Liberty is being free from the things we don't like in order to be slaves of the things we do like.--Ernest Benn

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Fun" Race

This race didn't apply toward either the just-completed Summer Series and the yet-to-come Fall Series. As always, 'Day' glasses were at stake and bragging lies in the bar the just rewards for all sailors. We were short-handed in these 21 knots. The fact that we had a pin prick hole in the chute caused me to pass on a spinnaker for two legs. As a previous years' Foredeck Guy we had used to say, "Put it all up; let God take it down!" Well, often in the past I passed on that advice, and I wasn't going to entertain it today. Fun is fun. It shouldn't have to be expensive. Our huge barn door main would see us through in the fun range, I argued.

This race was notable for the duel that developed toward the end of the next to last leg. Without our spinnaker, we expected to be eventually set upon. An extremely well-sailed J-22 came screaming up our wake. In these seas and winds he was definitely planing. On a broad reach toward the leeward mark, I trimmed in and veered windward, determined that he would pass us only through our wind shadow. If they can do that, they're welcome to it. As I expected, my friend/ex-friend wasn't up to it.

After falling back a couple of times, he drove right toward the leeward quarter of my transom, shouting "Keep clear! Windward boat, keep clear."

I turned down which outraged my now ex-friend. I shouted back, "No overlap! Over-taking boat keep clear!" These wind-blown reciprocal hails continued back and forth for some agonizing moments, while the J-22 came perilously close to my hull. Finally, I dropped the F-Bomb: "No Rights! Read your fucking book!"

That seemed to have an effect on him. The J-22 again challenged, but far enough away so as to provide me time and room to keep clear. He yelled "I have an overlap!". And he did. Then, as he came up on me, I responded by giving him room.

But time was running out for him. With his spinnaker up, he could not drive me up into the wind. And, approaching the leeward mark, his inevitable dousing would slow him down. Which it did. Once within three of my boat lengths to the mark, I hailed "Inside at the Mark! No overlap!" He yelled something back in the wind, which was irrelevant.

But we were not through with each other. We engaged in a subtle tacking duel on the way to the finish line. Midway up the leg I made the mistake of tacking on his windward bow and failed to accelerate fast enough to snuff him. As he eked out on my lee bow, I elected to break off, tack to port and go to the breakwater. Over MVP's protests, I was determined to put the local truism to the test: the shallow water offers less adverse current and the break water offers a lifting breeze.

This is a constant argument on my boat. I have no idea where it comes from. All I can think of is that it is counter-intuitive. Crew is worried about a marginal drop in wind. More than that: crew is focused on speed over the water. I am focused on speed over the ground. SOG, Baby!

So I had my way. Went all the way to the last buoy restricting the surfers' area, slammed a tack onto starboard, cleated in and sailed on the wind. The velocity was down at first; then it rose; and then it lifted us. I focused only on the instruments in this do or die effort to prove my case for all time. After a seemingly interminable interval, I lifted my eyes away from the instruments and the sail long enough to see that we were going to fetch the port end of the line and that we were burying the J-22 in our wind shadow and wake.

I hope the J-22's skipper and crew and I are still friends. But I had the rules on my side. And it was the competition
who were pushing the envelope: overtaking boats cannot go 'hunting' and aim at the leeward quarter at the boat ahead of them. I hated 'playing chicken' with him in these conditions. But if I let him eat my lunch on Wednesday, he'll be back demanding it on Thursday. That's just the way it is. As it is, after a few days pass, he'll swing by in that gratuitous way of his and say, "Come on Doc [not my real name of course], you know you fouled us."

I won't have to drop the F-Bomb this time. I'll just quote from my dog-eared, autographed copy of Dave Perry's Understanding the Racing Rules of Sailing Through 2012: Rules 11, 12 & 15.


  1. So, Doc? How did you do? What are the results?

  2. I just have the results. The Good Guys corrected out to 3rd out of 21, but we finished 7th over all. The bad guys lost to us in both columns. They didn't show up in the bar afterward so I couldn't talk to them.

  3. Actually more like what happened the week before:our worse spinnaker dousing, ever. The boat rounding the leeward mark was pushing our spinnaker pole away from their skipper's face!

    But GR8 site you found, Vlad!

  4. I think you had it right, only, that spinnaker?
    Did you check if he had an overlap with his spinnaker or his bow?
    Nevertheless, rule 15 restricted him once he got the overlap. Most sailors think they have rights when they are still clear astern but going faster.....