Yet another interesting day on St Margaret's Bay! As we sailed out the seabreeze was filling in for what looked like a carbon copy of the previous day - same wind angle, around the same velocity, clear skies, etc. The RC set up in what looked like exactly the same location and posted 190 for the course, just what we had the day before. So, remembering the lessons from the previous day, it was hard to think anything other than go right.
Peter Vessella and tuned up a bit and then did a series of timed split tacks. Interestingly, the person going left, whoever that was, came out ahead by a fair bit. Hmmm.... Given the day before, what does this mean?
We lined up for the first start and it was clear and a group of the sailors at the top of the standings were lined up near the pin looking like they were going left. I started midline, maybe down toward the pin a touch and started the front row grind. Boats above me peeled off one at a time to go right, some below passed behind to go right. In no time there was a group of five or so that started near the pin going left, then pretty much the entire rest of the fleet going right. I flipped over to take a look and the boats to leeward did not look like they were poking out. I sailed up to a bit more pressure then flipped back over to the left to chase after the group of five. They started tacking out of the left corner and were clearly launched. I tacked up under them and the view from the window showed that the entire fleet was now well behind. I got around in sixth, right behind Tim Landt and started chasing after Scott, Arnoud, Marc, Mark and Tim. The run was uneventful, as near as I can tell the order was preserved at the gate. Left was clearly the thing to do, I set up to go left and followed the pack. Then an amazing thing happened... Arnoud tacked and headed right! That could well have been the regatta, he was effectively never seen again and sailed a throwout. I short tacked the left corner and was able to pick up Tim Landt by the weather mark to round fourth. Again, steady on the reach and run, though Jan Scholten made a big charge. I held him off on the reach and then was able to stay comfortably ahead for the finish. So, fourth for my second best finish of the series.
For the second race the breeze was now a solid 15 knots and we were into that range where you need to hike hard but not de-power anything. The previous race showed everyone that the left was the place to be so this time there was quite a crowd at the pin end. If the breeze was going to be in the full hiking range then my strategy was to start up by the boat and try to stay clean up high, this way I could have the option to tack if necessary, but could also avoid the pinch fest that was bound to happen down at the pin. I executed poorly and soon found myself pinched off by one of those proverbial "pinch through the waves" people. After a short game of ping-pong I managed to poke through the line on port tack going right. Interestingly, the compass said I was in a big left shift, the weather mark was just off the bow and I could see Jan and Vann below also heading right on a good angle. The option was to tack onto a header back into the left corner, and into the peleton, or hold on the lifted tack and look for a shift at the top. Given the length of time we needed to sail to the mark this seem like a high probability move so I decided to stick with this, following Jan and Vann out to the right. Sure enough, up near the layline we got a nice pressure line which nicely headed us, we rolled into tacks and there we were back in the top ten. I was low of the layline (on purpose) and ran into a little bit of traffic coming in from the left, in the final approach Andy Pimental ducked me and went up to the layline, I went to around 4 boat lengths from the port layline and tacked back. Sure enough, Andy was spot on the layline and I wasn't crossing, so needed to plant a nice lee bow, which I did. This looked good for about 10 seconds when the last port crossing boat tacked right on top of me. Oops... I was able to slow, then tack behind Andy, cross Vann barely and tack above him to get around in something like 9-10.
While I was flailing around on my approach, Jan, who had crossed me by about 2 boat lengths on the first tack from the right, sailed up to round in 4-5th. Big lesson here, stay out of traffic!
The run did not go well, I sailed to0 far to the right (looking downwind), Vann, Andy, etc., sailed more to the left and held a nice puff down the course. In no time I was back in the peleton fighting for clear air. I rounded the gate back in the teens, then cleared out to the right. I made a couple of attempts to get back to the left but everyone wanted to go left so when they would clear they would bounce me out. On the final bounce I realized I was to the left side of the course, in solid breeze and maybe a little bit lifted. So, I held port tack on out towards the starboard layline. This tack was tough to sail, the wave angle was such that we were sailing almost straight into the waves so it required a lot of effort to keep moving. Focusing on speed here paid off and I was able to get back into the top ten again by the weather mark, back to close behind Vann. This time the reach and run went much better, with a significant gain on David Wells courtesy of a yellow flag given him by the judges. Andy Roy was blazing on the run to round right behind me, I was able to hold him off on the lower reach. At the leeward mark there was quite a crowd, with Terrry Neilson followed closely by David Wells, followed by me, followed by Andy and then Steve Cockerill. I cleared to the left sailing hard through the chop, then came back under the port layline to the boat end of the finish. David Wells elected to not use his starboard on me and tacked to leeward, basically giving me the lead on a slow tack. Terry was just crossing so I did the short duck. Then it got tricky, Vann was crossing up ahead, the pin was favored for the finish but if I tacked on the pin end layline then I'd be in Vann's bad air while, on the other hand, if I let Terry go I would lose him. So, I tacked short of the pin layline and forced Terry to leebow me which he did fairly effectively, then started to pinch to force me to tack. At this point I figured it was better to not lose David than force the issue with Terry so I tacked and lee bowed David. So, this race was an eighth.
Interestingly, Jan finished first in this race with his approach to the first weather mark rounding key to getting into the top group after the first beat.
At this point I sit in 14th overall, with points close enough to fantasize about moving up a few places. With one more race we gain another throwout which allows me (barring a disaster in the remaining races) to drop the 18th in the first race of the series. Interestingly, the scoring rules allow you to use both discards in the qualifying series, but only one discard can be used in the finals. This is going to be bad for some sailors, especially people like Mark Bear who will be forced to drop a 4th and keep a race in the teens. So, if we get another race, it will be interesting to see how the results get shuffled.
On the bad side, the weather forecast for the final day's racing has a light northerly... same direction as tuesday but with lots less velocity. As I type this the skies are overcast and the wind does not look promising.