Not much romantic about the weather for Valentine’s day – I knew I shouldn’t have said it was getting warmer last week, but the days are getting longer. However, on a cold and grey day we had three races with three different winners - can't get much closer than that. With light winds the fleet didn't spread out as much as usual despite quite large shifts.
In the first race the lead changed many times. On the first downwind leg there were four boats side by side trying to gain an advantage for the leeward mark. Arthur came out ahead followed by Gareth, Peter and Mervyn with Tony Penfold back in the hunt. Arthur established a small lead but with the shifts it never looked safe. On the last windward leg with the fleet still very close Arthur went too far left and realized that the pontoon was closer than the windward mark and called it a day leaving Tony to come in ahead of Gareth.
Second race started with a drag race towards the left with Arthur, Tony and Gareth virtually neck and neck until Gareth split off on what looked like a small shift only to sail into a flat spot and watch Arthur and Tony sail round and over him. By the windward mark Arthur had a lead over Tony with Gareth about 50 yards back. On the final run Arthur and Tony initially went slightly high Gareth went low on the more direct course. Arthur rode a small puff back down to the lay line into a great defensive position (would be inside at the mark if anyone came close and on a favorable course to the mark). In practice he pulled away slightly to end up second on handicap while Tony got stuck in a light patch and Gareth crept through to be inside both a laser and Tony at the last mark. Amazingly two boats snuck in between Gareth (3rd= we don’t see many ties!) and Tony (6th) on handicap – it just shows how close
The third race finally had a little more wind with enough to stretch the legs and sit on the side-decks upwind (still not enough to sit out but much more comfortable). Gareth established an early lead on the first beat. By the end of the first lap it was Gareth from Arthur from Tony, but very little in it. On the second beat Gareth found a great lift to pull clear and this time Arthur found a hole up the middle while Tony found some speed to overhaul him. Overall on handicap Gareth won with Tony third and Arthur sixth.
There were some good examples of not panicking when things look bad. Several times I thought I had got a good shift and got past Tony in the first race, but he didn't panic and try to get in my wind, he just waited for the next shift to come back his way and pulled ahead again. Sometimes when you've gone the wrong way you just have to take your medicine and get back with the fleet, but don't be fooled into doing it too soon. Wait till the wind comes back a bit your way, you might find that the advantage has swung back. Of course if the wind continues to swing you lose out but generally the wind's progression is not smooth so you can wait for a favorable shift. If you watched the Americas cup race on Sunday you will have seen Allinghi favoured by a shift to the right and be ‘ahead’ of Oracle only for the shift to come back slightly towards the end of the leg and Oracle to be much closer. The whole business of when should you tack and when should you hold on is not simple. I’ve been chipping away at it for at least 40 years and I’m still learning.
Sadly Dave Strachen tells me he is moving to Edinburgh and won’t be able to commute back to the club – I’m not sure this is really a valid excuse but we wish him and his family well and hope he finds a good club across the border. He hopes to drop by and see us before he goes.