Thunderstorms were coming at us from the west all afternoon, and the prospects of a race looked uncertain as we stood on the Ida Lewis YC dock and watched the lightning flash to the north of us. Yet after a period of postponement, Dr. Wallace radioed Fleet 9 that we’d be starting a race at 6pm.
As Team Grace saw the conditions aboard 107, we noted big shifts in a northwester wind of variable strength. The cell to the north seemed to be dragging the wind right at times, and we watched the wind swing from about 310 to 350 and back in the prerace warm-up. With big holes on the course, a fading ebb tide, and a first beat likely across the bay toward Jamestown, we quickly decided that wind was going to trump tide tonight.
With a gang-up at the committee boat in a right shift at the first start, the RC flew an AP rather than start the race and reset the line as the air got quite light. A shorter course was signaled, to S (Rose Island red gong) and 2 (Fort Adams nun), twice around.
Now the shift went to the left and the pin was favored. We had already moved to a longer, lighter-air setting on our headstay and made a good start, third boat up from the pin. We also had better breeze than the boats up the line, and we were able to tack after about a minute and cross. To our left, 254 and 17 tacked above us, and we drag raced on the favored tack towards Rose Island in 9-10 knots of breeze with weight on the rail. Approaching the island, we began to get a local lift and laid the green can; 17 tacked to clear their air, and when we finally tacked close to shore, 254 went in front of us and we soon had to hitch back inshore. A few tacks later, we rounded the gong a few lengths behind 254 and just ahead of 17.
On the ball, the RC shifted the course to head to 1, in the middle of Goat Island, and we jibed early for clearer air and a shot at the inside at the mark. With a little less breeze by Rose, this didn’t look like a power move until halfway down the leg when we received better breeze. Maybe the fleet was a bit more on top of 254’s air. Still, we couldn’t quite get the overlap.
With the wind building, the RC signaled a new weather mark, a drop mark well beyond S, to extend the next two legs nicely. We nearly kissed 254’s transom on the rounding and reached off to leeward to make as fast an exit from the mark as possible. Soon we pulled bow even, a length to leeward. We sailed a little lower and faster from there, and without a shift, 254 had no trouble covering us when we tacked. We hitched again to get out of phase with them and picked up an inshore lift on our next tack to starboard; when 254 tacked to port, they ducked us. We traded positions on each of the next two crosses, then tacked to port just in front of 17, coming fast from the left. With 254 to our north side, to leeward, we benefited from a small left shift; when they tacked just short of the layline, we crossed by half a length and led around the mark. We might also have had the edge on that leg because Tim on 254 asked us at every cross where we were going next—and since it was a drop mark and not one of our regularly lettered or numbered marks, I’m not sure my answer (‘it’s a tet (rahedron)’) made any sense to him.
Sailing downwind to 1 again, the breeze built, and we saw some good rocking and rolling in the fleet behind us. That provided plenty of early warning to choke down our chute a bit before the big gusts hit. A few lengths behind us, 254 took up the low position with slightly clearer air and got within a length, but we pulled away in the last 200 yards, perhaps because we had a slightly cleaner breeze as the next few boats gather not far astern.
At 1, which was the leeward mark again, Rachel, Matt, Ted, and Reed pulled off one last good spinnaker drop and the final short beat to the finish was relatively straightforward as we maintained a 4 to 5 length lead on 254, which in turn finished a few lengths ahead of a tight bunch including 17, 226 and 33.
Thank you to our patient race committee. For 107, this was a memorable race!