Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Buzzards Bay Crossing, day 2

Sunday, the second day of the Buzzards Bay Crossing, started out with strong northerly winds and plenty of white caps. Skipper's meeting was set to be at 8:30 am, but with a high tide and heavy swell, it took a while to get the jet ski out and the buoys set. Most racers rigged small, with sails in the 4 and 5 m range common, and wave boards being chosen over bigger slalom boards. The exception, of course, was Josh Angulo, who rigged 7.1 and 7.8 m race sails, and went out on a decent-sized slalom board.
A few racers from day 1 did not show for day 2, mostly because of pre-existing conditions (or rather family plans). However, we gained a few new racers, including Sabah and Gary, so we again had about 11 or 12 sailors on the water.

Dan Weiss tried his best to get the event going, with a couple of helpers on a single jet ski. The first plan was to have the jet ski go in front of the sailors to mark the start, just like on day one. However, as most sailors were trying to line up, the jet ski was nowhere close. My guess is that is was busy helping one of the windsurfers who did not make it out through the swell and variable winds.

Josh took command, got everyone together, and got the race started with hand signs. Once everyone had made it half way to the first mark, I gave up on waiting for the jet ski, and followed the crowd. By now, Josh was flying ahead of the crowd, way out of reach of everyone. A couple of guys made it around the first mark, but many went down when trying to jibe - a theme we'd see again at the other marks, and during later races. The last leg ended up being straight downwind, which caused plenty more falls in the winds that made staying on a plane difficult.

For the next races, the course was simplified, with just one or two jibe marks. Starts were done from the beach or standing in the water. In one race, Nina made it to the beach just before the start of the race. Dan told her to start from the water; she did, and got a bit a head start over the pack. Only Josh was able to pass her, everyone else was trailing far behind.

The wind shifted a lot not only in strength, but also in direction, so for the races after the lunch break, Dan jumped on the jet ski and acted as the jibe mark for a few races. I played around with a few different strategies, mostly trying to round up the field from the back after starting last, or being the last one to get on a plane. I managed to pass a few races around jibe marks when my jibes were dry, but not all of them were. I sometimes had the company of Greg, who had driven all the way from Seattle for the race. He had dominated the light wind races on day 1, winning every single race, because "we always have this light wind in Seattle". In the stronger winds, he seemed to struggle more, and I sometimes saw him near the back of the pack were I spent most of my time.

Since the lovely Nina was racing, too, we did not have anyone to keep score, but that took nothing away from the fun. Josh dominated every race when he was still there, and a few others like Myles also seemed to do well most of the time. But I think for the majority of us, there was a significant element of chance involved. In one race, I managed to get up on the board right away, catch a gust and a pushy little wave, and pump up onto a plane. This race had ambiguous instructions - "try for the upwind mark, but it you can't make it, jibe around the jet ski". I was in front, and it was clear that I would not be able to reach the upwind buoy without loosing the plane, so I followed Dan on the jet ski. He was going towards a downwind mark, but stopped about half way. It thought he meant we should go around the downwind mark and kept going, but he waved to jibe around him. I eventually did, after passing him by at least 300 feet. I feared that most of the field now had jibed and passed me already, but to my surprise, I saw that everyone was still schlogging towards the jet ski. I must have been lucky again, because another gust and a few pumps got me planing again on my Skate 110/Matrix 7.0/MUF Slalom Weed 30 combo, and I ended up like I had started, on first place (Josh did not sail this race).

We did a few races after the lunch break, but stopped early. Gary, Martin, and I kept sailing for a while, and Dan eventually made it out, too. Martin and Gary kept sailing for hours, but Nina and I went for a beer at the hotel bar instead, joined by our friend Dani and later by Dan. Later, we went out for dinner with Martin at the BBC in Falmouth.

We don't have any official winner for day 2, but I think almost everyone who participated feels like a winner. It was a lot of fun, and definitely one of the most memorable days of sailing of the year. Having to sail a given course, and to jibe around a mark in a crowd, is vastly different from freeriding. It exposes clearly what you cannot do - for example, jibe dry in high swell with distractions, or adjust the jibe radius as needed to avoid downed sailors. It certainly gave me plenty of motivation to improve, and plenty of specific things to work on. And while the races were definitely competitive, a friendly and fun spirit prevailed throughout. I'm definitely looking forward to the next local fun race!

Here are a few more pictures from both days (thanks to Dani for day 2 pictures!):
Jerry & Jeff on a tandem

Josh & Martin on day 2
Day 2 action

The event beach at the Sea Crest Beach Hotel in Falmouth

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