Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Puget Sound Thursday Night Racing

Windworks offers Thursday Night Racing for members and non-members, you just sign up a few days in advance and show up.

About 18:00 those participating in the evenings racing meet with Eric who provides the course details and randomly assigns crews and boats.

Three make up the crew so you meet your group on the dock and head out to the start line.

The mushroom mooring bouy is the West end of the start line
The white painted Rock at the upper right is the East end of the start line.

This is Warren and Garr, I drew a great crew, they both do this regularly and have the local knowledge we need.

This is where you want to see your competition.

Today the winds were out of the North so we did  three windward leeward races.

At least three other fleets were out racing in the same area so we often had to sail through their fleets.
Two seconds and a fourth, races done at sundown.

The discussion is lively on the docks + some good Ale

A great way to experience racing on Puget Sound.

Second Time out I drew Eric and Erin. We had a first and a second, the third race was cancelled due to high winds and things started breaking.

Racers accumulate points individually so the only way to stay in the hunt is to participate frequently and place in the top three. 

Puget Sound Thursday Night Racing

May was tune up month for the Capri 22 racing at Windworks. After reading about it in the newsletter I decided i would give it a try. The Individual points start in June so I walked into the start of the races that count. Around 18:00 Eric who is the race organizer shuffles everyone into the small classroom to detail the plans for the evening races. Here I find out they will try to get in 3 races if winds allow and learn that I will crew with Warren and Garr. Eric decides who will race with who to make sure the teams are constantly mixed up each week to prevent any type of advantage by having one team with a lopsided advantage by experience. Since we had twelve sailors show up he divided into crews of three and 4 boats. I had sailed with Warren before on a pleasure cruise had met Garr for the first time at one of the monthly happy hours. 
Each boat is skippered by a person chosen by Eric as well as he knows who has the most experience on these Capri 22's then he attempts to assign two other crew to each vessel based on his knowledge of the crew to level the playing field. So in the group of twelve were all levels of experience from those who had years of racing to those who were racing for their first time. 
We learned that with the North winds we would start on a close hauled beat to a green can a couple of miles North of the Marina and back across the start/finish line. If winds allowed we would make three races by sundown.

Garr was our skipper so he took the helm at the first race and with just 4 vessels in the race we would have plenty of space at the long start line that stretches from the marina breakwater to a mushroom mooring buoy a good 100+ yards off the wall. Garr had obviously races here lots so I took mental notes He believed there was an advantage to a Port tack start so at the 5 minute warning we sailed the line to prepare to tach and come across the line on a Port tack. With the long start line it isn't difficult to zip across right at the start horn.
Garr knew the winds were best close to shore so we found ourselves at the mark on a starboard tack and had to drop below a port tack competitor even after warning "Starboard", They did their 360 penalty and we zoomed around the mark and the finish line in second place.
My turn at the helm so I planned on just copying Garr's effort and planned on a Port start. the 5 minute warning and I headed out past the mooring buoy, tacked and headed for the start line. Whoa! whats happening ?, all of a sudden 20+ Lasers were obviously using the same line for a start of their own that had me sailing through this huge fleet of fast moving targets all on a Starboard tack! Whew, we made it and the start about a minute late but we had good winds that allowed us to catch up with the two vessels in the lead at the first mark. Again I was on a port tack but there would be just enough room for me to tack in front of them and round the mark first., The winds were great now and I tacked through the winds and with my inexperience I over steered and lost the advantage the other two sailed right on by and no matter that we all three chose a little different course to t he finish it was just not enough and so I fell from first to fourth on one blown tack.
Warren decided he would start on starboard and we found ourselves in second after the first Mark. The lead vessel was way out front but Warrens' local knowledge had us closing fast and just a few seconds behind scoring another second place finish.
The beer and lively conversation on the dock as the sunlight faded convinced me that I would be doing this as often as possible. Racing in the sound is not all about sail and knowing where the wind is but also where the currents will be favorable The learning environment here is rich and since you never know who you will crew with there is always someone new to learn from. 
On my second experience I got to sail with Eric, the race organizer (and who else has more experience here since is a paid employee who manages every race) For Windworks, and Erin a new employee who wanted to come along and learn on her first race. Eric informed me I would be on the helm for every race since this way it took him a bit out of the equation and Erin was to new so she would just crew. Great, this would really help me with repeated races to refine my technique at the helm. Just three boats for today's races.
The start for the first race was delayed due to no wind and this time since we had South winds we would cross the start on a windward beat on a triangular course to the Low water Mark out near the beginning of the channel going to the Ballard locks, around a green can and back to the start/finish. The problem was the Low water mark had been removed so Eric got on the VHF to notify the fleet that the course had been shortened. We placed 1st on the first race since we were in excellent position when the fleet was notified of the change in course! The winds really pipped up so Eric notified the fleet to put in the first reef in the mainsail before the start of the second race. One vessel elected to put in a second reef since they had a hanked on jib and could not reduce the foresail by rolling a bit in. We know had a windward leeward course and with the winds beginning to gust on the front edge of a weather system it was a lively race. Eric counseled me to just feather up into the gust rather then use the main to spill off wind. After a few hard round ups causing us to tack on one I returned to using the main to spill off the excess. We finished second and began to prepare for the third race by putting in a second reef on the main.We hove to put in the second reef and as we fell off to start the start sequence I looked up and noticed a popped sail slid on the mainsail. At this point Eric decided to call the race rather than risking breaking any more stuff. 
At the dock the Beer and committee talk were good again and Eric announced that just the second race would count since not everyone heard the course change on the VHF. Darn, I could have had three more points! Maybe I can make them up Thursday?

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