Just got back from a great few days sailing, racing on Knot Again in the 2008 Around Long Island race. The race itself started very well for Knot Again but sadly did not finish as well. In fact, we were one of 15 who DNF’d.
Howard had put together a superb crew. Howard, Knot Again’s owner/skipper has won many prizes in the race in prior years. In fact his wife Skippy is quite relieved at not having any silverware to polish this year. Our crew-mates were Tim, an experienced racer and cruiser and all-round good egg; George, a hilarious Episcopal priest who curses like a trooper (I hope God's not reading my blog, George)- George has sailed since the age of 7; Colin, my watch-mate with a wicked sense of humor and someone I would definitely call an all-round good bloke. Colin had raced the ALIR many times before as well as a Marion-Bermuda in a 32’er; Bruce an utterly unflappable and experienced cruiser who you would want to be around in a crisis; and yours truly - Every boat has to have one person dragging the rest down. A better bunch of guys I could not have hoped to sail with. We had many laughs and everyone knew their business on board.
There were 57 boats entered in 7 divisions. We were in A Class of 12 non-spinnaker monohulls. Knot Again is a 35’ C&C and our PHRF rating was somewhere at the high end of the pack but there some boats we would owe half a day to. We had high expectations. Howard and Knot Again had won his Division in the 2007 race. This year, the fleets had been changed around and the odds were definitely tougher but we up for the challenge.
The race starts at the Southeastern tip of Long Island, about 3 miles South of Rockaway. We would then head 90 miles Northeasth’ish towards Montauk, hang a left, head 20 miles Northwest through Plum Gut, turn left again and head back Southwest, 80 miles to the finish at Glen Cove by the Sea Cliff Yacht Club, the race organizers. The race started promptly at 1300 on Thursday and we crossed the line first, winning the EGAD award for being first across the line. Egads we won something!
Our strategy was to go six miles offshore and hold this line until Montauk. Howard and I had both consulted sailflow.com. I had even gone as far as printing wind charts for the whole race at 0630 the morning of the race. In retrospect we would have been better served had I slept in and not brought these. The winds were consistently 5 miles lighter than sailflow estimated and the holes were not where they were predicted to be. I am not blaming sailflow, we made our own decisions and the wind is a fickle friend.
Thursday went well. The fleet split in three. About half the boats stayed inshore. The rest divided between taking the same course as ours, 6-10 miles offshore and a few headed Southeast over the horizon in search of bigger winds far offshore. For most of the day we had 5-8 kts of winds, we seemed to be overtaking boats in our class close to shore and keeping pace with the onshore spinnaker boats. Things were looking good.
At 1900ish we had a superb lasagna, a little red wine and split into 3 two hour watches. I took the 0100-0300 watch with Colin. By then the winds had lightened below 5.
Next morning we were still in a good position. The prediction was that the stronger winds would move offshore so we headed out another 4 miles. Bad move. Where we expected winds, we found a life-sucking hole that was supposed to be somewhere else and we couldn’t escape the bloody thing.
It was so frustrating. We had made the first 60 miles in under 12 hours but took 18 hours to make the remaining 30 miles to Montauk. For 8 hours on Friday we made 4 miles! Worse than that the inshore boats were clearly going faster and were out of sight by Friday afternoon.
At 1800’ish we had down one of the best meals I have eaten on a boat: Crab cakes and spinach pie washed down with a delicious Long Island white wine. I love the way Howard rolls! At 1900 on the nail, we rounded Montauk Point and turned Northwest on a port tack.
The 20 mile reach across the Northern end of Long Island was one of the beautiful sails I can remember . Puffy I gave a you a wave as we went by. We had 10-12 kts of wind, the boat was doing her maximum hull speed plus one kt for the flooding tide. The skies were blue, the shoreline stunning. George and I sat on the rail and put the world to rights. As the sun went down, the sky was purple. One of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen. Knot Again, made the 20 miles to Plum Gut in 2 ½ hours and we transited into Long Island Sound in great conditions.
The mood on the boat was positive. Howard had been at the back of the fleet and won t his race in the dark in Long Island Sound in past years. We were up for it.
Sadly the wind and tide had other ideas. We made some progress into the night but the wind died in the early morning. When Colin and I went on watch at 1 am, the boat was sailing backwards. To make matters worse we were backing towards a mid-channel marker that had a gravitational pull like a tractor beam. With some guidance from Howard, we got her moving ahead again and by the end of our watch we had made one mile. That’s one mile backwards and two miles forward in 2 hours.
I woke up at 0700 for our next watch and we were barely any further than when I went to bed. At 0900, Howard called the crew together to discuss our situation. If we kept going at this rate we would be lucky to cross the line by noon on Sunday. As we then had to wait for the right conditions to transit Hell Gate, we would be lucky to get back to Raritan by 0400 on Monday. Not an option for any of us. We agreed to wait for another hour or two to see if the wind would pick-up. If no change we would abandon the race.
Sadly no change. At 1030 on Saturday we turned the engine on, dropped sails and headed to Glen Cove as a DNF.
The mood on board was philosophical. We were then slammed by two 40kt squalls with winds gusting as high as 62 kts and horizontal rain. The seas picked up fast. Within 30 minutes we had very choppy 4 foot seas. What a blast! This really picked up the mood. There's nothing like a good squall (I am the dork on the bottom right with the most gear on. I paid good money for the life jacket, harness and tether and this was an opportunity to get my $s worth)
We made it Glen Cove by 1900, picked up a mooring ball, showered at Sea Cliff Yach t Club, had a few beers then commiserated (actually we were in good spirits) over another outstanding dinner by Howard – Tilapia, pasta and a number of good wines. Damn Howard, you have style!
One consolation - one of our Club mates, Seafeather, won her class.
The next day we motored home, up the East River, into New York Harbor under the Verrazano Bridge and back to Perth Amboy. Sunday was beautiful and of course the winds were much more stronger. I took a ton of pictures of this spectacular cruise and I will post them soon. Knot Again beats the Circle Line any day.
There’s always next year!