YYZ Completes Vineyard Race 2014

While it was not our intention to campaign YYZ as a racing machine, we were intrigued at the prospect of seeing what she could do.  With her displacement, short buoy races did not seem like the right fit for a boat like ours, especially in light winds.  On the other hand, distance races might allow us to exploit the relatively long waterline of the boat and possibly reach and be fast rather than point and be slow. 

So, we assembled a crew and agreed this would be a trial season. For practice, we entered YYZ in the Stamford Overnight Race, which rounds Stratford Shoal and returns to Stamford via Port Jefferson. The Stamford Overnight was an opportunity to debug the boat, and what a lot of bugs we had!  The race, in some ways, was a minor disaster. We completely lost any chance as we rounded Stratford Shoal and went headless for over fifteen minutes as we tried to unwrap a hopelessly fouled furling spinnaker.

With the Vineyard Race only two weeks away, we all wondered if we could be ready. This race is a grand old race, considered one of the classic ocean races, sometimes called a "mini Fastnet". The race is 240 nautical miles, beginning in Stamford, east to the Buzzards Bay tower, south in the open ocean to Block Island, and then back into Long Island Sound, returning to Stamford. As a Category A race, the equipment and safety requirements are the most stringent of all races categories. Getting ready for the Vineyard Race would also be a good proxy for possibly doing the Newport to Bermuda race in 2016. 

We took all the learning from the Stamford Overnight and poured it into corrective action, and it paid off.  All the problems we experienced with the furling A3 and head sail on the Stamford Overnight had been fully debugged and the sail and crew work were flawless. 

Our tactics were, for the most part, on the money.  We tweaked the boat all the time, looking for every fraction of a knot in boat speed we could find. With low winds at the start, we were stuck on the north side of the rhumb line, and by midnight we were forced to go through The Race in a foul current, so we were slow to the Tower.  That was really the only point where we might have had a feeling of low morale but we pressed on. 

And we shot home, rolling over a number of boats who had rounded the Tower before us but then finished after us. On the way down from the tower to Block Island, we sailed to the wind, not doggedly to course, as long as we weren't going to hit Block or go too far south, and that really paid off. 

We rounded Block Island in the middle of the pack who were either too high on the Island or had drifted down too far south. As soon as we felt we could assuredly lay Plum Gut, we tacked and unfurled the A3, passing right through a whole fleet of sport fishers. 

We knew the current at Plum Gut would be foul against us when we arrived at 415pm but we also knew that it would turn an hour earlier than The Race and would give us more options to play the local flows, and then we'd have six hours of favorable current down the Sound. So we rounded Orient Point, nearly shaking hands with the lighthouse operator and a ferry captain, and then we shot right down the middle of the Sound, crossing the finish at 130am Sunday morning.  

This was an unknown, unproven boat, with no race performance history of her own or really of her 200 hulls, at least not that I am aware of.  Nevertheless, everyone pitched in with good cheer and in the best tradition of sportsmanship.  

The Vineyard Race was a blast. Everyone had grins on their faces for the duration of the race, right through to 3am as we did some boat cleanup and through the post-race party on Sunday evening.  Importantly, our experiment was a success and we are looking forward to more adventures on YYZ.