I've been informed that the politically correct word is "Sea Jellies". It seems they get highly offended to be called fish. I apologize to all Sea Jellies for implying that they are fish. Please come back (and replace all that sea weed you put in your place)!
It does seem the jellies have gone off to some new location where they don't get bonked on the head quite so often. But in their place is TONS of sea weed and, worse, eel grass. Racing has become partly an exercise in clearing your blades which can be quite distracting while we're actually trying to race.
Day 5 was a beautiful day, it started with sunny skies and the puffy tropical clouds that tell you it will be a good day. Forecast was for about 10-12 knots and in the boat park in the morning that's what it looked like. To make up for the lost racing on Day 4 we were going for three races with the first start at 10:30 am (like in the morning), so it was off the dock at 9:30 to make the start on time. Out on the course we had a good 12 knots, just enough to get over the side and perfect conditions for virtually everyone in the fleet.
The race committee is ever punctual and exactly on time they rolled into the Green Fleet start which got off without a hitch, then into the Red Fleet and then into our fleet. I started top middle of the line with the idea to drag out to the left a bit for what looked like more pressure, then back to the right to play off the end of the ebb tide (a problem with starting so early is that we are back into the end of the ebb!). Execution was going well until I picked up the first of many pieces of weed, finding and clearing put me back into a pack determined to hit the left corner. As we really got to the left I decided it was time to cut losses and tacked over, took two sterns, crossed two more boats and got sorted going right, just below the port tack layline. Waaaaaayyy over on the right I could see 4 or 5 boats heavily leveraged on the right and it was clear a good shift to the right was going to launch them. Fortunately it didn't shift big time right and in the end only a couple of boats were able to get across and I got around the mark in third. Rob Lowndes had a great lead already but the second place boat was close so I worked hard on the run to get by and rounded the gate in second. Up the second beat Rob kept a loose cover, I closed a little but he still rounded with a good lead. I managed to close on that slightly on the final run and then on the bottom reach sailed right up to round the final mark overlapped on the outside. I managed to work out just slightly, not really a lee bow but threatening and Rob elected to tack away early, not quite on layline. I tacked over and was not on top and on starboard and even laying the finish line! So I was able to take first in that race! Great way to start the day!
The next race the wind velocity started to drop a bit and it was not clear if left or right was going to pay. I started again in the upper half of the line and it felt like we were in a left shift so I tacked to go right. I sailed almost all the way across on port thinking a right would have to come but suddenly I started losing pressure. In the meantime, Andre Martinie had gone deep left and was coming back in big pressure and still a big left. I saw no option but to cut losses and get back so tacked... as it turns out just a bit too early. Slowly the right shift started to fill in, just in time to cross the main pack from the left but not in time to cross Andre who was about 3 boat lengths ahead. At the mark it was Andre, then me and then a pack of trailing boats. Position remained the same down the reach, but on the run the breeze started to lighten and I found myself falling back, losing a few boats. The next beat was not spectacular for me and I rounded the final mark in fourth, too far back to really make gains on the lead pack, but far enough ahead of the boats behind to finish fourth.
The final race of the day started in nice pressure, a bit of a right shift. The boat end was definitely favored and I started down about 5-6 boats and got off with a good jump. I held the lane going right and moved forward enough to be able to tack when I wanted. I waited until I knew that a left shift would put me near layline but not on it and tacked over, figuring that in the pressure I could speed away from boats that would be on my hip... All was going well until I picked up some more weed and struggled a bit to get it clear, by the time I was sorted out I realized there had been a major shift to the left and I was now in the teens! Fortunately the fleet rounding the mark was tightly packed AND those who had gone right off the start line were miles behind. On the reach I managed to pick up a few spots, on the run a few more and at the leeward gate was already back to 3rd or 4th. Rob Lowndes was once again leading by a significant margin. I played the puffs and shifts up the beat to get into second pretty solidly, but Rob did a masterful job of also staying in phase to maintain his lead going into the top mark. We sailed the run without any changes, he started the reach with about 15 boat lengths to burn - which he proceeded to do! I rounded the final pin about two boat lengths behind and in a nice right puff. I figured I had to try to pass him and the only move was to tack out to the left side of the short beat (literally 200 yards). With the right shift the pin end was also favored so I figured I would sail until a) Rob tacked, b) I was on layline to the pin. Rob tacked at what he thought was shy of the layline, I tacked back toward him and realized I could tack just to leeward, and ahead, which I did. With a little more pressure we were suddenly both laying the pin end and I was able to just nose him out at the finish for another first!
So, great day with a 1-4-1 scoreline. Wolfgang Gerz sailed a 3-3-4 to still be in control of the regatta but with one throwout I'm now only 2 points behind with three races to go. Andre had an OCS in the final race and has to use that for his throwout, this gives me an 11 point lead on him at this stage. Malcolm Courts is in fourth overall but is quite a ways back in points. The way the points stack up now, with even one mid-fleet finish I can't be worse than fourth.
The bad news is that the forecast for Saturday is pretty bad... extremely light winds are forecast and there is some question of even sailing. Light air is not my forte but I have been sailing faster than I expected in the conditions we have had so far so I am going to remain optimistic that I can continue to move up!
Note: we leave for Sydney at zulu dawn on Sunday (here) so may not update last day's post until I'm back in California late Sunday night.