From: Jud Smith
Sent: Tuesday, July 21, 2015 4:49 PM
Saturday July 18th MRA racing started out so promising. There was a fresh southerly all morning that started to moderate as we headed out to the starting line and we all tuned up in 8 – 10 knot southerly with a nasty leftover confused sea state on top of an easterly swell. It reminded me of San Diego cloudy conditions with a gradient wind blowing all night building up a big sea state. I could tell this was going to be a different kind of day than we have seen this season. With race week approaching…..what can we expect.
No one was spared from getting swallowed up by the left hand side of the course at some point during the day. Speaking with Tomas Hornos, racing his Etchells, on the outside line. They also had the right side pay big and from his perspective the tinkers line was in more of the righty southwester than what they had until end of the day. If we all had to do it all over again, we would have fought harder for the right side upwind.
Saturday was a good day to get forced right early. The boats that started best and could hold the long starboard pinned the fleet left and the boats that got flushed capitalized on the right. The right was favored for both velocity and shift and then the ebb current made the right even better as the day went on. REGATTA FLUFF took some sterns after the start of race # 1 and dug into the right and was launched by the time they tacked on layline. We saw they were gaining and hitched over on port to cut our losses. By the time REGATTA FLUFF crossed us they were ten lengths ahead. The fleet got so spread out that it was hard to pass any boats and SPRING got hung up on the windward mark after being hung out to the left but rallied in the following two races.
Race two we had a bad (late start) at the boat and was forced to tack to the right. The problem we were all faced with was the whole 20 + boat Rhodes fleet were rounding the leeward gate as we were starting. I thought we were in deep trouble being in the bad air but the right side was so favored that even sailing in the Rhodes 19 fleet bad air kept us even and we waved VITAMIN J across after we tacked back to the left so we could get cleaner lane back on port off his hip.
I don’t mind being behind a large group of boats as long as I’m on the opposite tack since they are actually bending the wind and giving us an lift as we cross their transoms. If we were on the same tack and getting headed we knew it was bad air from the boats on the same tack in front of us and we would look for an opportunity to tack away for a better lane. It is a loser to stay and suffer in a fleet induced header while sailing on the same tack behind their Wind field. We finally got up on layline above the Rhodes fleet in clean air and had a nice lead at the first mark. Once again the fleet was spread out some by the one sided track and being mixed up in the Rhodes fleet on the first beat. There were not a lot of passing lanes after that since the fleet protected the right side upwind for the most part.
Downwind it did not seem to matter that much which side since the geographic right shift on the land side of the track was a header once you got over on that side of the run so the better velocity was offset by the header on port. Not much in it downwind.
The last race is still haunting me since I have no one but myself to blame for my poor decisions. Once again on race 3 we found ourselves starting as the Rhodes fleet were rounding the leeward mark which made the decision to tack to the right hard for me. We had a good start at the boat and SPRING was off our hip but would have had a hard time hanging there and tacked immediately to the right which was the perfect time to go. They had to sail in some of the Rhodes bad air but was able to go fast forward and sail around the Rhodes fleet after not too long. Cindy advised me to go right earlier and any time would have been better than waiting as long as I did. I didn’t want to tack back earlier since the wind was light the Rhodes were still right of us and the waves were still slowing us down. I held way too long waiting for more breeze that never came. By the time we came back “SPRING” was launched on the right and everyone that was right of us were now well ahead. Meanwhile I had pinned REGATTA FLUFF and LEADFOOT on the left side since we had a good starts. A lot of good that did us since with the ebb current out of Boston was now building making the right even more favored than before. The ebb started at 2 pm officially but it was probably sooner on the surface. Earlier in race 1 there was not much current except some surface wind driven current but combining the two, the adverse current became a bigger factor and there was some relief to be had on the right side upwind.
On the final lap, the wind started to fill in and shift more right. We lost SHRED on the run by Gybing away too soon and being headed as the breeze filled in which goes to show that I was not thinking clearly and should have cut my losses and sailed more conservatively on the last run. We should have been happy to have ground back to 3rd and feel good about it.
We won the day because everyone at some point got swallowed up by the left side during the day which is unusual for Tinkers line. The reality was there was very little sea breeze influence. The weak seabreeze only seemed to disrupt the gradient breeze during the day but never dominated. The light lefty was the weak seabreeze influence and the dominate breeze was the SW gradient since it was so cloudy all day. It was a bitter pill to swallow but a good reminder of how challenging conditions can get of Marblehead in late July and August.
The sea temp in mass bay has warmed up to 66 – 67 degrees which makes it harder to get the seabreeze going. Usually a 7 degrees differential is needed to get the seabreeze going and this years warm summer ocean temps will challenge the fleet at race week and August with weaker seabreeze effect so we have to factor that into our thinking for the remainder of the season. The fresher seabreezes we saw in June are over.
In general I’d have to say the fleet is starting better and the boat speeds are much closer than earlier in the season. Now we just all have to get our heads around the weather conditions.