The Regatta Chair dreamt up a truly evil course for this year’s Frank Ballentine Pursuit Race. A double upwind/downwind course with no reaching legs. From CP up to the birdcage, down to “8”, back up to “A” and then into the channel. For the first time the start was an imaginary line extending from the channel entrance pilings. I’m not sure if the racer’s liked the start line so I’m soliciting feedback.
Being a pursuit race start times varied but everyone was supposed to finish at the same time. It didn’t work quite as planned. Wind forecasts were 20 – 25 knots but when the first boat started at 1:17 PM winds were only 8 knots. By the time the entire fleet was racing 20 minutes later winds were over 23 knots peaking at just under 28 knots. The chop wasn’t too bad with 1-2 foot waves and only an occasional white cap on the water.
Taking no prisoners and obviously frustrated with his lackluster performances so far this year in club races Luther Izmarian came ready to do battle in the Frank Ballentine Pursuit Race. Having invested in a headsail, main and spinnaker he brought in the “Pros from Dover” ( MASH fans rejoice ) in the form of his brother Bob and two other friends with more than a few years of sailing experience. Well the investment in equipment and crew paid off as Luther, sailing Paradigm, walked away from the fleet to take an easy victory. Jet Lag owner Torin Knorr gave him his only competition on the day, holding Luther off until getting passed on the first of two downwind legs. Jet Lag finished second. Sweet Grapes finished a distant third, see more on Sweet Grapes day below. Hot Ice and Sail La Vie DNF.
Here is an account of the race by Mark Bettis, aboard Sweet Grapes who is currently on the injured reserve due to an injury sustained while racing:
After a couple of weeks off, and with the hapless right arm still firmly embedded in a Very Expensive Velcro Trimmed Foam Padded And Fully Adjustable Orthopedic Arm Sling (VEVTFPAFAOAS), I chose once again to tempt fate and sail with the fine folks on Sweet Grapes for the rescheduled Coyote Point Yacht Club Frank Ballantine Pursuit Race on Sunday, May 20.
It was another classic spring day, with light winds and beautiful warm sunshine as we left the harbor and sailed out to the starting area. In the absence of Tom Fednya to anchor the cockpit, together with my ongoing inability to do anything except fetch beverages and yell, a re-arrangement of roles was in order, so the crew huddled and made committee decisions on the following:
Jim Manishin and Leslie Few would each keep their normal jobs at respectively headsail and main trim. Mark Green would forego the tactician’s job and replace the One-Winged One (me) at the mast. Jeff Hansen stayed on the foredeck and skipper Alan Orr took his usual spot behind the helm. I agreed to try a new role that involved using my brain rather than my body and fill the tactician position, parking myself and my VEVTFPAFAOAS at the aft quarter next to Alan. All set and ready to go!
Given the light conditions (8 to 10 knot breezes) my first decision – which turned out to also be my first bad decision – in my new and highly self-important role of tactician, was to change the headsail from the 110% to the 150% genoa, as with this sail in light conditions Sweet Grapes ghosts along remarkably well and we would be sure to finish well ahead of all competitors. I also discovered that giving the order to change headsails is much easier than actually doing the work, and it was a new perspective to sit at the stern and watch Mark and Jeff wrangle the 110 down and run up the 150 all without getting sails or humans wet, instead of being part of the action. It was great foredeck ballet, and was a precursor to another sail change later in the race . . . .
After looking carefully at the chart, the GPS, the wind direction, etc, it appeared that the place to be at the start was close to the harbor entrance, and after a few test runs up and down the line, much discussion and a couple of 360’s (once again interesting to observe Mark and Jeff helping the big genoa through the fore triangle without hanging up), we ended up crossing the start line within one half second of our assigned start time, harded up and headed for the birdcage. At this moment it became manifestly clear that the headsail change was a big mistake, because in the 5 minutes prior to the start, the wind picked up to 17 knots, and by halfway to the first mark it was steady at 18 to 22 knots. Oops. A double reef in the main helped a little, but we had way too much sail up.
Some time, way back in time, as I was beginning the endless and life-long journey called “learning to sail,” I ran across the concept of a sailboat being overpowered. The basic math says that the more sail area exposed to the wind the faster the boat will go, up to the point where the curve turns the other way, and the more sail area exposed to the wind the slower the boat will go. I could draw all sorts of charts with circles and arrows, bell curves and functions to demonstrate this concept, but it is enough to say that in 20 knots of wind with the 150%, Sweet Grapes was well beyond the point of inflection and fully imbedded in the “overpowered” part of the equation. And the wind was continuing to freshen . . . .
In retrospect, would it have made sense to change out the headsail right after the race started, sacrifice time while Mark and Jeff wrangle the 150% down and run up the 85% all without getting sails or humans wet, bring the boat closer to optimal amount of canvas and make up the lost time by sailing faster? Possibly. However, the decision was made to tough it out to the first mark, anticipating a downwind sleigh ride under full main and 150%. The problem was getting to the first mark. It was a slow slog with the chop building to the point that even in the well protected starboard quarter of the cockpit enough spray managed to work its way past the rail meat and over the coaming to fully saturate my cherished VEVTFPAFAOAS with tasty brackish bay water.
The downwind run was indeed a sleigh ride, with Sweet Grapes reaching speeds up to 10 knots, more outstanding foredeck ballet getting the whisker pole into position, a not even enough time to adequately lubricate the crew before it was time to change the 150% for the 85% in anticipation of rounding Channel Marker 8 and the following upwind leg to A. The headsail switch and rounding went incredibly smoothly once we had finished wrapping the 150 around the headstay, unwrapping it, getting it pulled into the hatch, raising the 85%, almost rounding the mark, having the port jib sheet untie itself, falling off and gybing to get to the other tack and allow reattaching the wayward sheet, heading up, tacking, and re-rounding. Off to windward we went, this time with the right sails up. The rest of the race was more or less uneventful, and we enjoyed a fantastic Coyote Point afternoon sailing, with the competition either so far ahead of us or so far behind that we were all alone.
It’s tough to sit still while the rest of the crew works, especially when things get exciting like they did on our headsail change and leeward rounding of Channel Marker 8. I found myself bypassing the VEVTFPAFAOAS on a couple of occasions and working various lines which the Doc says I shouldn’t do, but as far as I can tell no harm was done.
The cold beverages traditionally enjoyed on the downwind leg were distributed in the slip, followed by a couple of rehydrators (Stoli and tonic over ice – destined to become a Sweet Grapes after-race tradition)at the Yacht Club, and a fine time was had by all.
After a thorough drenching during the race and at the bar afterwards, the Ballentine Race of 2012 will be noted for summer winds, surfing down wind, a cloudless day and a great after race party at CPYC.
Jim Manishin, Regatta Chair