Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 RS Aero Worlds - Day 1

December 31, 2019
Black Rock (Melbourne) AUS

Yesterday was supposed to be the first day of racing, but 110 degree, 25-40+ knot Northerly winds put the kibosh on racing. Today we partially made up for the lost day by sailing 4 races in a glorious 12-20+ knot Southerly.

Did my usual pre-race current check, which gave me the confidence to get a great start at the boat end of the line. Led at the first and second marks, extending well away from everyone. Then, while pulling on the outhaul before rounding the outside gate, the small dyneema whipping twine holding the ends of the outhaul together snapped! I had to luff up (stopping the boat), grab the line before it completely pulled out of the blocks, tie a quick knot, then round the mark! This allowed Aussie Rhett Gowans to close within three lengths at the gate!

Sailing upwind I was quick, but half-way up the leg there was a loud BANG; my upper downhaul block had exploded! It was incredibly difficult sailing the boat upwind with no downhaul and Rhett got even closer. Despite being hobbled I played a few shifts well and extended on him before the run, where he is wicked fast. Managed to hold him off down the run, but he was close on my tail. The next leg was a flat-out hiking reach with the boat planing fast. Could've used some downhaul on that (and the final short upwind to the finish), but managed to hold off Rhett for a bullet.

We were well ahead of the rest of the fleet, giving me just enough time to jury rig the downhaul and outhaul, get a quick drink, and set-up for the next race.

Another great tussle with Rhett. I got 360 degree video of the whole race, posting to my YouTube channel now (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQTxkTCiwG4sRwca1Ppfj7Q)

Had another solid start at the boat (after doing a quick step-up 20 seconds before to gain some clean air), then tacked on a header shortly thereafter. That shift took me and a few others waaay right, over 4 minutes on port! It was nerve-wracking to be heading so far right (in the Southern Hemisphere, winds generally shift LEFT) but I saw good wind pressure ahead. Dug into that pressure, the compass dropped, I tacked on layline, then was looking down on the entire fleet well behind to the left. Rhett had started further left but tacked to cover me, which allowed him to get a bit of the right shift also, and he rounded 2nd.

Held him off on the reach and most of the run, but that wiley Aussie snuck by on a few waves near the leeward gate. I noted he was sailing quite high and slow after rounding, so footed off with speed and quickly blew through his wind shadow. A little lefty, tacked and he tacked to leeward and ahead. With good pace I moved forward on him, then tacked on a few shifts and was in the lead!

On the final port tack to the 2nd weather mark I sailed into a header and accidentally dropped the mainsheet. Spectators said the mast was almost horizontal as my body completely dumped into the water, the boat nearly capsizing on top of me! I quickly reached up, grabbed several handfuls of mainsheet and was JUST able to get the boat back upright! A bit of drama, a few boatlengths lost, lots of energy expended, but the lead was intact.

Once again Rhett gained significantly on the run, but I had a better leeward mark rounding and blasted off on the final reach. His boom hit the water and he sailed a bit high, allowing me to pull out to a 5-boatlength lead that held to the finish.

All 80 boats sailed back to the club for lunch (which felt quite civilized to this hard-core racer), then went back out for 2pm start of the next two races.

Race 3
The battle with Rhett resumed, culminating in an exciting final leg. Near the finish he crossed me on port, then tacked over. I was *just* able to lay the finish line without tacking, pipping him by maybe 2 feet after 40 minutes of racing. Exhilarating stuff!

Race 4
The breeze built to a solid 16-20+ for this one. I got too tricky, tacking too often on the first beat. Peter Barton (GBR) was launched, zooming to the front on leg one and extending from there. Noah Rees (GBR) did quite well to round 2nd, I was 3rd with Rhett breathing down my neck in 4th. Another firehose reach and positions didn't change, then I caught Noah on the run.

Sailing close to shore in the Southerly, there is an area where the wind drops right off. I sailed into this area while Rhett and Noah stayed high and in the breeze. By the time I woke up they had worked ahead, then I tacked too frequently in the latter half of the leg, trying to take advantage of shifts to catch up and moved back instead.

Rhett was dealing with his own problem: the boom vang fitting had pulled out of his mast! It was tolerable upwind, but on the run it looked all sorts of ugly. He did a masterful job hanging onto second. I got a bit closer to Noah by the leeward mark, then he rounded up accidentally, allowing me to squeak into third. Eyes set on Rhett now, with a short reach and beat to the finish. I got within a boatlength at the finish--Rhett really earned that 2nd place!

So, 4 races done. 1,1,1,3 puts me in front, Rhett has 2,2,2,2 and Noah 3,4,3,4. A nice start, but there are three more days of racing to come!

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