The National Weather Service is not known for accurately predicting local wind conditions in Vineyard Sound.
When the forecast for Saturday called for WSW breezes in the mid to upper teens in the early afternoon then shifting to SW 15 to 25 with possible gusts to 30 later in the day most Sonar sailors at Falmouth Yacht Club thought “Well, they have to cover all possibilities so how bad can it get. They usually guess high but the wind never blows as hard as predicted.”
With the forecast pushed to the back of their minds, six skippers and crews sailed out in moderate WSW conditions.
The Race Committee set a W3, windward-leeward three times around. With the westerly wind component in play the rhumb line to the windward mark was roughly parallel to Surf Drive and the water was reasonably flat being somewhat in the lee of Nobska.
After the start Tim Duda in The Molly T went left for the expected SW shift. Maelstrom, sailed by Jim Tiejte, and Nimble, with Jack Valle driving, more or less played the middle. Bob Silva aboard Easy, Joe Voci helming Last Call and Eric Sunquist on Ripple all stayed a bit right looking for somewhat flatter water. Molly T was in good position while Maelstrom and Nimble had several close crossings with first to the mark between the three boats up for grabs.
Nearing the mark on port, Maelstrom could not cross Nimble so she tacked on Nimble’s bow and sailed left towards Molly T. Nimble had to tack for clear air—then it happened.
As if a shade was pulled down, the wind suddenly went almost slack and in about a minute shifted 25 degrees to the SW with quickly building velocity. Maelstrom and Molly T caught the shift first, Nimble sailed into the surprisingly light but momentary hole, while Easy, Last Call and Ripple had their own breeze.
Molly T rounded first followed by Maelstrom. Both immediately set their spinnakers, Maelstrom, with a good set, passed Molly T downwind. Nimble watched as Easy and Last Call rounded next. Nimble rounded fifth followed by Ripple sailing conservatively with several inexperienced crew.
The trailing boats waited to see how chutes were flying on the two leaders and half way down the leg Last Call hoisted followed by Nimble. Easy and Ripple, as it turned out, wisely sailed with jibs.
Maelstrom lead at the bottom mark with Molly T close astern. By now the velocity was really up and gusting with building seas.
The next up-wind leg saw travellers down, backstays tight and mains, at times, flogging.
It was painful to watch as several boats with new sail inventories put a season’s worth of wear and tear on their sails in this one race.
The order remained the same the second time around only this time neither Molly T nor Maelstrom, both with a big lead over the rest of the fleet, elected not to set their chutes.
The third up wind rounding saw Maelstrom clinging to a tenuous lead over Molly T while the remaining four boats could only watch the final downwind duel.
Molly T caught a wave nearing the finish and nearly overtook Maelstrom but Maelstrom held on for a 2 second win.
The only boat to hoist their spinnaker on the final leg was Last Call in the hopes of catching Easy. With the wind now gusting over 25 Last Call wisely waited until her angle to the finish would not require a jibe which could have easily resulted in a broach in these conditions.
Last Call, even at hull speed, was not able to overtake Easy who finished third with Last Call fourth followed by Nimble and Ripple.
The 25 degree shift now required a resetting of the windward mark for the second race. Slogging in the chop and gusting wind while waiting for the reset, two boats questioned “ why are we out here? “ and radioed to the RC that they were retiring. A third boat then a fourth followed and the RC wisely cancelled the remaining races.
As always, great deal of credit and appreciation goes to the RC. In Bid Hagan’s absence Nate Borovik, ably assisted by Kate Fitzgerald, Abe Tolkoff and Ben Wayne did a great job in very difficult conditions.
The Race Committee and all six boats and crews safely returned to the harbor. End of racing. End of story.