The bad news: we didn't win.
The good news: we were actually quite competitive in both elapsed time and corrected time.
I think we should be pleased with the result. We sailed the boat well. We only had a few problems and those we managed very well. I think the problem with the lashing on the head of the A3 probably cost us a place or three in the results. But we still beat the Russian spy!
This was a tough race, we screamed out the Sound hitting 13 knots, a new record for YYZ, and a speed I was pretty sure she could achieve. But we all suspected we were going to be punished on the return. We were able to carry the A3 all the way out to 1BI and around the east side of Block Island. When we got to the bottom of Block Island, the whole game changed. The north-west wind and ebb current pushed us south on starboard tack and it was a chore not to sail backwards on our waypoint on the port tack. But we were not alone with those conditions. We could see the whole fleet trying to lay Plum Gut and then having to tack through. The seas were confused and the wind was strong and on the nose.
Dan Galyon on his new Dragonfly 32 trimaran "Infidel", which averages 15-18 knots, finished only one hour ahead of us. He had a heck of a time getting through the Gut, having to tack several times. It seems our joke about pointing to the eastern end of Plum Island wasn't so far off, as if we were going to go through the Sluiceway, and then we might have been able to lay the Gut. It turns out the Swan 43 "Hiro Maru" did just that (see below).
Incidentally, Dan and his crew couldn't figure out why their furling Code 0 wouldn't unfurl and then someone took a look in the sail bag and realized that nobody had attached the head swivel! So we aren't the only ones who are learning. Even the famed neurosurgeon from American Girl is still learning.
Hiro Nakajima, owner of the classic Swan 43 "Hiro Maru" had his steering cable snap as they were approaching 1BI and their spinnaker was shredded as they rounded up on the loss of rudder. They sailed the rest of the race with emergency tiller, which was impressive, considering they had to adjust from a wheel to a tiller, and the tiller pointed backwards, meaning the helmsman had to do a "double mental conversion" going from wheel steering to the opposite motion of tiller steering to the opposite motion of backward tiller steering.
Apart from the broken steering, Hiro said they had exactly the same wind and current experience that we had rounding the bottom of Block Island and they sailed, as we did, to the foul areas of Montauk. Interestingly, they took a gamble and tacked way north and went through the Sluiceway, which we had talked about. I have always been nervous about going through the Sluiceway but Hiro said it's very doable and you just have to watch for the one shallow spot.
When the head of the spinnaker fell down into the sea, my immediate thought was "DNF, we are out of the race", which would have been really disappointing. But the crew responded magnificently, steering the boat so the sail wouldn't shrimp or get fouled under the boat, and the rest of us gathering the sail onto the deck. When the head of the A3 was finally recovered, I was astonished to see it fully intact with no damage. Then we discussed how to retrieve the halyard because we had assumed the shackle had broken and that someone was going up the mast to retrieve it. But then we discovered the torque rope was still intact and fully hoisted! When we let it down, we discovered that the high tech dyneema/spectra line that had lashed the head to the torque loop had come undone.
Realizing we could still sail with the A3, we discussed briefly whether to hoist it "commando" or reattached to the torque rope. Tacitly, we were probably leery of attempting a traditional douse of a spinnaker that large, at night, so we got a large metal shackle from the rigging hardware box and fastened the head of the sail to the head of the torque rope, ran the tapes just to be sure, talked through the hoist and up went the A3, it filled out, and we were off. I'm so glad I cleaned out Post Marine of rigging hardware when they had their going-out-of-business sale. That big fat wide-mouth shackle that I wondered if I might never have a use for came in handy at just the right time.
Last year, we did four races. The first race, the Stamford Overnight, we fouled the furling A3 so badly we were headless on the east side of Stratford Shoal for something like half an hour. Then we did the RYC Stratford Shoal Race, the Vineyard Race, and the Gearbuster. After that season with those four races, we had pretty much debugged the boat. Over the winter, we had the 155% light #1 genoa made, added stacked foot blocks with stoppers leading to the primary winches, shortened and re-spliced the drive line for the furling spinnaker, and managed to get our PHRF rating adjusted favorably.
Overall, last season was a learning curve and we were not especially competitive, but we did pretty well and had a great time. With this Block Island Race done, we found we could make the boat competitive and still have a great time.
Thanks everyone for joining.