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2002 Fleet 3 Championship, Part I

Team Weasel (6991)

Sunday, February 10, 2002


While driving toward MBYC at 8:45 last Sunday morning (no really, I'm serious) I called Danito to find out what condition the boat was in and what needed to be done before we went sailing. This was, after all, the first regatta of the 2002 Fleet 3 Championship Series and I was a little nervous.

Most of the previous week had been spent completing the brightwork on Weasel's tanks and foredeck. In addition, our good buddy Steve had managed to find his #8 fine tap and install the padeye on the mast for the new BS hoist. Dan had spent the previous day building a new light-bar for the trailer. (The old one had disintegrated on the freeway during the triumphal home stretch of the trip from Portugal to San Diego last December.) And, finally, Dan had driven Weasel down to MBYC (stopping off to pick up the newly elongated spinnaker and spin halyard) and set up the whole rig.

My assignment over the phone was simple: hoist the modified chute to see if I liked it, clean up a few odds and ends inside the boat, and wait for Dan to bring the sails down to the club so we could rig up and go sailing. "Okay", I said to Dan, a quaver of uncertainty in my voice, "I think I can handle that". "I love this job!" I said to myself.

As promised, the boat was completely set up and I wasted little time beginning my tasks. There wasn't any wind at that hour of the day, so I just yanked the halyard and hauled the spinnaker up. Some people may not know that the 505 class has recently allowed an extra meter of length on the spinnaker luff. As a result, the world of 505 sailors now finds itself in a new and vast search for the optimum shape of this suddenly different beast of a sail. Most 505ers we know are just adding cloth to their existing chutes for the first go-around, and we chose that path as well. Luckily our own Dave Catham at Quantum sails had the best price of all the lofts to do the conversion. And the Feb 10 regatta was to be that sail's premier event.

My own prejudice is that a tall, relatively skinny shape is what we will end up with, so the narrow shape was not particularly alarming. Of course there wasn't any wind to fill the sail, so I deployed the spinnaker pole to hold the clews apart and get a better look. We have a pretty beefy bungie cord for a foreguy to keep the spin pole from skying, and it puts a pretty good downward pressure on the pole. As I reached down to uncleat the topping lift and adjust the pole height, a few thoughts occurred to me in very short order. First, there wasn't much line left outside the cleat to adjust with; second, there was no knot in the end of the line; third, DAMN that was loud! as the pole crashed down and the topping lift ran out the top of the mast. With the slack line piling up around my feet, I paused briefly before indulging in a tiny bit of loud cursing. And don't say you haven't been there, or at least somewhere thereabouts.

After two hours spent pulling the mast out, rounding up the necessary equipment to rerun the topping lift (thanks again Steve, John, and Geoff!) and taking care of the "few odds and ends inside the boat", Dan finally appeared with the sails. We rigged up, launched the boat, and made it to the starting line in time for the first postponement.

Description of actual sailing:

Five boats made it out to the racecourse for the Fleet Championship opener. The wind started out with a promising 8-10 knots from the NW. But the strong Santa Ana blowing inland soon began affecting the on-shore flow. Big shifts kept the racing interesting, making up for the gradually dying breeze. In fact, the RC aborted the first race due to a 30 degree shift to the left. Too bad for John Billings and Bill McKinney in Kitty. They had sailed all the way up the left side of the course and were a good 50 yards ahead at the weather mark.

In the resail, Weasel covered Kitty, once again on the left, only to see Steve and Karl in Top Guys come out of the right in a big puff and round the weather mark 30 feet ahead. By the leeward mark, Weasel had pulled out in front, mostly due to a more cleanly executed jibe, and continued to move away during the remainder of the race. Mike Jue in Taz, the only Classic that made it out, had a great race, showing the newly reconstructed Mental Floss his transom with a little distance to spare.

Time for the much-maligned MBYC lunch break. The 505's took advantage of the down time to hold a quick debrief; spirited discussion of rig settings and tactics ensued. Then Weasel headed back out onto the water to check out the newly tall chute in more controlled conditions.

It looked pretty good to me. When there was enough wind to fill it, it was nice and smooth with no bunches or big wrinkles. Also, the luff luffs (don't blame me, I didn't invent these words) evenly.

Check with Dan, but I think he still feels the sail is too skinny on top. The existing pole height on the mast was just about perfect with the pole almost horizontal. When stowed, the pole does hang about 6" lower than it used to. That makes setting and jibing more difficult since it tends to hook the jib sheet when Dan pulls the pole out. But some moderate rerunning of the topping lift should take care of the problem. In the light, mostly running conditions of the day, the BS did seem much faster than the smaller sails on the other boats. On almost every run we added 50-100 feet to our lead. Next weekend we'll see how it compares with the efforts of the other boats when we go up against the big boys at the Midwinters.

During the second and third races, Weasel led at all the marks and the competition shifted to the other four boats. The details of the second race are a little fuzzy, but the Top Guys were able to pull off another victory over Kitty, while Geoff and John in Mental Floss redeemed themselves by beating Taz.

The third race was quite exciting. Floss capitalized on good boatspeed and the favored side of the course to round the first mark in second place. The Kitty, on the other hand, paid the price of a poor start. Unable to find clear air in phase with the shifts, they rounded the first mark in last place. It was a long race though, very shifty and inconsistent breeze with lots of holes. And by the end Kitty, having adjusted a few settings, had reasserted herself and regained third place. Floss somehow failed to keep the momentum going and dropped into fourth.

Compared to last month, this was a much more civilized regatta. No breakdowns, no capsizes, no flying fiberglass or lost tempers. Not that we weren't trying. In the start of the first, aborted race, Steve used his patented come-up-from-below technique on the poor unsuspecting Weasel. For once we were able to squeeze out in front of his bow before the gun went off and avoid doing circles. I hate it when he does that. In the start of the last race, the Weasels caught Kitty, sailing above the layline outside the starting area, napping and were able to squeeze them out. That was quite entertaining from our perspective.

Lame excuses (in no particular order):

Bob Woodcock - delayed onset of Montezuma's revenge
Mark Kursava - cheerleading for the Swedish women's hockey team in Salt Lake City
Roger Lovett - working out the bugs in remote control units for spin halyard and mainsheet
Team Fever Pitch - performing classified exposure testing of unfinished mahogany for the Pentagon
Dave Eberhart - still caressing recovered centerboard, didn't notice the passage of time
Chris Stomberg - waiting for new mast to be delivered, great opportunity to spend some quality time at the office
Chris Shand - Bill J worked on boat recently; ergo, even more holes to fill