was a beat. Skybird tacked out early to clear her breeze, while we went left with Second-2-Nun following close behind us. As the beat wore on we were able to gas them and work ahead. We went all the way to the port tack layline and came into the mark in first by several lengths. Second-2-Nun was next, followed by Skybird, then Argo.

The last leg was a broad reach in to the nun at the harbor. About 3/4 of the way down the leg, they announced that we would finish at the nun. No positions changed on this leg as the steady southerly breeze propelled us all through the gate in the order we had last rounded.

All in all it was a great night of sailing and a beautiful sunset! Look forward to seeing y'all at the Miles River Race this coming weekend!

Full results available at:

Friday, May 13, 2011

2011 WNR Race 3: Finish at the Nun

6 boats showed up for the 3rd edition of the WNR series of 2011. We were greeted by a dying southeasterly breeze at about 5 knots. The water was very high when I got to the boat, and I assumed the current would be ebb. However, I didn't detect much current in the pre-start. The line was way pin favored and all fleets before us started on port at the pin. On board Calliope we decided to do the same and because the air was so light we elected to do a Vanderbilt timed run start so as to avoid making any big slow-down maneuvers and killing our speed in the last minute. This would have been a good strategy if we had been more able to execute it properly. As it was we ended up early and to windward of Skybird and Argo who were coming from leeward and behind us. We arrived about a minute too early to the line and ended up having to sail down it while scrubbing off speed to keep from getting too far from the heavily favored pin. After what seemed like forever we were finally able to sheet in and go but meanwhile Argo and Second-2-Nun had snuk in to windward of us and had better starts with more speed. We were too late pressing the bow down and ended up getting rolled, never fun. Argo was looking very strong with her new jib she was pointing high and going fast. We were sailing lower but faster than Second-2-Nun in the drag race to the short starboard layline. We got there first and made a pretty aggressive layline call which had Second-2-Nun crossing about 2 lengths ahead of us. We were able to force Laughing Gull (who had started just behind Second-2-Nun) to duck us. We were barely able to stick the mark rounding and since Second-2-Nun overstood by several lengths they came in just behind us. Meanwhile, toward the top of the beat we came across LinGin who had inexplicably started the race on starboard at the boat (every member of my crew was scratching their heads to try and explain that one...) The tactic didn't work out too badly for them though as they managed to come into the mark looking not too bad at all. From starting deep in last, they had worked back into 4th place.

Once around the mark, the breeze really shut off. There were two schools of thought. We decided to go high, stay above big boat wind shadows and hope for some pressure coming off the north shore of the river. Other boats gybed early and headed for the south shore, seeing a breeze line over there. Second-2-Nun followed us and we basically matched speed with them. We sailed just a little too far though and after the gybe they got the new pressure before we did. We tried to take them up and clear our breeze, but that didn't work and they just rolled us. In hindsight, instead of doing that, we should have sailed deep and headed for the boat end of the finish line (which was well favored) instead of the Nun. Hindsight is 20/20. Thankfully, the RC decided to finish us at the Nun instead of making us wait it out for the long slog into the harbor...

Congratulations to Argo who sailed an excellent race with only 2 people aboard. They won the start, had great upwind speed, didn't make any downwind mistakes, and led the race from start to finish.

The standings are quite tight right now, with a tie for first place between LinGin and Second-2-Nun, making the series interesting. Full series results at:

One thing that is different about the series this year is that we have our own start. I have mixed feelings about this, because I kind of enjoyed the bigger fleet tactics that got employed in years past when we have had multi-class starts. However, I think it's worth pointing out that we have this situation because we are kind of victims of our own success. We have a 7 boat fleet, which give us more than the Farr 40 class (4 boats), J/22 (4 boats), Herreshoff (5 boats), or Harbor 20 (2 boats). The Catalina 27's and Cal 25's have been assimilated into PHRF because they can no longer field a large enough fleet to justify their own start. The J/35 class has equivalent numbers to us. Only the Etchells, J/30, and J/105 fleets are larger than us. I think this really makes a strong statement about the health of our class and the vitality of our racing association on the Chesapeake Bay. Nearly 50 years after the founding of our association, we still have healthy active one design racing. We have a great reputation for camaraderie among skippers in our class, our racing is level - based on a one-design class rule, and our fleet is relatively deep with at least half of our race participants capable of winning any given race (looking at the NOOD scorecard will show you that). Folks, this is what great racing is all about - level, competitive, and fun. Our class association is doing a great job with it. Frankly I think that dollar for dollar, we deliver some of the best racing on the bay, and all in a boat that you can legitimately use for cruising as well!

Monday, May 2, 2011

2011 NOOD Regatta

The 2011 NOOD regatta is in the history books. 3 great days of sailing in a wide variety of conditions saw 4 different boats win races. The regatta winner, Tim Williams, demonstrated an extremely consistent record, with no finish worse than 3rd. With the regatta's emphasis on consistency by not providing a throwout, there is a premium on being able to consistently place in the top of the fleet. Here is a race-by-race synopsis from my view which varied from way in the front to way in the back, so I got all perspectives.

Friday, April 29

Four races were sailed on Friday in a fresh breeze that started out over 20 knots, waxed and waned as the day went on and the last race was sailed with lulls below 15 knots and puffs in the upper teens.

Race 1: The course bearing was approximately 280 if I remember correctly. In the fresh breeze, we considered reefing but felt that we would be underpowered in the lulls, so we kept the full main and #1 jib. We dropped the leads all the way to the back of our tracks, and kept the traveler down most of the time. Cunningham and outhaul were both very tight and we maximized our backstay tension. In the pre-start of Race 1, we perceived that the line was extremely boat favored and there was a left shift on the course. So we elected to start on port at the boat. We were not the only boat that utilized this tactic as Laughing Gull and LinGin did the same thing. The tactic worked beautifully as we won the race to the top mark by playing the shifts in the oscillating breeze. Being the furthest right of the boats that started on port, we were both the furthest upwind (on the boat favored line) and the first to reach the right shift that we knew would be coming. This put us in an ideal position to control the first beat. The run was relatively square and we were sailing deep and trying not to deathroll or broach in the huge blasty puffs that came down the course. Keeping the keel under the mast was key and having a good astern lookout helped. With a relatively clean and early douse at the left gate, we again worked the right side of the course on the 2nd beat, covering our competition and being conservative. The last run was similar to the first, relatively uneventful for us although it did look like some other boats were having trouble in the puffy breeze. We got the gun in race 1.

Race 2: With breeze and course axis basically unchanged, we maintained our sail settings from Race 1. The line was still boat favored and there was still an early left shift. We basically copied our strategy from race 1. I was surprised that I think there was only one other boat who did this the 2nd time around. To me, it had worked so obviously well the first time, I was surprised more people did not catch on. But whatever, we took it and ran. Just as in the first race, there were 3 boats who started between us and the boat on starboard and we crossed all 3 of them. This time, we did not have as much a lead at the top mark as in race 1, but the boats behind us went around in a pack and ended up in a downwind fight which we managed to avoid. With a clean leeward rounding again, we went around the left gate in first and were in a position to control the 2nd beat. Our lead extended during the beat and the final run was uneventful.

Race 3: By this time, the RC had picked up on the fact that so many port tack starters might mean they should re-set the line and they'd done so. With a square line and no obvious reason for us to go either left or right, we elected to start on starboard with a timed run to the middle of the line. We had a decent start but were a little late and found ourselves in less than ideal position, receiving some backwind from boats on our leebow, and prevented from tacking by boats on our hip. Eventually we were able to work up enough that we forced the windward boat to tack and we were able to bail out in a left shift. For us, this beat was all about getting our wheels turning and trying to claw our way to the top. We went around the windward mark narrowly behind Argo with LinGin, Windswept, and Laughing Gull in a pack close behind. After the rounding we headed down hard and got the inside lane. With a better set than Argo, we managed to work even with them. We sailed the rhumbline as they sailed far out to the right. As we converged on the leeward mark, we had the clear inside lane, but the rounding was complicated by another race that had recently started and featured boats in the other fleet sailing upwind through the leeward gate. We had a disastrous mark rounding, with a delay getting our kite down taking us well below the gate and by the time we got the boat turned around, we had been passed by all but one boat. We managed to claw our way back past one boat but could not pass the pack ahead to finish this race in 5th.

Race 4: We were late getting ourselves organized for this start. By this time, the wind had died off significantly and we had decided to ease off on our outhaul and cunningham as well as dropping our jib leads forward a good bit. We were sailing mostly with the traveler on centerline and just playing the mainsheet. The line was square and by this point we were expecting the sunshine to cause a developing bay breeze resulting in a left shift going up the course. Therefore, we elected to go left on the first beat in anticipation of the big lefty. We made a timed run at the pin which we JUST BARELY were able to lay. Second-2-Nun started on our hip but we were fortunately able to extend underneath and start backwinding them early in the beat, forcing them to tack away. We went as far left as we dared without going all the way to the corner and as we came back out of the left corner, we could see that our strategy had paid off handsomely. Not only were we coming back right in a nice left shift, but we had better pressure than those on the right as well. We rounded the windward mark about a quarter mile ahead of Second-2-Nun who was our closest competitor. This time we favored the left side going downwind and actually managed to pull of a last minute gybe-douse to go around the right gate and head left again. Second-2-Nun clearly realized that this strategy had paid off on the first beat and followed us. Since LinGin was our closest competition in the regatta, we did not go as far left as we had on the first beat, electing to come back right and cover them loosely, we let Second-2-Nun head all the way to the left corner. By the time we reconnected with them, they had gained significantly but had not passed us. They were quite close to LinGin though, who was gaining on us as well. The top part of the beat was maddening as the finish boat kept moving around and I was very worried that we would be caught by LinGin before we got to the finish line. Fortunately, that didn't happen and we held on for the win.

Saturday, April 30

Three races were sailed on Saturday in a much stronger than forecast 15-25 knot northwesterly that shifted persistently further right as the day wore on. The first course of the day was set at 240 degrees, and by the end of the last race, the course axis was 020 and the pressure had dropped off to 5-10 knots. The bay breeze never developed as forecast.

Race 5: We had a terrible view of race 1 because we had a pre-start snafu with our VHF radio and while we were practicing sail handling, we thought that a postponement had been announced when in reality there was an on-time start. Suffice to say we were 10 minutes late for the start of Race 1 and never caught up. Sorry I don't have a better summary of what happened in that race, but it is what it is. We were finished in place in 7th position.

Race 6: As the breeze began to shift persistently right we felt that being on the right side was going to be the way to go. The pressure was still quite strong in general with sustained winds in the upper teens and some vicious puffs into the 20's that were still causing some folks (including us) to have trouble with downwind sail handling and occasional risk of broaching. My crew were nervous about using the kite, but we persisted. At the top of the first beat, we were in the hunt but toward the back of the pack. During the run we maintained position but a tough leeward rounding including an accidental jib drop set us back from the pack. In the end, we wound up 6th and we broke our kite halyard on the last downwind leg. Each beat of this race had to be shifted successively further to the right. So the right was definitely the place to be on the beats.

Race 7: With the breeze now shifted well to the right of the original course heading of 280 all the way to a new course axis of 020, we felt that the new northerly breeze had finally settled in and that we could expect some stability from the right shifts. Consequently, we thought that going left to get relief from the current would be advantageous. The pressure had dropped significantly and we had accordingly eased our outhaul and cunningham as well as dropping the jib leads back forward. Coincidentally with our decision to go left, we decided to start at the pin and we made a timed run on starboard tack with plenty of room to leeward and only one boat on our lee bow. We managed to obtain a good start on time and with speed and took the left side of the course along with Argo. Boats on our hip including Second-2-Nun, Laughing Gull, and LinGin all eventually bailed out and headed back right. This proved to be the wrong tactic as Argo, who had won the left side of the beat, ended up first at the windward mark, with us a couple of boat lengths behind them. Unfortunately, because we had broken our kite halyard and decided to use the jib alone, in the light pressure we were working at a significant disadvantage and were easy prey for passing boats. Fortunately, many of the boats around us had trouble with their sail handling and were not able to make up much distance because of their mark roundings. We elected to take the right gate and go left again because it had worked well on the first beat. Unfortunately, there was now more pressure filling from the right side of the course, coupled with a little more right hand shift and we were on the wrong side of it this time. So the boats on the right gained and we watched our chances to hang in this race disappear with the freshening right hand shift. We rounded close astern of Second-2-Nun and Windswept but watched them extend away from us on the run. We were able to hold off Laughing Gull for a 5.

After racing on Saturday, we all gathered to enjoy the spring rendezvous at the Bay Ridge Clubhouse. Windswept, Laughing Gull, and Calliope all were docked in Lake Ogleton, and many of our crew members enjoyed meeting folks from the A30 association and enjoying the food, drinks, friendship, and live music at the party. A good time was had by all, and many thanks are due to all those folks who helped to organize and put on the party.

Sunday, May 1

The final day of the regatta was cool and cloudy. The predicted bay breeze southerly was already in effect by the time the race started at 11 AM, but conditions on Sunday were much lighter than either Friday or Saturday had been. We expected a building bay breeze, shifting left through the day, with a strong current running down the bay and out of the river. Given the location of the course, we expected that being on the left side would be the place to be.

Race 8: Although we thought the left would be the advantaged side of the course, as we watched the S2 fleet converge on the top mark, we noticed that boats who had gone right early had done really well. We therefore changed our starting strategy from our original plan of starting in the middle or at the pin to starting at the boat and going right. In the pre-start, we perceived a strong ebb current which was going to be pushing us over the line and would make things tough for us. The pressure in the pre-start was pretty light and we were caught trying to get down to the line just to make the start. Fortunately there was not a lot of traffic at the boat and we were able to squeeze in before Second-2-Nun could close the door on us otherwise we might have been caught barging. As it was, we ended up with a perfectly timed start at the boat end with speed and 3 of our main competitors having been called over early. We were then able to protect the right side and get there first. This tactic worked great as the right gave us ground on boats that had gone left and we managed to BARELY lay the windward mark in first place. Unfortunately, just after we had laid that mark, we got into irons and Skybird, capably skippered by Larry Morris, slipped by us before we got to the offset mark. Once we rounded the offset mark, things got crowded and there was a good deal of jockeying for position on the run to the gate. Getting through the gate was quite a challenge with the current again sweeping us down course it was difficult just to get through the gate at all. We ended up going to the left gate and taking the left side of the course again. This was a bad decision as by now the current had become the dominant force in the race and the left side was highly favored because of the strong ebb current on the left. In addition, the breeze had started to shift left, making the left side even more favorable. By the time we got to the 2nd windward mark, we were well in last and our only hope to hang on to 3rd place in the regatta was that neither Laughing Gull nor Second-2-Nun would finish in the top 2 places. Sadly, Laughing Gull finished 2nd and we finished last and were knocked out of 3rd by 1 point.

Overall, it was a great regatta, 3 amazing days of sailing. Congratulations to Tim Williams for sailing a consistent 3 days of strong finishes, and to Lanny Helms and Jonathan Adams also for great sailing. I would be lying to you if I didn't own up to the fact that watching the awards was bittersweet for me. Full results follow:

Division: Alberg 30 (7 boats) (top)

Pos Sail Boat Skipper 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Total
Points Pos
1 244 LinGin Tim Williams 2 2 1 2 1 1 2 3 14.00 1
2 562 Windswept Lanny Helms 4 3 2 4 2 3 3 4 25.00 2
3 197 Laughing Gull Jonathan Adams 3 5 3 5 4 4 6 2 32.00 3
4 287 Calliope John Bergquist 1 1 5 1 7 6 5 7 33.00 4
5 484 Second-2-Nun Harry Gamber 6 6 7 3 3 2 4 5 36.00 5
6 247 Argo T.C. Williams 5 7 4 7 5 5 1 6 40.00 6
7 550 SKYBIRD Michael Nikolich 7 4 6 6 6 8/DNS 8/DNS 1 46.00 7