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Frostbite Racing Recaps

Frostbite Wrap Up: 12/1/18

The breeze in the morning was so non-existent that most of the racers sculled their boats from dock to mooring ball and waited, perhaps thinking the day would be cancelled. Oops, the breeze filled in from the Southeast at 5-8kts, meaning the first place to have wind was the race course. That left many boats scrambling to get out to the race course on time. Fortunately, there was a strong ebbing current pushing towards the starting line and only three were late. There’s an old standby lesson in there, get out to the race course early and be prepared. Interestingly, the boat that missed the start entirely and finished dead last, went on to win the next three races.

Race One

In race one, with some boats late, there was plenty of room on the starting line to accommodate all. The strong ebbing current was a big factor, but the racers did a nice job on staying low, with no one in the second row trying to push them over. Andrew Baker had a great start; mid-line yet pin-most boat since no one was to leeward, inches below the line. Luck or skill? Based on his starts for the rest of the day, I’d say skill. The fleet mostly held starboard tack (tacking needed to be kept to a minimum), just squeaking above an anchored barge. Those with poor starts got flushed out and tacked to port. Besides clearing their air, the thinking may have been to work towards the deeper side of the harbor with the favorable current. All the boats that worked the left side of the course came out ahead anyway, regardless of slightly less current, due a couple of light puffs filling in. The shifts were small, so the premium was on good boat speed. Heeling a bit to leeward, sitting forward, foot mode over point mode so don’t trim too tight, and be gently on the helm. The dilemma was in the rounding as the breeze dropped to a few knots and the current was cramping boat speed. Turning dead downwind was troublesome and yet no matter how much boats tried to heat it up the current seemed to be winning. The first answer was to relax and get the crew weight right; forward, leeward, together. Next was to keep that chute flying so indeed stick to the notion of heating up to increase “Apparent”, staying on the headed jibe helped so pay attention to that wind angle! Other helpful ingredients were to keep the pole forward, nearly on the forestay and hold the spin sheet in your hand, not through the blocks. Twings were not necessary, so there’s one less block to add to the friction. Next comes tremendous patience; look study, wait, make small but deliberate moves. Yeah there’s a plan! What are you patiently waiting for? Well, either wind, or for the race to be cancelled. It was not. Jim Petitpas managed to sail low, flat, with a collapsing kite and yet make a three-boat length gain on the leaders. It made absolutely no sense, yet the RC watched it happen. But they were sailing a direct B-line to the finish while the leaders heated up towards the left side of the run. Perhaps Jim was aided by the barge blocking current I don’t know. However, things made more sense the rest of the run to the finish as low, flat and slow did not work for Jim. A legitimate breeze filled it from the SSE and the first boat to catch it was Frank McNamara, but unfortunately, he was bit towards the back of the fleet and couldn’t catch the leaders that had protected their port hip. Jim was still technically up current and closer to the finish but the downwind left spelled doom. Of note, was the course of Jonathan Austin. Jonathan had a poor start, worked the less favorable right side of the course but the sailed a very quick top of the beat to round close to the rest of the fleet. He was the first boat to jibe to port to go left and looked good when he jibed back to starboard with a more consistently filled kite than his competition. However, instead of jibing back to port to keep his lateral separation from the fleet he kept his starboard jibe into the fleet. Sadly, the breeze filled in from the left, where Jonathan had been, while Frank ducked him and sailed into the new breeze. At the finish, deservingly so, Andrew Baker kept his lead from start to finish. John Power was an extremely close second and couple of feet back was Jim Petitpas for third. Frank McNamara was 4th while Jonathan Austin, held on for 5th.

Race Two

Race two was a similar race with breeze at the start and up the beat and then dying at the most inopportune time, the run. The one difference was Jim Davidian, with Charlie Quigley, were on time for the start. Andrew Baker again nailed an awesome start near the leeward end of the line with only Davidian below him. The drag race was on between Andrew, Jim, and John Power, all hoping to clear the anchor line of the barge, Jim had to shoot it a little. It was obvious the right side of the course was weak, unfortunate for Frank McNamara (14th) and Jonathan Austin (10th) who both bailed right after poor starts. Meanwhile, Jim Davidian with Charlie (both in blue jeans) tacked and dipped Andrew Baker and John Power while crossing Lars Carlson. Surprisingly, Andrew Baker did not soon tack to consolidate his first-place positioning. That was particularly interesting in the strong ebbing current that was keeping the lay-lines narrower. Over-stand in an ebbing, advantageous current and the current may no longer be helping you at all. Boats have been known to get swept past the mark entirely. Do so on the port tack lay-line and it compounds the issue with the “coffin corner” position on the soon-to-be starboard tack boats. Davidian tacks to starboard and rounds first. Baker rounds 2 boat lengths behind with a nice gap on third place. Third is Kevin Stevenson just rolling over fourth, John Power. Kevin’s boat is soon hurt by the spin pole going well back, instead of staying near the forestay. His Chute won’t fill. Power punches ahead and rolls into a jibe to clear his blanked air. It looks great, but there’s still a whole run to go. Davidian’s run is as simple as a PB&J. No Fluff. He retraces his beat on the run. He sails starboard jibe towards the airport (Jeffries Cove) and as he reaches the barge, he finally jibes to port in a nice heated angle and charges to finish line with no one close. Bullet one. Kevin Stevenson follows Jim and picks off 2nd. What was interesting about Kevin’s path was, like Jim Petitpas’ first race, he held a running position for a long period of time. It looked awful but the kite managed to stay full as they sailed directly into the current but directly towards the finish line too. There was no wind anywhere else on the course but while he stayed in clear air, the rest of the next pack (3rd-8th) were all bunching into each other. Two boats worked the center of the run and finish 3rd (Matt Flynn) and 4th (Andrew Baker). John Power, initially passing Stevenson at the rounding, gets caught a bit towards the Boston side and drops to 8th. But then again, the finishes from 3rd to 8th were very tight.

Race Three

Race three can easily be described as Ditto. Well mostly, the line a little shorter, the current was still ebbing and there was a right shift all the up to go. The RC thought for sure boats would be over. Ditto! Andrew Baker nails yet another perfect start but…. Jim Davidian is near the pin and looking to clear the barge and hit the left side. He does, but then ducks both Andrew Baker and Saul Rosen (whose last three races were 5, 2, 4) and heads towards the mark. Saul is pinning Andrew a bit before tacking to windward and behind of Jim. Andrew immediately tacks to follow Saul and Jim. The drag race is on again, and again Jim is leading the port tackers to the starboard tack lay-line. Jim rounds first. Downwind Jim sails to Jefferies Cove, uses the barge (it seemed) to block the adverse current, and comes reaching in to the finish for bullet number two.

Race Four

Race four has a bit more breeze and the Race Committee opts for a slightly longer course, a Modified Windward/Leeward. Andrew Baker wins another start. Jim Davidian has a good start just to windward of him. Jim is pinning Andrew Baker from tacking to port. Jim goes left to nearly corner (still pinning Andre), tacks to port, sails to windward mark, tacks and rounds first with Baker two lengths behind. Downwind Davidian plays it a bit more neutral down the rhumb-line of the course. He doesn’t extent his lead, but he does sail a less risky course. He picks the left gate, which is a half-boat length closer, than Matt Flynn in Wasabi. The right side of the course is fine on the short last beat and Davidian, Quigley and crew nail another one. Bullet three.

-Brad Churchill, Racing Program Manager