Commentary by Laura Beigel

Before the start of the first race, dad and I checked the angle of the breeze at both ends of the line, the current and looked for pressure differences up the course. At the starting line, the wind angle was the same on both sides but we noticed there seemed to be more pressure in shore (on the right side of the course). The current was ebbing but we expected it to slack within the first two legs of the race. The breeze seemed to be accelerating out of the mouth of the Magothy River and sweeping down shore. I told dad I wanted to start at the committee boat end and play the right side of the course up wind.

The first start was a general recall. All but 2 of the boats were over the line for the last 15 seconds of the sequence because of the current. The fleet regrouped and adjusted their starting strategies for the current. The gun went off and the fleet started without even and individual recall. Unfortunately I got a second row start at best.

I tacked out the first chance I got and headed to the right side of the course. Dad and I had the boat powered up and we sailing fast. As we predicted, I got headed more and more the further I sailed in shore. After we got headed a full 15 degrees, we decided to tack. I pulled on the check stay to straighten out the mast, the boat powered up and dad was able to drop into the harness. We looked across the course at the fleet and saw most of the boats were flat and the crews were still sitting to leeward. We were sailing a higher angle, had more pressure and were sailing much faster. Our game plan had paid off!

We rounded the weather mark in first by about 30-45 seconds and immediately decided we would gybe at the offset. At the risk of a bad offset rounding, I decided not to put up the pole and we sailed DDW to the mark and rounded into a tight reach. I decided I wanted to sail high and fast until the second boat rounded to put some distance between us because my biggest weakness is sailing down wind. For the rest of the leg dad kept an eye on the fleet for me while I watched the tell tails. He helped me match the angle of the boats behind us and I adjusted the sails with every small shift in the breeze, and there were a lot of them!

We rounded the leeward mark and sailed straight in shore on port tack until the second boat rounded. We then tacked and headed up the course. Normally I would tack immediately after rounding to get further up course and separate myself, but the right side was so favored I wanted to get that advantage asap. Once again this worked in our favor and I was able to put more distance between myself and the fleet. We had the check stay trimmed tight and dad dropped into the harness. Fortunately for us, the third leg turned into a parade to the windward mark. Dad was one of few that was able to drop into the harness so we sailed higher and faster than most of the fleet.

At the windward mark, I had put enough distance between myself and the fleet that I suggested we put the pole up for the offset leg. Dad agreed 100% and we set the mast up for going down wind quickly. We got to the offset, gybed and realized the breeze had shifted around a couple of degrees. We were on a much broader reach than before. Dad watched the fleet behind me and I adjusted the sails with every shift as the breeze began to die. The wind shifted forward as it died and we took the pole down. For a minute or two there was little to no breeze at all. I kept a close eye on the tell tail and sure enough the wind shifted around 180 degrees and we were now going up wind to the finish. Dad brought the mast back to our upwind setting, sat to leeward and we kept the sails trimmed loose and sailed a lower angle to try to accelerate. The breeze was very light and unsettled so we picked an angle and adjusted the sails to the headers and lifts. This really helped us move forward. I was not using the rudder at all, the sails were always full and we sailed upwind at the low angle maintaining speed. After 10 long minutes in those light conditions, we crossed the finish and got the gun! I looked back at the fleet for the first time since the windward mark and realized the breeze had completely died on the course and they had barely made it halfway down the leg.

Some of the key aspects to our strategy included keeping the boat powered up and making sure we were always between the next shift and the fleet. Upwind, we had the boat tuned to our lightest air setting and trimmed the check stays as tight as we could without closing off the leach of the jib. This helped us power up the main enough to allow dad to hike, which allowed us to sail a higher angle at a much faster speed than the fleet. Downwind, dad took off the leeward leaver but kept the windward one on in case we hit any chop. This allowed the rig to flex with the pressure but was stiff enough it did not shake around in the boat when we hit chop. I asked him to keep his eyes on the fleet and breeze behind us so he could tell me when the closest boat changed their angle or when we were getting a puff. I kept my eyes on our TVIs, tell tails for the visually impaired (they are about a 1 and ½ feet long and made of VHS tape) so I could trim to every shift. We were able to transition smoothly with every shift and increase/decrease in velocity.

One of the most important parts to our strategy was being able to sail away from the fleet. I was the only boat to go right while the entire fleet went left. Sometimes I think I am too comfortable sailing away from the fleet and being alone on one side of the course. I only do it when I am 90% sure it will work and therefore most of the time it pays off. Often times I do this in light to moderate breeze because it is hard to sail through a fleet and stay at maximum speed and height. I will sail next to the fleet, stay in phase and pick off a few boats just by simply having clear air and being able to stay powered up.

Thank you once again to the Gibson Island race committee for running a phenomenal event in such trivial conditions! A big thank you to Keith Donald as well for promoting the event to our neighboring districts, encouraging participation and providing food and beverages for the weekend! Dad and I cannot wait to come back next year.