I must say, each time Greg goes out (Ginger Lee, J29), I know I’ll be loosing gallons of water sweating in order to keep up with the guy. Last summer, Greg took 3 First places out of 4 races that he participated in. Greg knows how to sail that turbo charged J29 Ginger Lee. This being said, I know that Biohazard can give him a run for his money as long as my boat can keep stay close upwind…
It started Saturday at 7am…I keep Biohazard on its road trailer and by myself, it takes about 2 hours to get ready, especially at low tide (long story). At 9am, with the main sail up at the dock, I plotted my waypoints, changed and fired up the outboard motor…On my way out, I was observing the wind, and how miserable I was going to be fighting it all the way to the Waverider Buoy.
I knew Greg was going to be out there racing too…It’s a good race for his boat: the boat is fast upwind and carry speed downwind too with a massive kite.
Earlier this year, I was able to stay ahead of Greg during the inverted start race and Greg didn’t race during the Malibu and Return race…which means I am leading the series this summer. But with 3 races to go, and considering some races have been modified including more upwind, I had to stay on the top of it. Easier said than done.
I started to first race on Biohazard in January 2016. Since then, I definitely improved upwind performance…I have noticed it and have practice as well in the Sunset Series, just for that purpose. Downwind, the boat is different animal and I am not so worried about hitting my polars speeds.
The other boat in the singlehanded fleet was Peter on his Sunfast 3200. Racing against Peter is difficult too as the boat is also faster upwind. The SunFast owes me a bunch of time, so there is still an option to correct…
Because of the weather forecast, my plan was to head west on port, wait for a wind shift and tack over to starboard to pretty much lay the Waverider buoy. Well, is really didn’t happen the way I had it planned. Instead, I had to play (like everyone else I am sure) the wind shifts for hours. I sometimes found myself in a good spot, then was headed 30 degrees and forced to tack. I worked my butt off to stay in sync with the shifts, and it did work out. I found Greg sometimes on the race course, and at that point, decided to do a loose cover knowing that if I could stay a few minutes behind him upwind, he would have had no chance to separate downwind, giving me the opportunity to beat him corrected, or even boat for boat.
Greg and I crossed each other several times. He was always ahead. We waved hello once, as we are both friendly in that “little competition of ours”. At some point, Greg took his #1 sail down and put up a smaller sail…I didn’t understand why until later after the finish when he explained he damaged his sail. Although he was now carrying a smaller headsail, his boat was still moving nicely, and actually pointing higher. That maneuver cost him some time, I got closer to him.
On my end, while I couldn’t point to weather well in 2016, I now do a lot better. I really worked the trim of the sails over the past year, the balance of the boat and also use my dagga board differently, whether my keel is canted or not. This all really helps. I still can’t sail as fast as a boat that is 8 feet longer, but I do my best to keep up.
In the last 45 minutes before we rounded the Waverider Buoy, I got behind. Greg played the shifts better, I decided not to cover him as much – my mistake – and he took off with a comfortable lead around the mark.
And so it happened: I was the last boat to round the weather mark…as often. Pressure was on. Greg was gone. It’s impressive how big his spinnaker is, even from a distance. I quickly hoisted my spinnaker…..and quickly realized that I accidentally, and stupidly attached the spinnaker sheets to the tack, and tack line to the clew of the sail…You can only imagine how happy I was. Because the wind was light, I didn’t have to lower the spinnaker but wasted some precious minutes fixing that mess. Finally I was off….and Greg looked like he was miles away. Using the autopilot, I had a quick power bar, some water, turned on the music box, and got back at the helm. I gybed as I felt the pressure was better offshore. I did work as I could quickly tell that I had already passed the SF3200 and 2 other double handed boats who were all ahead of me at the Waverider buoy.
It was tough to catch him up. I was making progress on him, but wish we didn’t have to leave 2ES to port…A straight shot downwind to MDR would have been easier for me. In addition, I knew that after rounding 2ES, it would be a drag race to the finish where I was not going to sail faster than Greg. I gybed several times, trying to optimize my VMG. Greg was sailing fast, but I was sailing faster. I rounded 2ES, spinnaker inside the boat, all went well but it still took a few minutes to get the boat into reaching mode….Doing over 6 knots to the finish, I knew it was going to be seconds (corrected) between Greg and I, but couldn’t tell who was going to take 1st place home. After a little more than 6 hours of hard and close racing, Greg and I had a couple of words as we motored/sailed inside the main channel.By the time I got back to the dock, and put the boat away, back on its trailer, it was 7pm: this was another long, but good day on the water.
Racing singlehanded with PSSA wouldn’t be the same if there wasn’t “that other boat” to beat. Thanks for being out there Greg, thanks for showing me the way upwind. I will always look forward to your transom, and hope one day I can show you mine as I pass you downwind!! 😉