I got to sail my first Screwpile Regatta on Paul and Julie Wash’s S2 7.9 Cheeky Monkey along with Becca Wash and Mike Karn. We had a great weekend finishing 3rd in the 13-boat PHRF-C class (results). That included finishing out the regatta 2-2-1-1 in the final 4 of the 7 races.
On Saturday I got a ride to Solomons Island Maryland with the Double Eagle crew. Cheeky Monkey was still being delivered so I got to go hang out with Double Eagle for some practice. That was followed by some pool time and then boat work when Cheeky Monkey arrived to get it ready – 1st for sleeping and 2nd for racing in the morning. The transition from sleeping quarters to race boat and visa versa would be repeated each morning and evening. After getting settled I went for dinner in Solomons Island with the Double Eagle crew followed by a trip to the legendary Tiki Bar.
The first day of racing called for light wind – and it delivered. After a short postponement on the water the wind appeared to fill in and we got started. We beat the whole fleet off the start by 20 seconds and led the fleet up the beat as the wind started dissipating. Eventually we had nothing for wind and the race was abandoned.
Back at the starting line we threw the anchor out during the postponement and had fun yelling ‘starboard’ at all of the boats trying to stay near the course in the current while drifting into us. An hour or so later the wind finally filled in and we started a light wind race.
Most of the racing I’ve done lately has been on boats with 6-8 crew so coming down to a 5-person boat that I had never been on before was a bit of an adjustment. None of it was hard or really all that new, just the timing and coordination that were a little different.
When we finally did start we were a little late at the line and consequently spent most of the race just following the fleet around, ending up in 9th. In the second race we nailed the start at the boat and had options going up the course. We couldn’t quite hang with some of the faster boats, but we did well to stay engaged behind the leaders and found ourselves with a 5th putting us in 7th after the first day of racing. Not a bad start, but left room for improvement. By the end of the day we started to get a lot more comfortable as a crew and things started getting easier.
Post-racing was a trip to the pool and out to dinner with the Cheeky Monkey crew.
Racing on Monday got a lot better for us. In the first race we still had a bit of a late start and ended up in the middle of the fleet. On the plus side I think we finally got the crew work figured out among us. I was on the mast and my responsibilities were raising and lowering the spinnaker, raising and lowering the board, and calling wind. Now that we were coordinated, I got to pay a lot more attention to the wind, feeding that info back to Mike Karn and Paul in the back, and it really started to pay off for us.
By the 2nd race of the day we had a decent start, were one of the top boats around the 1st windward mark and kept playing it smart and fast to pick off a little more time on the boats ahead. We ended up being 2nd over the line to a much faster boat who only corrected out 3 seconds ahead of us – ie: 4 seconds faster and that would have been a 1 for us instead of a 2.
The 3rd race of the day went much the same. We had a good start, played the shifts upwind, had no major foul ups with the spinnaker at the marks and continued to chip away at the boats in front of us. Unfortunately, the story played out the same and we were over the line 2nd, but the boat ahead corrected to just 5 seconds ahead.
We were happy with a 7-2-2 on the day bringing us up to 6th with a 4 point spread between the 3 boats ahead of us.
Today was our day and our wind. With a more steady pressure of 8-10 knots and partly cloudy skies we were poised to sail well. We had a good game plan and a good read on the weather that proved out to be dead on by the end of the day. Mike and Paul got us a good start and having watched the fleets ahead of us and the wind, I picked out a pretty distinct pattern in the shifts and clouds. From there we punched out, stayed ahead of the shifts and lead wire-to-wire. Right at the finish a few boats rating either the same (Spinster) or faster than us (Easy Button) came up pretty close, but we managed to get over the finish line just ahead of them.
The 2nd and final race- this one a 5-leg race was similar to the earlier race – only the shifts got even more dramatic. But the pattern remained and after winning the boat at the start, we got out to the right, picked a couple shifts while covering the fleet and lead at the first mark. Downwind we got caught by some boats who brought pressure and we found ourselves rounding the bottom mark with boats right on our tail. We played it a little more conservative up the middle-right side and Easy Button hit the right corner when a big righty came in, and just went right by us. The 4th leg-downwind kept everyone about the same as the wind began to give out a little bit. Many of the boats played the middle left where there happened to be pressure at the beginning of the leg. We knew it was going to go away and eventually come in from the right – just as it had in the previous leg, so we kept ourselves to the right side of the fleet. When it finally came in from the right and with pressure, it came way more than we were expecting and we went from being in the middle of the course to laying the finish while all of the boats out to the left were hung out. We took the gun and our second bullet of the day.
We were really thrilled at how we did in the last 4 races to string together a solid set of 1s and 2s. That jumped us up to 3rd overall and were definitely the best boat on the day with 2 bullets. Congrats Paul and Julie Wash – you’ve put a great program together and it was a lot of fun sailing Cheeky Monkey to a podium finish.
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Top photo from Spinsheet.