If you watched any of the fourth or fifth round qualifying races for the Fizz 2009 World Cup, you know exactly what I’m excited about. The Cup’s organization and the management by both NYC and SRYC were absolutely flawless, but it was the racing that was truly incredible. I ended up with thousands of pictures documenting hundreds of tactical duels, technical twists, strategic juggernauts… and just plain glorious, gutsy sailing.
Bea Woodget’s also doing a pretty great job keeping everybody up-to-date on the regatta standings and the individual race results; I therefore thought it would make more sense for me to continue focusing on specific races and competitions, to highlight the skill of the individual sailors and the excitement and drama of the competition.
Today I’m going to kick that off by telling you about just two minutes from a race that didn’t even count… but the action was so tightly-paced that when I reviewed the pictures the next day I found myself jumping up and down and shouting at the monitor!
The Round Five races were hosted by Schiffsratten Yacht Club on the Spoondrift Raceline. The SRYC courses were longer than prior weeks, and featured an interesting mixture of island obstacles and racing marks. Round Five was a pretty good test of both the skippers’ sailing ability and their technical know-how.
The first set of races tested the skills of five sailors well-known to the SL competition circuit: Kentrock Messmer, Tim Warrhol, Cacio Tomsen, Kei Cioc, and Toraba Magic. Tim Warrhol may be newer to SL Sailing than some others in the fleet, but his RL knowledge of sailing quickly earned him the respect of fellow sailors. Most consider him a seasoned skipper and serious competition for the Fizz Cup. In fact when Tim teleported to the Spoondrift line, I half expected him to shout “ROOM!” so he could rez his boat.
As I mentioned, today I’m only going to tell you about a snippet of the regatta, beginning as this small group of superstars raised sail for the third race…
The illustration above shows three pictures of the start line during the final seconds of the countdown. The first leg is upwind beat to the blue/white mark. Many sailors will argue that a starboard tack is the best and safest start, since the race line can be a crowded place and starboard has right of way. Starting at the starboard side of the line near the red buoy also has advantages, since it gives the longest leg before tacking and can put a skipper windward of the pack, riding clean air and offering an unencumbered path to the mark.
In Spoondrift, the average wind angle was 10°, not zero, adding to the starboard start advantage.
The Fizz fleet knew this, and all boats began on starboard in each race. In the illustration above, two sailors (TM and CT) chose to safely cross in the middle of the line, avoiding any time-wasting confrontations that might arise from the cluster of argumentative skippers that gathered at the red buoy end.
At -00:03, the middle image shows TW, KC, and KM all overlapped and flying in to cross the line near the starboard end. They’re all sailing nearly parallel to the race line, trying to optimize the lift force of the apparent wind and also allowing more flexibility if they fall on the line early. It’s a nice lesson on how to set up for a good race start.
If you look more carefully, however, TW ended up in a dangerous position. Approaching the starboard end of the line he is the most windward boat of the three, and he’s left minimal room to maneuver without hitting the Red line buoy. In fact, this is a classic racing tactic.KC is leeward, parallel and overlapped with TW.KC has right of way, and could have very easily called UP! UP! UP! as the boats approached the line, forcing TW to turn windward, and pushing him completely off the race course. Kei decided against it apparently; I assume he thought the race might be boring without Tim along.
Now take a look at the illustration above a few seconds later. All five boats are continuing along close-hauled to starboard moving to the first tack point.TM is out front, but remember he started further down the line and his leeward position will cost him ground when the boats tack to port.
You can see something else interesting in that top picture: TW es windward of KC at the line, but now TW’s in the leeward slot.KC chose to pinch windward. TW’s moving faster but KC is in a nice tactical position, closer to the mark and potentially blocking TW’s tacking options.
You can see what I’m talking about in the middle frame. TW decides he’s high enough to reach the mark, so he flips to a port tack and makes a dash at the blue buoy. This is a potentially highly risky maneuver; as the middle picture shows, TW cuts straight across KC’s bow. KC could loudly protest here on at least two points:
Rule 16.1 “CHANGING COURSE: When a right-of-way boat changes course, she shall give the other boat room to keep clear”
Rule 10: “ON OPPOSITE TACKS: When boats are on opposite tacks, a port-tack boat shall keep clear of a starboard-tack boat.”
Please! I’m not being critical of Tim here. There was no protest at the time, and I am looking at pictures from a single perspective. If a protest were raised, it’s quite possible the pooled information from the judges and Race officials would show Tim had sufficient room to pass. The point I’m making is that it’s a gutsy maneuver, and I assume Tim was holding his breath; God knows, I certainly was. (But hey… no guts, no glory. It’s a boat race, remember?)
If you look at the third image above, you’ll see that KC took this in stride, and did not protest. After all, he needed to tack anyway, and it was still pretty early in the race; no need to cause a commotion. KC therefore fell parallel and overlapped in the lee position with TW.
The images above show the situation a few seconds later. As the boats reached the “zone” at the first mark they were still overlapped and that gave KC the inside slot under Rule 18. TW courteously stepped aside, allowing KC room to pass and gain slight headway. KM and TM were immediately behind the lead boats, And also parallel and overlapped with each other. They also cleared the mark together with no incident and all 4 boats gaised gennikers moving South on a broad reach to the next Mark. As they approached the East end of the start line (third image above), TW was lying windward and slightly astern of Kei; it was the perfect position to steal KC’s air and hold him captive all the way to the next Mark.
No surprise, KC knew this too. his only chance was to break away, but falling further leeward would sacrifice the lead to TW. KC therefore played his best remaining card. As the lee boat he had ROW and therefore cut into the path of TW, forcing TW to a slower downwind course. It was effective, but as you can see in the middle picture above, this damaging duel between Tim and Kei sapped their momentum and opened the door for the pair of boats trailing them, skippered by KM and TM. In a remarkable move, KM and TM surged forward alongside the battling boats, and took the windward positions. A scant moment later, for the first time KM and TM were actually able to move out front and decisively capture the lead.
The second picture above shows this remarkable situation, with all four boats closely packed and gennikers overlapping. That certainly can’t be a healthy situation and gives all involved a heavy dose of ‘bad air.’ That’s nicely demonstrated If you look at CT’s progress from the second to the third frame. All along he has been bringing up the rear, but now suddenly he’s almost on top of the other four boats!
For a brief instant all five boats were more tightly clustered together on the racecourse then they had been while moored before the race began. And all five boats were straining sail on a reach, trying to grab an extra ounce of momentum and break from the pack.
Well, it wasn’t going to happen.
Unbeknownst to any of us, Tiga sim suddenly went off-line and all five boats crumpled in unison into the unyieding sim edge. I admit it was probably the most cataclysmic crash of canvas and fiberglass I’ve ever seen on the waters of SL. Cacio Tomsen concurred with that apocalyptic assessment, offerring the constructive suggestion that the World Was About to End. Kentrock Messmer took a more practical approach: “In that case, can I have a beer?”
Once the sims were back up and all the broken toys were hauled away, the five intrepid sailors bellied up to the raceline in new boats that still had that fresh-rezzed smell, and they did Race #3 all over again.
Wait till I tell you about what happened in the REAL Race #3!