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!