Glorious sunshine and a fickle Easterly breeze greeted the SB20 fleet for the third DBSC Saturday of the season. The ranks were swelled by the return of Alert Packaging (Justin, Henrik and Ed) and Sin Bin (Michael, Owen and Ger) to the fleet.
Race 1 saw the fleet jostle for position on a heavily committee boat biased line but despite this they managed to get away at the first time of asking. The wind was very light (4-7knts) and oscillating through 40 degrees so staying in the pressure and keeping the boat moving were the orders of the day. After a short starboard tack off the line, Bango (James, Jimmy and Keith), Alert Packaging and Sin Bin tacked onto port in search of better breeze and in expectation of the forecasted right-handed shift. Venuesworld.com (Ger, Jerry and Chris), Animal Origami (Chris, Neil and Rob) and SacreBleu (Diane, Ronan and Corina) (having exonerated themselves after a starting line snafu) chose to minimise manoeuvers and continue out left in good pressure.
The pressure across the course was very localised and boats separated by only a few boatlengths could have wildly different headings and boat speeds, turning the race into a game of snakes and ladders. Up the first beat, the boats that chose the right hand side of the course fared best and it was Alert Packaging that rounded first ahead of Sin Bin with Bango in a close third. Down the run, Alert Packaging bravely but sensibly gybed off early allowing Sin Bin and Bango to continue on starboard gybe. The decision paid off in spades for Alert Packaging as the boats that had gone further right had to battle back against the tide on a very tight reach, barely holding their kites while Alert Packaging calmly made their way down the run on a much better heading with an eased kite. Alert Packaging chose to go to the down-tide right hand gate (looking down the course) while their pursuers split for the up-tide left hand gate. Unfortunately, due perhaps to a little rustiness and a current that was now beginning to “kick”, Alert Packaging were caught out and hit the leeward mark, requiring them to do a penalty turn. It is worthwhile mentioning that although they were too far ahead for anyone to see them hit the mark and the temptation to continue on must have been great, Alert Packaging did the honourable thing and took their penalty turn and their sportsmanship is to be applauded.
Up the second beat, the boats that had chosen the left hand gate and were further to the right hand side of the course seemed to get the best of the breeze on offer with Sin Bin taking the lead from Alert Packaging half way up the beat. The Race Committee sensibly signalled a shortened course and a finish at the weather mark. At the finish, Sin Bin took the win with Bango edging out Alert Packaging by a couple of boatlengths for second. Venuesworld.com recovered well after a difficult first beat to get back up to fourth just ahead of SacreBleu and Animal Origami.
Race 2 started in even lighter and shiftier conditions with the fleet battling upwind against a building tide. Again, there was a significant committee boat bias and the fleet bunched up at the committee boat in an effort to get a jump on the competition. Bango lead the fleet off the line with SacreBleu and Animal Origami also making good starts a little further down the line. The wind had shifted further to the right and the boats were almost fetching the weather mark on starboard tack. Shortly after the start, Venuesworld.com, Alert Packaging, Sin Bin and Sunday Brunch (Dave Dwyer et al) tacked onto port to hitch into a line of breeze just to weather of the fleet. The four boats sailed no more than 15 boatlengths into the new breeze and it really paid off for them as they were able to tack back onto starboard and sail higher and faster than the boats to leeward in a completely different breeze. Again, the speed differentials between boats separated by no more than a few boatlengths were significant and gains/losses of 20 boatlengths could be made in a couple of minutes. Patience while waiting for your turn to shine was vital.
The Race Committee, fearing a complete shut down in the breeze, signalled a change of course at the weather mark meaning the fleet only had to complete one lap by getting around the weather mark and running down to the finish. Sin Bin had managed to stay a little further to weather of the fleet and kept in the breeze for longer allowing them to round the weather mark in first and gybe quickly thereafter followed by Alert Packaging and Bango. The boats held those positions all the way to the finish. In a very creditable fourth place were Sunday Brunch making a very welcome return to DBSC sailing after a few years sabbatical followed by Venuesworld.com and Animal Origami.
After four races, Bango leads series 1 on 5 points followed by Alert Packaging and Venuesworld.com tied for second on 9 points. The long range forecast for next Thursday and Saturday are suggesting more wind so hopefully we will be back to downwind sleigh rides by then.