Sunday saw a bit more wind than we had the prior two days for ILCA Nationals. It was windy up in the river, it actually calmed down a bit once we were at the sailing area in the James. With the wind in the upper teens and the same head on current we had seen the prior two days, upwind was a slog.

In the first race of the day I actually moved the boat and picked some shifts fairly well to be really close to the top 10 at the top mark, only I miss-judged the lay line with the current and with no where to go with a pack of boats just above me, I ended up missing the mark and having to circle around and duck a bunch of boats to get back to the mark. From there I just held on and finished 28th.

In the 2nd race the wind was up another knot or two, same direction, same current. I was holding on around mid-fleet when I lost it downwind and death rolled. The current and wind made it hard to get the boat turned and righted so I lost a bunch of boats on that leg. I caught a few folks on the next two legs and finished 30th. Out of energy with the wind continuing to increase a bit, I decided I had enough fun for the weekend and skipped the last race.

Photo by Paul Almany

It was great to sail with some folks I hadn’t seen in quite a while and nice to be able to sail a big event much closer to home. Thanks to Norfolk Yacht and Country Club and ODU Sailing for all the effort they put into this event. Given the scheduling and re-scheduling of it over the past year, it was no easy feat.

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The wind and conditions for the 2nd day of ILCA Nationals was much like yesterday – out of the South West at 8-10. The big difference today was that it was much more steady and didn’t require any course or starting line changes.

In the first race I had a dismal start and got shot out the back. I made up some boats on the 2nd beat and managed to finish around mid-fleet.

Don Hahl
Don Hahl between races

In the 2nd race I started closer to the pin with clear air and worked my way out to the left. Unfortunately for me the right had better angles and was still mid-fleet at the top mark. I made up a few spots and finished 24th.

By the 3rd race the current had switched pushing us over the line and we had one general recall before getting a clean start. I didn’t have a stellar start, but finally felt like I was able to keep the boat moving and picked some shifts well to be around the top 10 at the top mark. I sailed conservatively to stay with those around me and lost a few boats here and there and ended up 17th. That was the first race all weekend that I felt like I was actually sailing how I wanted to and actually competing.

Saturday evening I met up with some folks from FBYC and we caught up over dinner on the water.

Harris River near Hampton VA

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Ready to Launch at Norfolk Yacht and Country Club

For the first day of the ILCA Nationals I launched from Norfolk Yacht and Country Club and we sailed out into the James River off Craney Island. This took close to an hour to sail to and is an area I’ve never sailed in when sailing out of NYCC or ODU.

We were sailing the ILCA trapezoid course with the split ILCA 6 (Radial) fleets sailing the outer course and the ILCA 7 (Standard) sailing the inner course. The current on the course would end up being a really big factor. At the beginning of the day the current was ebbing and with the wind out of the west – the wind lined up with the current so both were coming straight down the course. This helped keep us from being over early at the start, but also made it very tough to pick the layline right and not hit the mark.

Sailing in current is hard. Sailing in current when the wind is shifty is even harder. Just when I’d get the feel figured out and feel like the boat is starting to move, the wind would shift and I’d have to re-acclimate to the new wind direction.

First race had a terrible start, was really deep at the top mark. Went right downwind and caught a shift/pressure early and rode that around 8 or so boats that had gone more left. On the upwind I banged the same side (now left) and went around another 8 or so boats and on the final downwind I stuck to that same side and passed a few more boats. Each time catching the shifts just right and found myself finishing 10th.

postponed
Postponed off and on

We then spent over 2 hours waiting for the RC to set and reset the course to changing winds and for the Radial fleet to get a start. Eventually they got one only to have a 40-degree shift right at the start and about the time they were approaching the weather mark, the race abandoned only to have to return to start again.

By the time racing was started the current had switched directions and the chop picked up. I had two less exciting races mostly poking around mid fleet. We wouldn’t get to shore until after 6pm after spending nearly 9 hours on the water. I de-rigged and left to find dinner and cheap replacement watch for the one that had broken since last weekend.

No Quarter tucked in for the night.

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Old Dominion University and Norfolk Yacht and Country Club are hosting the 2021 ILCA US National Championship this weekend. Today was my travel day to have a nice easy afternoon drive to Norfolk to check in.

There are a few interesting new high-tech touches to this regatta I hadn’t seen before:

  • QR Codes for safety checks in and out of the water
  • Zoom skippers meeting the night before racing starts
  • Sail inspection done by photo upload to online form

Following check-in I had some time to explore so I drove down to the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge has some trails and some beautiful unspoiled beaches. Unfortunately, most of it was closed so I was able to run most of in 20 minutes and then walked a bit on the one part of the beach that was open.

This evening was the skippers meeting and racing starts tomorrow.

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Portland Head Light
Portland Head Light

On our final day we got Lobster Rolls in Muscongus Bay before making the drive to Portland where we checked out the Portland Head Light before catching our flight home. Driving through Portland – we were surprised at parts of it reminded us of the architecture in Church Hill in Richmond. It was certainly a fun trip and thanks to Laurie and John for having us along and showing us around!

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Saturday took us on a ferry trip to a island just off the coast called Monhegan Island. The island is a fishing village a couple miles off the coast and is 1.75 miles long by .75 mi wide and has just 60 year round residents. In the summer a number of inns and rental houses have many times that staying there. The island draws everything from day trippers like us to artists who come for the summer for inspiration.

The ferry took about an hour and was a little breezy on the top deck. When we got to the island we walked through ‘town’ and hiked along the south and east coasts. We saw rock shorelines, a ship wreck and cliffs.

Hiking back through the middle of the island we went past a beautiful light house and had a gorgeous view of the inhabited side of the island.

Monhegan Island Light House
Monhegan Island Light House

We walked through a little more of the town and stopped at Monhegan Island Brewing before catching the ferry back at the end of the day.

Hardy III just off Monhegan Island
Hardy III

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Friday took us to Acadia National Park where we hiked Jordan Pond and Bubbles. We wanted to go up Cadillac but didn’t have a reservation and were tuned away. We stopped by Sand beach and hiked to Thunder Hole and back.

Jordan Pond
Jordan Pond trail
Sand beach
Sitting on the rocky shoreline between Sand Beach and Thunder Hole

For dinner we went into Bar Harbor and had a great meal, some Ice Cream on the waterfront and checked out some of the shops.

Bar Harbor water front
Bar Harbor at sunset

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In Spring of 2020 we took a socially distanced trip to Deltaville to take the Snipe out for a day of practice and to get out on the water for the first time that year. We rigged the boat and sailed some reaches back and forth in front of the club in the 8-10 knot north wind for about 20 minutes. With everything going well we decided to sail downwind out into the river and into the stronger winds further south. Downwind was fine, but just a minute after turning to go upwind with the boat fully powered up we heard a bang and the shrouds all went slack. The mast stayed vertical, but it had fallen through the mast step and was sitting on the bottom hull of the boat 4″ lower than it was supposed to be. We hobbled back to the club and took the boat home for repairs.

Old Mast Step
Empty hole where the mast step once was

The boat is a 1986 Phoenix Snipe and had a wood mast step. It had likely been cracked for some time as the boat took on some water in the parking lot when rainwater would run down the mast. It wouldn’t get water in it when we were sailing or when it was stored covered with the mast down. So began some research to figure out how best to repair the step and make the boat sailable again. On the advice of a snipe-sailing friend I posted a note in the Snipe Sailing Facebook Group asking for suggestions. I knew rebuilding the structure that was there was going to be hard and was hoping someone had some experience with this. Marcus Ward suggested rather than repairing what was there, to just put a fiberglass plate over the hole with a new mast step and shortening the mast.

We started by getting a Selden mast step. The existing mast base was just a little too wide to fit in it so we needed to grind down the sides a bit to make it fit.

Mast Step
Mast base ground down to fit in the new step

Next a 12×12″x1/4″ G10 fiberglass board was acquired and we used cardboard and later a piece of wood to make a template of the fiberglass board that we were going to cut for it.

Mast Step Template
Showing the cardboard template, wood template and G10 fiberglass board

To cut the G10 fiberglass plate we got a saw blade, used for cutting tile, to use on the table saw.

Cutting G10
Using the tile-cutting blade to cut the G10 Fiberglass plate

To mount the plate in the boat we used West G/Flex Expoxy 655. The floor of the boat it was mounted to wasn’t flat and so this product has some filler and would bridge the gap and create a solid bond. Then screws were used to mount the mast step into the board.

Installed Mast Step

With the mast step in place, I needed to cut the mast down as far as I could so it would be the same height as it was. The challenge was the jib halyard block at the bottom of the mast. We would need to make the mast base fit around the block if we were going to shorten the mast as much as we could. The mast base was milled and ground down to fit the mast.

Mast Plug

The next step was actually cutting down the mast. I used a 200-tooth aluminum and plastic blade on a miter saw to get a clean and square cut on the mast.

Cut down Mast

The final step was mounting the vang blocks to the plate near the base of the mast and then actually re-rigging everything that had been taken apart.

Rigged

With the mast being .75″ taller than it was, I’m sure it needs to be re-measured and adjusted. The mast collar had to be adjusted just a bit so it hit the boat in the right spot. We’re just happy to be able to sail it and to extend the life of the boat a little bit longer.

Mast Collar

Huge thanks to Marcus Ward for the idea, Stan Deutsch for the help and tools, and Frank Hoos for milling the mast base.

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Parts:

ILCA Dinghies rigged at NYCC
Rigging at NYCC

The forecast for Sunday of the ILCA District 11 Championship at Norfolk Yacht and Country Club called for a little better wind than we had yesterday. Being tied in points with 2nd place and a few points behind the leader with a few folks just a couple points behind me, I had to have a good day with top 3 finishes to stay on the podium.

A crowd at the race 1 finish
Crowd at race 1 finish

The pressure to finish well put only a little pressure on the first race to have a good start – only I started too well and was called over early and had to go back. Just as I cleared myself and turned to go back upwind the tiller extension popped out of the tiller and I had to stop and fix it. The vang also fell out of the boom and I was able to fix that once I was going upwind. So I started about 15-20 lengths behind everyone and just looked for a clear lane and tried to go fast. I caught some shifts and came in on port at the weather mark, ducked a few boats and rounded around 6-7. Downwind I stayed to the right and started working the boat in the waves and puffs, stayed away from the other boats that were in each others’ air and went around all of them. I was first to the leeward mark and I held onto that for the 2nd lap to win it. What an exciting way to start the day!

ILCA at the starting line
ILCA at the startging line

We had similar conditions for the next 3 races. I generally favored the left until the last race when the current turned and the right did a little better upwind. It was great having good boat speed so even when I wasn’t in the exact best spot to start, I was able to get clear air to be among the leaders upwind. Downwind I held my own. As the day went on I was really wiped out and out of energy. I fell back to 3rd and then 5th and then 8th in the subesequent race. I was doing all the right things to be a contender, just ran out of energy to make it happen.

Alex sailed well enough to maintain his lead. David hung in there and had some good downwind moves to get around some boats to save some points. Jake had a great day including a race win to take 3rd and I fell to 4th place.

NYCC did a great job putting on the regatta and running races. It was nice to sail on the same waters as ILCA Nationals next month and get more familiar with Norfolk and Iook forward to coming back next month.

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