It was the first weekend in December and the plan had been to race in FBYC’s winter series but fog and lack of good weather on future weekends for a delivery to Irvington for a haul out meant today was the day to make the trip.

With the winter series going on, we left the dock and sailed out into the fog in the mouth of the Piankatank where the other boats were racing. We could see maybe a 1/2 mile at time. We sailed by the other boats and then headed out to Stingray Point and around it and into the Rappahannock. The fog was a little denser out there and that was the only run in with another boat when a 25′ center console fishing boat went buzzing across our bow with barely visible lights.

The rest of the trip was smooth and the fog lifted as we closed in on the bridge.

Once in Irvington we pulled the sails off, did a few other clean up items and carpooled back to FBYC.

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FBYC closed the regular season with the Closing Day Distance Race. The weather was absolutely gorgeous with beautiful fall foliage – it felt more like September than almost November. Except there wasn’t much wind. Knowing it was a distance race with little prospect of more wind later and oysters to be eaten this afternoon the RC chose to start us on time and let us make the most of what wind there was.

I was sailing on Battle Rhythm, we were the 3rd fastest boat and thus the 3rd to last boat to start. We were just behind Tradition as we came to the line and ended up underneath a bunch of boats who had parked up just above the line. It took us a long time to sail around them and after 35 minutes to the weather mark – we set a spinnaker and headed due east out of the river to the next mark of the course.

We soon passed a few boats that had rounded the first mark ahead of us. With the spinnaker up, we were a little low and eventually had to drop it and go back to a jib as the wind went a little south. By the time we reached the far mark we were around 7-8th place. On the way back to Stove Point we passed two cruising boats leaving only Afterthought, Nanuq and Goin’ ahead of us. We didn’t catch them, but had a good time to get at 4th and learned some things about how to make the light reaching spinnaker work in light wind and close reaching.

Following the race were oysters and we had a great time catching up with a lot of folks for possibly the last time of the year.

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We had a really nice day for some practice aboard Todd’s J99 Battle Rhythm along with Kevin, Ron, and Ron’s wife Nancy. The wind was out of the NNE from 10 to about 16 while we were out there. We started with some compass and wind angle calibrations and then did some upwind sailing to the mouth of the Rappahannock where we could see all the boats up the river sailing in the Turkey Shoot Regatta while we tried different settings with the jib sheet leads.

When we were off Windmill point it was pretty waving and choppy and as we were setting the chute we took one huge wave over the bow soaking Todd who had gone forward to get the spinnaker ready. We also sailed through a pod of dolphins at one point.

Kevin, Ron, Jon, Todd, Nancy
Kevin, Ron, Jon, Todd, Nancy

With the chute up we had some really nice running conditions and got the boat planning a bit hitting over 10 knots a couple of times. As we got close to the Piankatank we did a few gybes and headed in for the day.

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After missing Saturday’s racing while helping Todd deliver the boat – day 2 at the Stingray Point Regatta would be the first race of 2023 for J99 Battle Rhythm. As we were heading out to the course we were seeing winds of 8-11 and we used it to practice some maneuvers with our short-handed 4-man crew of Todd, Len, Ron and myself.

The first race started on time – still in 8-10 knots and we had a fantastic start. Other boats in the A2 fleet had better first legs and we found ourselves deep in the fleet at the first mark. We picked up places as the race went on and as the wind continued to drop. By the last downwind leg to the finish it was pretty light. We had past most of the boats ahead of us except Afterthought and Voodoo 2 who were just ahead of us drifting to the finish. Just as we got close the RC abandoned the race with all 3 of us just a couple hundred yards from the finish. It was disappointing to come all of this way and race through all of that, but wasn’t going to be a fair race and was the right call. We definitely learned a lot, started to get the boat dialed in and worked on finding the sweet spot on the new spinnaker we were flying.

After some time postponed motoring around to make some wind and stay cool – the sea breeze eventually filled in out of the south. The RC reset the course and sent us racing again. We didn’t have quite as good of a start this time and had to tack out pretty early and get away. That wasn’t awful as it was the right way for current relief and it allowed us to go in clear air. As the breeze built we spent the race getting back in the grove and taking our time in the maneuvers to not mess anything up. Sometimes we were pulling away from other boats, and other times they were running up on us. We got a 4th in that one.

In the last race of the day – now in the late afternoon, we had another pretty good start. This time we did better to keep up with Afterthought and Voodoo and they were just ahead of us for most of the first lap. The wind had built to 9-11 and we had to adjust modes for the wind and adjust our maneuvers with only the 4 of us to raise and lower sails a little slower to keep things controlled. Voodoo 2 and Afterthought did get a bit more ahead of us, but we held off the boats behind and managed a 5th.

I had a great time sailing with Len, Todd and Ron and it was fun to show all of these other fully crewed boats what we could do short handed.

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Carrie trimming the spinnaker as we sail under the Norris Bridge.
Carrie trimming the spinnaker as we sail under the Norris Bridge.

Today we took Todd’s J99 Battle Rhythm from the boatyard in Irvington, where it had been undergoing some repairs, to Deltaville. We missed the first day of the Stingray Point Regatta – but now have the boat at Fishing Bay Yacht club and ready to race. The wind was light on the Rappahannock for the 8-10 mile trip and we were able to get some sailing in. Even with just 4 of us onboard we were able to put up a new spinnaker to try out. Later as the wind shifted we did some upwind sailing too and arrived in Deltaville mid-afternoon.

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We started with a windy day along with some apprehension at the skippers meeting about what kind of conditions we might see out on the course. We were seeing gusts to 26 on the weather buoy at Stingray Point as we were leaving the dock. Out on the race course we had some shelter behind Stingray Point and saw at most 22 in the sailing area as we started. Onboard for the day were Todd, Jon, Joe, Reed, Ron and Len.

Battle Rythym J99 while racing.
Battle Rythym while racing.

First race was 1.2nm, we had a reef in and were doing a lot of figuring out on how to make the boat go. We didn’t get the reef set as well as we wanted and definitely didn’t tighten down the rig for the conditions. As expected the left was best and boats that went more left came back across with more pressure, less current and a better shift from around Stingray Point. We had started near the boat and had a good lane and eventually went up the middle left. There was a small issue with our first spinnaker set so we held off setting for a minute while we cleared something. Once the chute was up we were off and running. We did a little better on the second upwind and had a good downwind. Weren’t able to catch the fleet and ended up almost 2 minutes behind the next boat settling for 6th.

In the second race we had a terrific start at the boat and held our lane up the left side. We had the boat going and had good sets and douses and passed some boats on the first downwind. By the end only Nanuq was ahead and we corrected to 3rd overall.

For the 3rd race we didn’t have a good start and got stuck behind Corryvreckan near the boat-end of the line. We had to do a tack and went a little too far to the right. Boats on the left made out, but we did find some pressure to catch up. On the downwind we held our own. At the bottom mark the wind shut off and we were trying to go upwind in the same sloppy waves and just a couple knots of wind and against the current. We parked up there for about 8-10 minutes before it finally filled again and we were able to get the boat moving. We managed to put enough space between Corryvreckan and Excitation (who both went more right than us) to finish 3rd on the shortened upwind finish.

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It was a light air day of offshore buoy racing at Fishing Bay for the first day of the Fall Series. We had 6 boats in our fleet and wind out of the NNW at 2-4 knots for the first race.

Our port tack start at the boat in race 1.
Our port tack start at the boat in race 1.

At the start the wind was shifting all over the place and light. All of the boats were right in the box just behind the line and we were coming just below them all on port – just drifting through. Since everyone else was down the line and given the shift to the left, we started on port at the boat and worked our way upwind. I don’t recall ever winning the boat on port before.

The upwind .8 leg took us towards Stingray Point. We picked some shifts, but mostly looked for pressure and had to tack to clear away from other boats a time or two.

Fleet behind us once the wind filled in race 1.
Fleet behind us once the wind filled in race 1.

On the downwind leg it got even more light and shifty and we struggled to keep the chute full. Eventually pressure came down the course and were able to lay the finish as the 2nd boat over the line behind Sting and just ahead of Corryvreckan.

By the second race the wind went about 60 degrees to the left, now out of the west and we were sailing into the Piankatank. At the start, we were coming up on the boat end with Excitation close by and to leeward of us. Sting had an even better position and was able to shut us out requiring us to around at the boat and started about 40 seconds late behind everyone.

Upwind in race 2. Nanuq
Upwind in race 1

Upwind we focused on shifts and pressure and were able to get around a couple of the boats in our fleet. At the top mark, Afterthought, Excitation and Sting were ahead. We started downwind with some wind and worked to the left which was into the current that was taking us towards the finish. As we went down the course some boats jibed to the right and were becalmed. We held onto the left and eventually the current pushed us down to the finish behind Sting and Excitation.

With only 5 of us on the boat, it was a little challenging doing the maneuvers, but the light air helped and we got it down. It was great sailing with Todd, Spencer, Len and Joe. We wound up with a 2nd place finish overall.

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Sunday at the Stingray Point Regatta was even lighter than the day before. We thought we would be postponed out at the water to start the day, but there was around 4 knots and so we started.

Starting the 2nd lap of race 1.
Starting the 2nd lap of race 1.

With the course set towards the east, port tack took boats closer to Gwynn’s Island and any boat that went too far in that direction ended up becalmed over there. We were careful to pick the shifts and pressure often in the middle right of the course and later to the left when the current switched. We continued to work on our boat speed in light air and our crew maneuvers.

Ghosting downwind in race 2.
Ghosting downwind in race 2.

The second race ended up being shortened to 1 race. The wind went to just about nothing and luckily we had current pushing us down the course to the finish. There also was a good bit of power boat chop making it tough to keep the spinnaker full.

Despite the light outcome and not being a boat in a single race – it was still a fun event and we learned a lot more about the boat and how to make it go.

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The first day of buoy racing for the Stingray Point Regatta at Fishing Bay Yacht Club brought light air and a combined A1/A2 start consisting of 11 boats (5 with us in A1). This was the first time buoy racing for Battle Rhythm and there was a bit to be learned about making the boat go upwind. We also got a lot better at spinnaker work having a full crew and plenty of opportunities to put the sail up.

Excitation in the A2 fleet coming downwind.
Excitation in the A2 fleet coming downwind.

We had a very tough fleet with 3 of the boats being light sport boats that we seldom ever even saw on the race course except shortly after the start. We never even came close to correcting over them. Had we been sailing with most of the boats we normally sail with in the A2 fleet, we’d be closer to finishing mid-fleet.

Madelaine, Carrie, Dan, Len & Todd
Madelaine, Carrie, Dan, Len & Todd

Current at the mouth of the Piankatank definitely played a factor given how light the winds were. At one point they were so light during the second race that it was shortened to just one lap. By the 3rd race the wind started picking up, we had a good start and we even got to sit on the rail for a time.

Jon trimming spinnaker as we approach some crossing traffic.
Jon trimming spinnaker as we approach some crossing traffic.

Post racing there was a great party and band at the club and it was great catching up with folks from other boats and others who just came for the party.

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Labor Day Weekend started with the Stingray Point Regatta Stingray Light Distance Race. This was effectively a warm up for the 2 days of buoy racing on Saturday and Sunday. Only 1 other boat in our A1 fleet had arrived and was there to race and we were started with the A2 and B fleet.

GOIN', Excitation and Stardancer going upwind just after the start.
GOIN’, Excitation and Stardancer going upwind just after the start.

At the start the wind was pretty light. We worked our way upwind and out into the bay. There was some current around the mouth of the Rappahannock as we were sailing to weather heading North. Once we rounded the entrance to the Rappahannock we headed south again and were able to put up a spinnaker in the light air and catch up to the boats just ahead of us. It was a very tight reach and only because it was so light were we able to run the spinnaker almost like a code 0. GOIN’ was the only other boat with a spinnaker up and they were just ahead of us. As we approached – we couldn’t go above them or we couldn’t carry the chute. We couldn’t go below them because we wouldn’t lay the mark. Eventually that didn’t matter when a barge went by and messed up the wind for both of us requiring us to pull the chute to the deck and go upwind for less than a minute to fetch the mark.

Reaching under spinnaker until the barge messed up our wind.
Reaching under spinnaker until the barge messed up our wind.

Though our competition finished well ahead of us, it was a good day for only having 5 of us aboard the boat. Nice light day and we didn’t make any big mistakes and actually got to do some upwind sailing. More racing tomorrow and we’re going to get A LOT more light air practice.

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