As she came up to the start, Maltese Falcon tacked. Not surprisingly it's a slow, complex but very impressive thing to watch as this sequence shows.
My friend, Patti and her husband Paul are navigator and tactician. They would have had their work cut out for them working out how to cross the line without mowing down a handful of spectator boats that unwisely had not cleared the start.
Big thanks to the guys from Phaedo and Gunboat for kindly providing the RIB.
Amazing day today. Alice, buddy and club-mate, Tom and I headed to Newport for the second start of Transatlantic Race 2011. Today was IRC 2 and 3, the Class 40s and the Open Class. The Open Class was two boats: Phaedo, a stunning orange Gunboat and Maltese Falcon.
You can read a better report than I can write here by the awesome Louay Habib. Below are a few photos of the start. Photos of Falcon tacking in the next post.
I spent most of the last few days helping out with the start of TR2011, much of it hanging out at Newport Shipyard. Not to be too crass about it, but for a yachting fan like me it was like Disneyworld. At one end of the yard is Maltese Falcon, docked next to Rambler 100 and ICAP Leopard. A little further down is Mar Mostro, the new Puma boat for the VOR, looking almost petite compared to the other guys. In the main part of the dock, the two Class 40s Concise 2 and Dragon lay close to the awesome orange Gunboat, Phaedo; Ambersail a 63' Farr with a crew from my father's homeland, Lithuania. Either at the dock or still on stands were Jazz, a Cookson 50, Ourson Rapide an Italian-crewed 60 footer, Prodigy a 54' sloop from South Africa. Many others from the race were in other parts of the yard.
I had a beer with Prodigy's skipper on Friday. They had raced her from Capetown to Rio, then delivered her to Antigua for the RORC Caribbean 600. After TR2011, she like many of the yachts will race in the Fastnet.
Seeing these boats close hand was fascinating but the best part of the weekend was getting to chat with some of the crews. At dinner of Friday night, I sat at the same table as Michael Hennessy and Rob Windsor from Dragon, who are the only double-handers in the race. These guys have prepared well, racing in the Atlantic Cup and Annapolis-to-Newport. Two guys, a 40 foot high-performance boat, 3,000 miles of Ocean, they start tomorrow and these guys are ready.
As a sailing couple, Alice and I have toyed with racing but never been hooked. I race on others boats and enjoy it but have never made the commitment to race my own boat. That changed last night.
Raritan Yacht Club, like many clubs does a weekly "Round The Cans" on Wednesday nights. Wharf Rat, the J 24 I crew on, was not racing so with two of the WR crew, a couple of other friends, Alice and I entered Cadence in the non-spinnaker race.This was our third race on Cadence. In our first race, a 25 mile Lighthouse race we finished in the bottom-half but then had to withdraw as we had crossed into a forbidden zone and would have been DSQ'd. In our second race on Father's day we came last.
The conditions last night were frisky - 15-18 kts, gusty and a lot of chop. There were 11 boats in our division. A couple of the crew had never raced before and had limited sailing experience but were very willing. The WR guys were critical in helping us figure out how to race Cadence.
Alice and I do a non-traditional thing where Alice helms and I act as tactician and general supervisor. It works for us. Firstly, I don't get why you have a Y chromosome to steer. Alice is as good at helming as I am and as we had inexperienced people on-board it worked best for me to focus on the boat-handling.
I am damn proud of the missus. Out of 29 boats racing last night she was the only woman helming (I think?) and the conditions were a little more than exciting.
We had a great start and we were up with the best of them for a lot of the race. The biggest issue we had was main-trim. As they say, racing is where you figure things out. We have sailed in conditions like this but never made much effort to point as high as we should have. Racing forced us to point much higher and in these conditions we struggled to find the right balance between over-trimming the main resulting in too much weather helm and letting the main get excessively backwwinded. We played around with the traveler and mainsheet but never quite found a satisfactory set-up.
By the time we rounded the weather mark and headed towards the reaching mark, we were in the middle of the pack but still in with a shout. We rounded the reaching mark to head downwind. Again this became a time of experimentation. We ran wing-on-wing with the pole out. It took us a long time to set this up and the boat was too slow. Boats that sailed on on a broad reach sailed much faster and extended their leads significantly. I knew this was the wrong thing to do but my instinct was to sail the shortest course. Not doing that again.
We crossed the line and then dodged a boat from a spinnaker division, rounding up around the pin that was also their leeward mark. The obvious thing to get out of their way was to tack back across the line but we were pinned by another boat in our fleet above us that was struggling to take down their pole.
Overall we placed 9th out of 11th. Progress from last place but a long way from perfection. Best of all, Alice and I just got the racing bug!