Go West, old man, go west!
(Note: today's report is a bit brief, last night was Alain Vincey's lobster feed at our house and it was quite the affair! We're a bit slow to rise this morning...)
Today the seabreeze returned with the promise for the masters to finally experience what we all came here for - fresh breezes from the South-Southwest and nice waves for surfing downwind. Ok, the start time had been moved up an hour and it was a bit light on the sail out but the breeze was definitely going to come in.
The local folklore for St Margaret's Bay is that when sailing on the left (when looking upwind), or east, side of the bay that the left side is favored. Attached is a diagram that was worked up by the weather guy for the US Sailing Team which gives an explanation, basically you should see more pressure to the left and, if you go far enough, a left shift. More importantly, you go left because the locals tell you that's what you are meant to do. Always a good reason.
At the start of our race the seabreeze was still filling and at this stage was a bit unsettled, with definite light patches in between zones of 10-12 knots. When looking upwind it did appear that the breeze was more solid on the right so the strategy for the first beat was to go right to the pressure, then get to the left at the top, then think about going left on the second beat (once again in the inner).
That would have been a great plan to execute. Sadly, a number of other boats didn't share my plan and I executed one of those starts that was in the front row with clear air but pinned under a guy on my hip so I couldn't tack and I wasn't close enough to pinch him off. So, left we go... finally he tacks (with most of the fleet now to the right of us and I immediately roll into a tack and a big wave, putting me back so now another boat on starboard forces me back to the left. Argh! This time I work forward on him and roll into a tack again, but, yet again, in no time a pair of boats force me back. ARRGGGHH! Ok, finally sorted out and going right near the port tack layline with, now, boats crossing and going left. I sail off to what is left of the right layline and pick up a big fraction of those boats, hold steady on first run, then go right on the second beat and get back into the low teens. The top reach is a bit broad for me, I struggle a bit there and lose distance to boats in front but hang tough for run. On the bottom reach I dive low on a wave (mistake), Ari and Mark Bear roll over the top. At the leeward mark we round in a tight group with me outside of Ari and Mark and Vann Wilson. I elect to tack back to the left on the final beat and get clear, Ari is focussed on Mark and lets me get by to finish 12th. Well, ok, a lot of the top people have much worse races so I'm not alone in figuring that wasn't how I saw that one playing out.
For the next start the breeze is over 15 knots and after really spending a lot of time looking upwind its clear the pressure is solid and it looks darker to the left. I think that this is it, if there is a race to go left this must be it. The start line has an ever slight bias to the pin end so I decide to start down there, which isn't too hard since everyone is fighting for the boat end. Ok, this start is a recall but a good practice run because I didn't count on the rather extended anchor line on the pin boat. Line up again, same scenario and and get the pin end fully hiked with even a touch of vang on. At three minutes I look up to evaluate and things look good. As expected, Peter Conde has poked out from a mid line start and we are both extending from the front line of boats. Back to focussing on speed, then next evaluation at 5 minutes... hmmm.... not quite looking as good anymore, some boats that went right and are coming back and starting to look a bit better. At six minutes I figure I better get out of the left corner and avoid complete disaster and am glad I did. As I work up from about 100 yards shy of the port tack layline its pretty ugly with respect to the boats that went right and I finally get to the weather mark in the 20's. Ugh. Lesson learned, "Go West!" is the mantra. Second beat I go right with two short tacks left to consolidate a bit. A surprising number of boats head left and disappear into a black hole and by the end of the second beat I'm in the top ten, rounding ahead of Scott Ferguson and Rudy Ratsep. The top reach is again unfriendly to me, Scott and Rudy go by but I get back to them just at the mark. On the run I am happily running down the waves at full speed and totally forget the marks are will to the left of the angle of the waves... this mistake spots Scott about 50 yards and he is uncatchable. Rudy and I stay close with John Bertrand making gains and rounding right behind us. On final reach positions remain unchanged and as we start the second beat Rudy is one boat length ahead, John one behind. I tack off to the left again, coming back in the middle to keep close to Rudy. He and I trade a few tacks on the upwind, but its pretty much over when I try to plant a tight leebow but get hit, again, by a wave to put me back. As it goes, we have ignored John who one tacks to final beat to just get us at the finish.
So... finish 11th in this race. And, again, a number of the top boats have bad (for them) races. At the top, Scott has his worst day with a 3-7, Arnoud his best with a 1-1 (and the last a horizon job), Andrew Pimental goes 4-2 and Mark Bear hangs tough with a 14-5. What's tough in this event is that you can only drop one race from the finals, rolling double digits at the top is not a good thing!
At this point I'm standing in 16th. It looks like we get a seabreeze again today, though its not predicted to be as strong. With yesterday's experience my guess is that the right side of the course will be highly populated.