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ChoptankCup 2004

2004.10.16


Choptank Cup Inst.

Sharp's Island Light, Photo taken, June 28, 2000

In the larder
The Menu for today, 25 pieces of cold chicken, a case of Yuengling Lager, A Case of Lemonade, A batch of Tucky's Famous Molasses Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, fresh from the oven, a Pumpkin Pie. Plus a whole locker full of snacks and other goodies of unknown quantity because they're always aboard.

For some of you folks, that may seem a little light. But, we take our racing seriously. I encourage everyone to "eat a boat breakfast". When I do this, I can usually go till 1400 before I'm hungry. And, aboard The Write Byte, we normally only crack a beer after turning the middle downwind leg. Especially since I normally only race in big air, there's just too much going on to be swilling beer.

Weather
First off, I've got to say, one of the best sailing days I've experienced, ever. It just doesn't get any better than it was, today. Except of course if it involves nudity, sailing and... oh, well never mind... Forget I almost brought it up...

Second, the weather guessers couldn't decide what to guess at. There were three different versions of the forecast. Only one of which was even remotely appealing to me. One version was for 25 kt winds, gusting to 40. Now that I could handle, but I knew that if those conditions existed at the start, the other racers would be lobbying to shorten the race or something. That makes me cranky. The whole intent of the Choptank Cup is to be an endurance race. A day long immersion in this sport we love. It is a 32 Mile race from Cambridge to Sharp's Island Light and back. As far as I'm concerned, that's the race. That's how it was designed, that's what it should be and it made me very upset in '98 when it was shortened because the wind was blowing 25-30. Well, people didn't want to break their boats... sigh.

The second forecast I'd heard was just as bad. 10-15. sigh. In 10-15 kts, our boat is just beginning to perform. I can do all right, but if say for instance... Tommy Jackson is racing his Tartan Ten, I might just as well start the grill and have a nice day. Because with 10-15 kts, Tommy's boat is flying and the water is still flat. Flat enough that he doesn't get slowed down. That just wouldn't do...

The third forecast we heard was for 15-20, with gusts to 25. Now that was the conditions I was hoping for, because it would be enough wind for me to stand a chance of winning, but not enough wind to be intimidating to all of the lighter boats.


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0800 - Skipper's Meeting, Cambridge Municipal Marina Office.
Our Committee Boat cancelled on us. We thought we had a committee boat lined up, See Ya, a Robbins 40 was going to be our committee boat, we thought. As it turned out, See Ya's owner Richard Strauss would rather sail with Bryan on Superstition... Hey that's progress. We might just be in the process of converting a fossil burner to a Rag Bagger. Outstanding! I talked it over with the crew and we decided to do the start sequence from our boat and if the currently light winds didn't pick up, we'd drop out and take times at the finish or shorten the course, if necessary. (Race Rules say it has to be over by dark.) Choptank Cup Inst. We told everyone we'd make our decision at Choptank light (about 25% into the race distance) whether to stay in the race. If we stayed in the race, the first to finish would need to take times (Barring equipment failure that would be Tommy aboard his Tartan Ten, Reveille) We re-affirmed the race rules, wished each other luck and hoped they didn't win and it was off to our boats. Choptank Cup Inst.


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0845 - Starting line, Cambridge 1, Cambridge 2 buoys.
It was not looking good for the home team. While there is a little more wind than at the start of the Wild Goose Chase a few weeks back, Wild Goose Chase 04 It's shaping up to be a runaway for Tommy.10-12 kts of wind, perfectly flat water. Ouch. Aboard The Write Byte, I've got my two Favorite crew Bryan Twigg and Bruce Franz, plus Chris Kalinski whom I've sailed with a couple of times and performed outstandingly on the Wild Goose Chase 04. There are ten boats, in order of PHRF, if I can remember. Reveille a Tartan Ten, Touche' a Comet 33, Superstition an S2 10.3, I think, Adventure Kwest a CS 30, Oasis, a Pearson 33, Wampu a Hunter 30, The Write Byte a Bristol 40, What's Next an Islander 32, Lolly a Tanzer 22, and a ketch known simply as "The Grampian". It's a Grampian Ketch sailed by Marty who usually sails an Island Packet, but this is his old boat which he hasn't sold yet and sails better than the IP. It's a pretty short line for ten boats, even with no wind. Takes about 20 seconds for us to run the line in this wind. We're cruising around under sail, trying to figure out what to do with this mess. Nun 2 is the obvious favored end, since the starting line is literally in line with the first mark. Reveille and Lolly are lining up for a Starboard start on the favored end, while everyone else (most of whom normally wouldn't do a port start on a bet) are lining up for a port start angling directly toward the port end of the line where the other two boats are going to be, with rights.


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0900 - The starting Gun.
We nailed the start. What did we choose, you ask? Well the choice was obvious. Port start. We banked on the fact that with the crew we have, we'd be at the line in clear air at the start on a port tack, rather than jockeying for position with Tommy and Deke on a starboard tack and then, immediately have to tack in light air. In my boat, that would have cost us more time than having to fall off to give rights. After all, I knew Deke and Tommy would be tacking on the mark Well, actually it was more like jibing on the mark, since they were coming downwind on starboard and had to turn to a beam reach on Port. They may have not physically have had to Jibe, but it mattered not. In that air, I'd have stopped...

So we nailed the start only a boat length and a half behind Lolly and Reveille who were closer to the favored end and both also nailed the start. So, now it's getting depressing, already. Even though we had more air at the start than the Wild Goose Chase, by the time we got to the first turn at 23 two people had passed us and What's Next had played the outgoing tide and come storming up from behind out in the channel. Even though he was below us a ways, he was abeam and an issue at the first turn. I would have been really depressed if it weren't for that big cloud bank on the horizon.


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0930 - Approaching Green 19, the third mark in the course.
The wind has come up a bit and that has helped. Things are settling in and we're moving well. We have passed and/or pulled away from all but two of the boats who were an issue at the first mark. Only Reveille and Touche' are in front of us and that makes me very happy. Because we are ahead of all four of the other boats who have PHRFs faster than or equal to ours. Lolly is falling back which is good. We're in good shape. So at that point, it became a race in our minds between Reveille, Lolly and us. Even though Touche' was in front of us as well, if we could beat Reveille, we'd also beat Touche'.

And, if we could beat Lolly on corrected, we'd beat everyone in between. Lolly having the highest PHRF is the slowest boat in this race and skippered by Deke Sheller who is tough to beat in any boat. Last time I raced against him in the Choptank Cup, I beat him across the line by 9 minutes, but needed to beat him by 15.5 to win. That was a shortened course, of only 20 miles. Today, I'm going to need to beat Deke by ~20 minutes or more in order to win. In addition, I've got to be less than 18 minutes behind Reveille to win.


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0950 - Approaching Castle Haven, Red 16
It's not looking good. The wind has been picking up, but the water is still very flat. We're still on a beam reach, Touche' and Reveille have rounded Castle Haven, hardened up and shot away. With the water still flat, they are taking off, hard on the wind. Lolly is Travelling fast in the good wind and flat water and though she's falling back, it's certainly not as far back as I'd like her to be. I'd be much happier if I saw her at the back of the pack. But she's still only two boats behind me. That means he's actually sailing faster than a boat giving her over 100 second per mile and almost as fast as another boat giving her 99 seconds per mile. This is not good. It is beginning to look like we'll be dropping out at the Choptank light. But, I kept my mouth shut about the dnf thing and went back to tweaking the trim with the fellas.


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1010 - Green 13
Things are improving... The wind has continued to build. Reveille and Touche' are both overpowered and we're closing fast. The waves are starting to build and while we can't tell if Lolly has reefed yet, she's not overpowered, but the building waves have got to be having an effect. She's dropped back, now with two more boats between us. A few minutes later, both Reveille and Touche' have reefed. Touche' lost a lot of time and we are close enough to read her name on the stern so we're ahead of her. We are not sure about Reveille. She lost some time during the reef, but seems to be pulling away from us, again. What's Next has now passed Lolly, so they might be getting close enough to be an issue. Everyone else seems to be not an issue, except that bloody Grampian. What is his PHRF, anyway? He's gaining on us. We reduce the jib from 130% to 110%.


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1120 - between Red 10 and Green 9
A few minutes ago, we reduced the jib to 100%. Still carrying full main. Now, we have to tack. Reveille and Touche' have both tacked already and now we have to. There's a shoal behind Green nine and if we don't tack... Well, there it is. We were on a fairly nice layline for Sharp's Island Light. A little lower than I would have liked, but a few good lifts and we'd be right there. But we have to tack. And it couldn't have been at a worse moment. At that point, the main channel turns and goes southwest toward the Little Choptank. The outgoing tide is going directly toward what is now easily 20 kt winds. While still in the lee of the land, we were beating in 2-3.5' seas. Perfect conditions for The Write Byte. We are able to power through most of them, slowing down only slightly for the biggest while the lighter boats are struggling to keep boat speed up with each wave threatening to halt their progress entirely.

We were only on that tack for maybe 10 minutes, tops. During that time, we went airborne twice, making six and a half knots over the tops of those short and steep waves, landing in the middle of the next trough. As soon as I was sure we had a perfect layline for Sharp's Island Light, we tacked back. Five minutes later with still almost a mile and a half of open bay between us and Sharp's Island Light, we were back in a light chop and flying. Couldn't have picked a worse place for that little tack. But, if we had tacked any earlier we'd have hit a shoal, later and we'd have hit the shoal behind 9. So there 'tis. The good news, Reveille and Touche' both stood on that tack a lot longer than we did, pounding into that garbage and slowing them down. But now, they too are both screaming toward Sharp's Island light full throttle, on a close reach, with flat water. Damn, look at them go.

1150 - Sharp's Island Light.
We were right at low tide by the time Reveille and Touche' turned at the light. They were able to scream away, not being slowed down by a foul tide. Ultimately, we did make up some time on Reveille and Touche', but not as much as I hoped. By the time we rounded Sharp's Island light it was looking bleak, again. To Make things worse, Adventure Kwest and What's Next had both gotten much closer to us than I was happy with. And there's that damn Grampian, too. What is his PHRF, anyway?


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1225 - Red 10
We've drawn a bead on Castle Haven. Both 12 and 13 are marks of the course, but we just have to keep them to port, not go to them. This being an item of interest clarified in the skipper's meeting. Reveille and Touche' are so far ahead, we can't really see Reveille's hull anymore, just her sails. Touche' is a little closer because they had trouble shaking out her reef, but she's pulling away from us, fast, fast, fast.


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1345 - Between Castle Haven and Green 19
Reveille and Touche' have gone way downwind, way off the layline and aboard The Write Byte, we debate whether there is enough boost from the incoming tide yet to make going closer to the channel where they are, a benefit that outweighs the "sail the shortest distance rule". Bruce prevails in the discussion again and we stand on, straight for Castle Haven. (By now from the result of previous discussions and their outcomes during the day, Bryan, Chris and I have adopted the saying, "You Should Listen to Uncle BS".) And, once again, Bruce was right. By the time we have finished with time hacks at Castle Haven, we have made up some time on Reveille and Touche' and put distance between us and Lolly. Things are looking good. We're in flat water on a close reach making 7.5 kts. The helm is balanced. We've pulled away from everyone behind us and made time on the leaders. It's a beautiful day for a sail. Lolly is now so far behind, it's difficult to get an accurate time hack, but Lolly is still a definite factor. And, that bloody Grampian has passed Lolly. What is her PHRF, anyway?


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1435 - Green 23
On the leg from 19A to 23, we have ve cracked off to just aft of beam. still charging, but Reveille and Touche' are close reaching on the final leg and are visibly pulling away from us, again. We're all commenting on the squirrelly winds around Hambrook Light. On a day that has seen very little variation in the wind direction, (once it piped up) We've made 8 or so trim adjustments in the last 3/4 mile as we approach the final turn. A couple of times, the wind just seemed to disappear.

1439 - Hambrook Light.
Reveille has crossed the finish line. It's not going to take us twenty minutes to finish is it? No, of course not. But the wind is dying. We are still making 6.5 kts. Well, it sure seems like we're standing still, the wind is still dying, what is our speed, now? 6 kts. Man, we're going to get beat in the home stretch because the wind died. Damn, why do I do this to myself? I hate racing. I hate getting beat by the wind. Oh, shut up Tim and drive the boat. Look at Lolly, they still have wind and are screaming up on us. You can't even tell which one is Lolly anymore, drive the boat. But they've got wind and we're stopping, we're almost stopped. Tim, we are still making over 5 kts, we can coast across the finish line and still do well... whew, boy those guys are brutal...

1447 - 100 yds from the finish line,
The wind picks back up and we accelerate to over six and a half kts for a grand finish under a powerful puff. We are ecstatic, having finished ~15 minutes behind Reveille we are fairly certain we've beat her. Tommy and Tim sail over, congratulate us on an excellent race, hand over the times and we stick around to finish taking times for the rest of the participants. It sure was good to see Tim Mulcahy, again. (Tim moved to Stuart FL last summer for those of you who missed that news) Now all we have to worry about are Lolly and that Bloody Grampian, what is her PHRF, anyway?

Final Score:

Finish Boat PHRF Corr.Factor Elapsed Corrected
1 Lolly 234 .8403 5:24:31 4:32:41
2 Write Byte 192 .8929 5:08:15 4:35:14
3 Reveille 126 .9901 4:51:31 4:48:38
4 Adventure Kwest 156 .9434 5:11:33 4:53:55
5 Touche 132 .9804 4:59:52 4:53:59
6 Wampu 195 .8889 5:35:11 4:57:57
7 Oasis 189 .8969 5:35:28 5:00:53
8 What's Next 198 .8850 5:41:55 5:02:36
9 Superstition 123 .9950 5:16:41 5:15:06
10 Eikemar 5:16:41

1540 - we're in the slip. We beat Lolly by 15 minutes, needed to beat him by 18:30 I'm very depressed. Last time I raced Deke, he only beat us by six minutes and a half corrected but I'd made a grave error that I figured cost at least five minutes. Does that mean in 8 yrs, I've gotten five minutes worse against Deke or he got five minutes better and I didn't? Very depressing, indeed. We all thought we'd sailed a good race and made few mistakes. The one possibility we could have done differently would have been to put in a single reef in the main and furl the jib less. End up with a better shaped jib and we would have been over powered less often, upwind. Or, I could have gone with the working jib and sailed a lot faster upwind, but then a sail change for the downwind work. We didn't do that initially because the wind was so light to start. Lots of things to consider and work on next time. But it was a fine effort and we congratulate each other with a beer and more chicken.


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1800 - We head over to Portside for Dinner and cocktails
In the larder we have one piece of chicken 12 Lemonade, No Beer, No Pie. Rumor has it, after nearly six hours on a 32 mile race, Lolly has beaten us by only 1 minute 18 seconds. I feel much better. That means I did learn something in the last 8 years. No official results yet because the scorekeeper couldn't find Grampian's rating.

1900 - Chris has Chicken for Dinner...
D'oh.

A special thanks to Chris, Bryan and Bruce who have all sailed with me before and actually chose to do so again. Nice. And, congratulations to all the participants. The Choptank Cup in 20+ kts of wind is no picnic. Everyone worked hard, everyone finished and so far as I could tell, a good time was had by all. Good Show, everyone.

All in all, it just doesn't get any better.


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