There wasn’t enough wind to safely send the fleet out of the harbor on a dying ebb/building flood tide. Light northeast winds filled in just enough to conduct a harbor race. The course was a simple windward-leeward twice around. Porch-sitters were able to see the entire race without even leaning forward. They also were treated to the arrival of an old-time sailing vessel, the Key West Bloodhound, a low-slung flush-deck thing with almost as much bowsprit as boat. Turns out she’s bound from summer charters in Provincetown, back to Key West for the winter. Turns out she’s a 1990s replica of a 19th-century Scottish racing yacht. Always nice when Great Harbor can have nice things.
The weather mark was between the yacht club east dock and the town pier. The start and turning mark were about 100 inches west-southwest. Yes, I mean 100 yards, maybe slightly more, but you get the idea. As the fleet captain said before the race, the purpose of the course was to give us a reason to rig our boats. Anything else would be enrichment.
At the start it was quickly apparent that a port-tack would take boats toward the mark, and starboard tack would mostly take boats toward the beach. In light air, starts are messy slow-motion affairs, with boats jockeying for position and for clear air, all while trying to approximate forward motion. Luna Nova was at the north end of the line on port tack. Most everyone was on port tack as well, heading east toward the aquarium. Everyone could see that there was very little breeze behind the aquarium, but about half the fleet lemming’d in anyway. Oh, one could indeed tack, but only in slow-mo, in order to try to maintain momentum.
There were little lifts and headers happening, and boats had to obey the yarns if they knew what was good for them. Luna Nova, at the weather end of the line, was functionally closest to the club when it came time to flop on to starboard tack and take aim at the mark. After tacking, Luna Nova was closely followed by Xiphias, Scup and Ragwagon. Then there was a gap and then the rest of the fleet tiptoed along, having had to sail nearer the Fisheries dock (less wind in there) just to lay the mark. Luciole led a second group, joined by Escargot and Skimmer.
As the second group neared the mark on starboard tack, Who’s There? was coming in hot on port tack. She was hailed about her lack of rights inside the three-boatlength circle, so she summarily tacked. This led to a situation where Who’s There? was pinching hard to make the mark, but not making it anyway, and three boats blanketing her as they trundled over the top and headed downwind. Who’s There? had to tack twice more, in very little air, and this took rather a long time.
The downwind leg was a silent glide, with rigged Knockabouts weaving among moored Knockabouts. Imagine walking slowly through a room of people sleeping on the floor, and that’s pretty close. Luna Nova rounded the leeward mark first, followed closely by Xiphias and Scup and Ragwagon. There was enough wind for boats to move and maneuver, but not a long enough race course for boats to make many mistakes, so in a way, the starting order very nearly mirrored the finishes. Summing it up neatly, Ragwagon’s skipper later remarked that the whole short episode compared favorably with a round of miniature golf, minus the windmill and the loop-de-loop.
This concludes Old Salt’s 2021 reporting season. He can uncomfortably report having won the Fall Series without having won a single race in it. Four seconds and a fifth was enough, since every boat that won a race also had a clunker, and we didn’t get in enough races to have a throw-out. There’s a life-lesson here, about the sum of one’s points, and perseverance, but let’s leave the preachy to the orators. Here’s wishing everyone a healthy winter. Fair winds!
1. Luna Nova (Fran Elder), 0:00
2. Xiphias, (Brian Switzer), 0:10
3. Scup (Chris Warner), 0:16
4. Ragwagon (Peter Ochs), 0:23
5. Luciole (David Epstein), 1:10
6. Escargot (Brett Longworth), 1:25
7. Skimmer (Fred Denton), 2:00
8. Who’s There? (George Sykes), 2:29