It was as if we were witnessing a tug-of-war between summer and fall last week. Fall had snatched an advantage the previous weekend, with cold and blustery winds from the north.
This was followed by familiar signs of the season: children going back to school, the smell of evening fires and color beginning to spread though the trees. Tuesday, September 22, was the autumnal equinox, the first official day of fall and a time when many truly take notice of the diminishing daylight. But by Friday summer was reasserting itself as temperatures warmed and the wind swung back toward the south. On Saturday, September 26, activity around West Falmouth was like a summer day; the town dock and bike path were bustling and the beach parking lot full. Everyone seemed to be out enjoying the weather, knowing that at any time fall could tug back. Sunday morning, September 27, began a bit cool and foggy, but a moderate breeze and clouds dispersing held the promise of a delightful race.
The course this week was slightly out of the ordinary in a couple of ways. First, it had only two marks; the race committee generally deploys three for maximum enjoyment of the harbor while racing, but Sunday there was a windward mark deep in South Cove near the Green Bridge and a leeward mark midway into Oldfield Cove just behind the starting line. Also, Hog Island races traditionally end at Little Pier, but the conditions and most spectators in boats and not on the pier anyway seemed to offer an opportunity to make a true upwind finish into the southerly wind. The fleet would round the windward-leeward course twice and finish in the middle of the two marks off of Plunkett’s Point.
There were 15, eventually 16 boats competing last Sunday, some current but with scrambled-up crews and some from earlier Hog Island fleets. Since Karen and Tim Fallon were out of town, Lou Yoder sailed Reminder with a crowd including Ben and Jamie Fallon. Paul and Jameson Kirk sailed Irish Mist. Andrew and Maisie Kirk brought the Johnstons’ boat Blitzen back to the series, and Charlie York was in Molly Cornell’s High C’s. Ted Grayson sailed Serenity with the C92 sail, which used to go with Fred Seeley’s Thistle, and Fred was in C5, now a CYC boat but with Penny Hare’s old number. From the early days and through the years, the tradition continues. Welcome to the Thompson family, who sailed their first Hog Island race last week!
Everything went according to plan this week. The horn worked, the pin didn’t need adjusting and no one crossed the line early. Mike O’Connor, John Coen and Ted Grayson got off to a fast start. Getting across the channel and into South Cove presented challenges because the tide was ebbing fast. This both hindered progress toward the mark and made the mouth of the cove very shallow. Skippers got to try out their theories about the fastest way to get to the mark. Ted and some others sailed very deep down toward his own dock while others, like Mike and John, opted to stay closer to the left shore. It was not obvious that either of these strategies offered a big advantage as these three, Mike O’Connor, John and Ted, reconvened at the mark and rounded in that order. Mike Jackson was next, followed by Jim Kirk, Chris Timson and Steve Kirk. The advantage of going around a second time is that everyone has a chance to learn and watch others on the first and adjust on the second if need be.
There were no lead changes on the second leg, but Mike Jackson and Jim Kirk made up some ground on the leaders. The third leg, the second time upwind, had a lot more drama. Coming out of Oldfield Cove, Mike Jackson caught a lift, sailed right past Ted and John, and barely crossed Mike O’Connor as he tacked near the green can. And there was more shuffling of positions just behind them as Chris Timson and Steve Kirk jumped ahead of John and Ted.
The fleet had, by this time, divided itself into two distinct groups, which now came face-to-face as the first group sailed upwind and the second was still coming back downwind. Jim Kirk was the lone boat in between the two groups, so he passed everyone going both ways. Mike O’Connor got to the windward mark first again with Mike Jackson, Chris, Steve, John and Ted rounding in that order behind him. They paraded back out of South Cove toward the last mark back in Oldfield Cove. Again near the green can, Mike O’Connor stalled a bit, and Mike J was able to catch up. The two rounded the leeward mark in close succession and began their match race back to the finish line. Mike O’Connor was able to cover and hold off his rival to win the race. There were, once again, several close finishes this week. When the wind drops down, sounds carry better, and a little voice from one of the spectator boats was clearly heard saying, “This is so exciting!”
1. Brendan, Mike O’Connor and Fiona Coen
2. Mike Jackson
3. Chris Timson
4. Lyra, Steve and Max Kirk
5. Serenity, Ted and Isabella Grayson
6. Lisdoonvarna, John and Patrick Coen
7. Winsome, Jim and Angus Kirk
8. Rover, Jancy and Hunter Grayson
9. Rick, Ryan, Connor and Trevor Thompson
10. Eres Tu, Rob King
11. Lazarus, Matt and Oliver Strickland
12. Irish Mist, Paul and Jameson Kirk
13. Reminder, Lou and Lucia Yoder, Ben and Jamie Fallon, and Becca Levy
14. Blitzen, Andrew and Maisie Kirk
15. Fred and Richard Seeley
16. High C’s, Charlie York