Day 1 of Annapolis Labor Day Regatta
Longtime alumnus, Norm Olson, and a slew of JWA coaches sailed his boat QA 2 to a tie for first on day one of Annapolis Labor Day Regatta. Below is a breakdown of the race by tactician Kent Bartlett:
Day One of the inaugural Annapolis Yacht Club Labor Day Regatta was challenging. The tide predictions were way off. At 1130 it was predicted that the current would be at its maximum sending water out of the bay away from Annapolis when in reality it was flooding and it took two whole races to convince me of that fact. I thought it was just going to switch late if anything but really it was just going to do the exact opposite of what some scientist thought it was going to do. In the days leading up to Day One the forecasts said it would be light but the next day the forecasts bumped up a little and that happened every day. On the morning of Day One the forecasts said 8-10 knots and it was 8-10 knots. Let’s give those meteorologists a raise.
Here’s what we saw on the Division 3 race course:
The breeze shifted from 165 -175 degrees throughout the day with a very slow right persistant from 1100 to 1300 hours. After 1300 the breeze stabilized to about 175 degrees. For us deeper water was on the right side of the course when facing upwind and since it was flooding that meant the right was favored upwind and the left was favored downwind. Our 3rd race of the day proved that. For us the waves were big enough to affect our speed making us focus on every wave. For the bigger boats the waves looked more like chop and did not do much to affect their speed once they got rolling.
Being in the PHRF A2 our strategy was to keep our air clean. That was it: clean air. With 9/13 boats being faster than us we choose to start at the boat and when our air became tainted we tacked and stayed in the parallelogram formed by the right-most mark downwind and the windward mark. This area was our haven. Most of the boats that started to leeward would try to drag race on starboard tack for as long as they could keep clean air following the age-old saying “cross them if you can” (don’t do squat if you can’t). I added that last part but it’s pretty much implied. The faster boats were so concerned with just going fast they never really realized that they were going into more adverse current going upwind and when they did tack they would be taking enough transoms to slow them down a little. Most of the boats that were in the middle of the PHRF rating would inevitably have to tack to clean their air and they would need to find a good lane to either continue back to the rhumbline or find a lane to tack into to go back to the left side of the course. We wanted no part of this and were happy to let all the faster boats get clear across the course on the left side so we didn’t have to sit in their dirty air and could play the shifts if any came along that were worth playing.
Downwind we would try to get into deeper water to get pushed to the mark with the flood and that payed every race. On race 2 we gybed at the windward mark because we were deep but we didn’t put a dent in the boats in front of us, so we stopped gybing around the mark or even close to it. In race 3 we started on starboard and tacked when the faster boats to leeward starting shadowing us and banged the right corner as hard as we could. We were ok with being overstood cause that would mean the faster boats in front of us wouldn’t over stand enough to taint our breeze. On the second leg we stayed on starboard gybe until about 90% of the leg was done, ensuring we would be the rightmost boat and therefore get the most current advantage. We choose the left gate (when facing downwind) when there was a pile up at the slightly more favored right gate for a faster rounding and to avoid the mess. Initially we wanted the right gate just cause we figured that most of the boats in front of us would go for the closer gate which, for them, was the left gate. We were ok with this development because it meant we could continue going right upwind after a quick clearing tack and go for the less adverse current side. We kept our air clean and banged the right corner again and again it kept us close to the faster boats in our class. The last downwind leg we stayed in the deeper current and gybed only a couple of times to interfere with some of the symmetrical spinnaker boats that were slightly more right of us effectively slowing their roll to the finish line.
Our goal was never to beat all of the boats outright (although it would have been awesome) and we never did but we didn’t want to let them get away from us. We knew the faster boats were going to rely on slowing down the slower boats going upwind by just sailing fast and giving the boats to leeward bad air and the slower boats would try to slow down the faster boats by covering their breeze going downwind. That meant the boats behind would gybe around the windward mark and go for less favorable current leaving the right side of the course (when facing downwind) unaffected.
Looking back at Day One it was supremely lucky for those of us on Qa2 (albeit weird) that the tidal forecast was backwards as we would not be sitting where we are in the standings if the tidal forecast had been correct. Go figure.