Brant Beach Yacht Club would host the 2021 ILCA Masters Atlantic Coast Championship on what would be a rather windy August weekend. I started well in the first race, had a reasonable first leg in the middle to upper part of the 30 boat standard fleet. Downwind I got the flipsies and ended up towards the back of the fleet. The second race went much the same and after flipping too many times I called it a day and skipped the final race.
I intended to race on Sunday, but upon arrival at the club it was clear that I had re-aggravated a foot injury from the prior weekend. With some travel and other activities I have coming up the next month, I didn’t want to put any of that in jeopardy and packed up the boat and headed home early.
Saturday saw beautiful weather – mostly sunny with winds starting around 12 and building to about 15-16 knots out of the south west
We had 14 boats with 9 ILCA 7 (Standard) and 4 ILCA 6 (Radial). We all started on the same line which made things more fun with more boats to race with around the course. Some of the Radial sailors were really fast and were nearby and beating many of the standards around the course. It kept things interesting at mark roundings.
FBYC’s junior coach for the summer, Francisco Renna, put on a clinic in the standard fleet. He was fast all the way around the course and nobody came close to him in all 5 races. Rob Whittemore sailed consistently fast and consistently in the right spot to stay just ahead of me and Luke Hayes who tied for 3rd place with the tiebreaker going to Luke.
All day I had great starts and focused on winning the boat. I held my lane ok, but wasn’t as fast as I could have been upwind. I chalk some of that to my thinking it was summer sailing and I didn’t need hiking boots. The bruises on my feet later in the day would say otherwise.
David Hinkle and the RC did a great job keeping the course square getting us started cleanly.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Norfolk Yacht and Country Club hosted the first day of the ILCA District 11 Championship. We planned to go on time and a few of us launched and by the time we got to the end of the dock the RC put up a postponement, so we came and hung out for about 2 hours before there was enough to race with.
Out on the race course we had 4-5 knots – not great – but enough to race in. I had a terrible start without any speed at the gun and got shot out the back pretty quick. I tacked out to the right, ducked a bunch of boats and found some clean air and went to work. I rounded the top in 5 and about halfway down the run the wind shut off and then turned completely around. I was to the right and figured it out as fast as anyone and at one point was ahead of everyone. Alex played the zephyrs better and shot ahead to win it. Jack and I split tacks and he played the shifts better and I finished 3rd.
After the first race there was no wind whatsoever. We sat around and got swarmed by sand flies. 45 minutes later we were quite happy when the wind filled in not just so we could go sail, but to blow the flies away.
Over the next 3 races the wind would fill for 20 minutes or so and then go very light for 5-10 minutes. This repeated throughout the races. I had good starts near the boat and generally sailed well with a few moments of poor decisions and being in the wrong spot on the course. By the 4th race the current was really ripping slightly from the right making the upwind tacks very challenging to keep boat speed going. I would finish 8-5-3 in those races putting me in 3rd overall.
David Hartman sailed consistently and he too had a few moments he got on the wrong side of the course. The hero of the day was Rebecca – she was originally signed up for a Radial and switched to a full rig and probably weighs half of what some of the fleet weigh. She ran away with the last two races and is currently 2nd. After winning the first race, Alex sailed consistently and had all top 5 finishes to be leading the fleet.
Fishing Bay Yacht Club held their first one design event of the year and we had 6 standard rig ILCA dinghies there to sail with us including a new member. The wind forecast wasn’t great. We postponed an hour and once we saw wind start to fill from the south east we headed across the Piankatank river to Area B.
For the first race we had about 8-9 knots of wind out of the ESE. I had a good start, tacked somewhat early and lead Holly and Alain to the right where I had been expecting the wind to go. Not only did the wind go left, but there was more pressure there and Chris and Mike had both gone pretty deep left. Coming together at the top mark Mike and Chris were 5-8 lengths ahead of me and I had to follow them downwind on what was more of a very broad reach. At the bottom mark I immediately went left to the layline and used some speed to pass Chris and catch up to Mike who tried to tack above me towards the top of the mark. He tacked a little close and I was able to keep my speed through his lee and eventually pinch him off tracking clear ahead to starboard near the mark. From there I extended a bit downwind to win the first race.
For the 2nd race the RC shifted the course to the left. As a sidebar the starting line was perfectly square to the course in every single race – the RC did a great job there. I had a perfect start at the boat and two boats down the line were over early. Meanwhile Alain got shut out on the wrong side of the committee boat and started late. I focused on sailing in pressure and favored the left side of the course and just worked on extending my lead. Mike and Chris duked it out behind me and Chris got ahead when Mike fouled him at the 2nd upwind mark rounding allowing Chris to finish 2nd.
In Race 3 Mike and I started at the starboard end of line with Mike just to to leeward. I was a few seconds late to pull the trigger and Mike hit the line full speed and quickly pulled a few lengths ahead. I tried to find a wind lane out to the right. The left still had more pressure and Mike had a comfortable lead at the top mark. Alain who had also gone left was just ahead of me and I followed him downwind. On the 2nd upwind I tacked early and used the pressure to the left to get ahead of Alain. I started to catch Mike on the downwind, but ran out of course to catch him and settled for a 2nd.
By the 4th race the wind dropped a couple knots – still steady enough to know where it was coming from. I had another good start winning the boat and just powered over the fleet and out to the left. Tacked just under the layline to be sure I didn’t over stand and then just sailed conservatively to stay ahead of the rest of the fleet. Alain a very solid race right behind me to finish 2nd.
Felt like a great day where I only made a couple mistakes and when I did, they didn’t hurt to bad. It was fun mixing it up with Mike, Chris, Alain, Britt and Holly and the RC ran a great set of races. Between races I even got some pictures of the Flying Scots.
What wind we didn’t have on Saturday came on Sunday making for some windy racing. With only 4 boats out today, the regatta came down to how I did against David Hartman who started the day 2 points ahead. We were joined by David Grace, a CNU sailor, and Frank Patch.
I focused on having good clean starts and working to hold my lane off the line on the first beat. We had some current going left to right which lead me to favor the left side of the course and staying on starboard as long as I dared. As would be proven to me, picking shifts to the right would still beat playing the current, especially given the winds in the mid to upper teens gusting to 20.
In most of the Races I played the middle left of the course, David G and I would cross tacks and be within a few boat lengths of each other at the top mark, sometime me ahead and sometimes him. I would make up some distance on the reach and David would either pass me or pull ahead on the downwinds. Once I was behind I sailed a little more conservatively to hold my position and not break anything and save my energy for the next start. I did manage to lead one whole race capsized once in another race. David and Frank were usually just behind us on the trapezoid course with inner and outer loops (we sailed the outer).
Racing in this wind was the perfect way to start the season and get comfortable in the boat again. With a regatta at FBYC in May followed by Districts in late May and ILCA Nationals in June – both at Norfolk YCC – this was exactly what I needed to get back into ILCA sailing. Thanks Max and everyone at Hampton Yacht Club for hosting, and to David H, David G, Henry, Britt and everyone else who came out to sail. It was great to get out and go sail somewhere else after not doing any travel regattas last year and nice to see everyone again.