Our group was a little slow getting going this morning. Many of us were up late at the Ybor St. Patrick’s Day parade and the time change didn’t help either. The conditions were finally what we had been wanting all week. 10-15 knots out of the west.
Since three boats sailed in 3 races yesterday and the rest of use had DNSs it wasn’t much of a boat race for the rest of us. Most of us just considered today to be the real race and wanted to finish as well as we could in whatever races we sailed today despite not being able to get on the podium.
We didn’t have much time to tune up before the first race and only got through each maneuver (tack, jibe, hoist, douse) once. The goal at the start was to be conservative and just stay with fleet as it went up the course. My conservative start worked out; in fact we ended up with the best start in the fleet hitting the line right at the gun with clear air and full speed.
I had been told that a Front Runner is ‘just a big Laser.’ Not having much familiarity with larger boats, I didn’t have anything else to go by, so I just sailed it like a big Laser. I focused on some of the basics in a laser like sailing the boat flat, neutralizing the helm and keeping the main sail trimmed as well as I could.
The west wind in the area just south of Davis Island is very similar to the wind on many of the rivers along the Chesapeake. The chop is small and the wind is puffy in phases. It turned out that our boat speed up the first beat was as good as any other boat and by picking the shifts right we found ourselves first around the windward mark with a 2 boat length lead over Mark H’s boat that won all 3 races yesterday.
Downwind I did a terrible job sailing the right angles with the a symmetrical spinnaker, but like a laser, I was able to keep it moving through the waves and even managed to pump the main on some puffs and surf some waves. We held the lead into the leeward mark as we made the turn for the second and final lap. On both legs we continued to match the boat speed of Mark H’s boat and managed a 6 boat length lead at the finish.
It was great feeling to win the first race I ever sailed in a new boat; particularly in such a deep fleet with so many boats. My crew Sue and I were pretty psyched. We took that enthusiasm into the second race and sailed very well to a 2nd place finish. At that point the wind started picking up and a little water had leaked into the boat changing the handling characteristics and it took me a race to relearn how the boat handles.
In the end our finishes were around 1, 2, 7, 5 putting us into 5th place overall. That definitely hits the goal of sailing competitively and sticking with the fleet. And the sailing conditions were great which added a nice ending to a week of difficult and un-sailable conditions.
Even though the sailing wasn’t as good as it could have been, the trip to Florida has been an incredibly fun time. I want to thank the Front Runner crowd – Matt B, Jen, Mark, Melissa, Kevin, Matt L and everyone else for bringing me along as well as Mike K for loaning me the boat. You’ve all been telling me for years how great of a trip this is and now I’m a believer. Thanks for the great time!