Race: Ballard Cup Series III Race 1
Course in Shilshole: NRN
Crew: Ben L, Robert K, Jeff, Mike, Robert Dall
Winds: 6-13 knots (guesstimate)
Average Speed: 5.6 knots

This was a tough race from the very start. The race committee had a snafu after the flags went up and had to postpone the race, and when they resumed the persons running the flags, horn, and timer were not in sync. They did pick a great course however, NRN. Perfect conditions.

The starting line was a mess. Boats from other starts were in our way. We had to duck and gybe to get around and into position. Our position wound up being ok. We picked a better line than Figaro by far and we had a chance to push Blue Lullaby over early. Beyond was nowhere near the start line. All we had to do was pull in the headsail and rocket out onto the course. Therein was our first snafu. We should have practiced a few tacks before heading to the line. When we needed to pull in the sails and power up the headsail was a mess. We had two people working the sheet but the tailer put the sheet around the winch backwards. It took him a long time to resolve the problem and a long time to get the sail pulled in. Figaro and Blue Lullaby shot across the line and pulled way ahead of us. Beyond was right on our tail.

Once we got our sails set we took off. We blew past Blue Lullaby and were hot on Figaro. There was a bit of a flood against us so our tactic was to head out on starboard towards the middle of the Sound and tack into the beach as soon as possible. We tacked in and could not get in sync with the headsail and stalled out. It took a couple minutes to get us back up to speed. We went into 12 feet of water before I spun the boat out and back over to a starboard tack. The idea was to get out of the current and ride the wind off the beach up and around the point. The headsail sheet was again wrapped around backward…. boat stalled out and we lost several more minutes powering back up. Surprisingly we were still ahead of Blue Lullaby and when we took off again we came within a couple boat lengths of Figaro.

Figaro tacked in and we kept shooting out. When we finally tacked in we were well above Figaro, Blue Lullaby was astern, and Beyond was still struggling near the starting line. Something happened on this tack that caused the headsail to go out of control and we stalled out again. Stalling on tacks really hurts us. We probably lost 6 minutes each time we stalled while finangling the headsail and waiting for the boat to power back up.The next couple tacks we were much better in sync. Robert Kirkman also had me spin over slower to keep pressure of the headsail a bit longer so the tailer could get more in before grinding was needed.

We drove hard into the bay towards Spring Beach. Only a couple times did we drop below 6.2 knots. Billabong is having some issues with pointing, partially from loose rigging and now backstay adjuster, but primarily due to a big Dacron headsail. We had the sail in tight on the winch but it was still billowing way too far out. The main was in tight to help with pointing but it caused heavy helm, which ultimately acted as a brake for the boat. If we could have gotten the sail shape better we would have been faster, pointed higher, and overall more efficient.

By the time we hit the beach and tacked back out we were dang close to the mark. The tack was much better than the others but we still lost a lot of speed. We would have been at the mark with Figaro with a clean tack. When we got up to the mark we got a bit too trigger happy and tacked early which caused us to go further away from the mark and require another tack.

Downwind we were pretty quick. The spinnakers were certainly faster than us but we held our own pretty well on a reach. Figaro was ahead but we were chewing up the distance, Blue Lullaby was far enough behind that we had her clinched, I could not even find Beyond.

As the wind shifted when we came to the edge of the bay we decided to put up the whisker pole and turn downwind more. Figaro had already done this. It took a long time to get the pole ready and up which lost us use of the headsail. When the pole went up it was on the wrong side of the boat and we had to turn away from our course, build speed, and gybe back out onto the correct course. During all this Figaro disappeared and Blue Lullaby pulled slightly ahead. Beyond was on our tail.

As we came around Meadow Point I called for the pole to be dropped. But of course after it was taken off we got the wind shift along the beach and wished we had kept the pole up. We cruised right up next to the beach in 13 feet of water. We struggled the final bit as spinnakers mucked up the wind around us to be 3rd across the line in our class and 4th on corrected time.

Though it was a rough race we learned a lot. Every week we are getting ourselves dialed in a bit more. Much more of this and we will be getting first places. To give you an idea, Billabong  is the fastest rated boat in her class by far. She was designed as a Transpac racer so she is fast. The only boat we should ever be worried about is Breeze and she has not been out racing this summer. Figaro and Blue Lullaby should never be a threat.

What we did well:

  • When the sails were set we drove hard and fast.
  • Weight was distributed well across the boat.
  • Communication increased across the course and we worked hard to get dialed in together.
  • I replaced the main halyard and it was much easier to get the sail up.

Opportunities for improvement:

  • I need to improve my crew training and direction giving ability.
  • We need to understand the whisker pole and how to use it downwind.
  • We need a downhaul on the whisker pole to control bouncing, flatten the sail, and catch more wind.
  • On tacks the headsail crew really needs to work together well. The tailer needs to pull like a banshee to get as much of the sheet in as possible and then help the grinder keep the tail in so they can go faster and not need to put it in the cleat.
  • I need to work on speed of maneuvers based on conditions and crew ability.
  • And the usual mechanical items: Rigging tuned, backstay tensioner, less stretchy headsail, replacing worn gear, etc.