Regatta season has arrived! And to start things off right, some exciting racing on Lake Ontario. Don't forget to subscribe (adding us to your contacts so we don't end up in some spam folder somewhere!!) and let us know if you've got something to share by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
It was great to see a larger fleet, on a course hosted by RCYC, out on Lake Ontario for the Albacore Ontario Championships, June 10/11. The large course, as opposed to the more contained Outer Harbour that we sail regularly here, presents a different set of challenges to our class. The courses are much longer, particularly this year’s setup which consisted of five-leg Olympic courses. This reduces the need for a great start, but puts a premium on getting an early lane, clear air early, and being generally on the proper side of the course. The larger course, sailing “on-the-lake”, also gives boats great leverage when others split tacks. Lastly, the lake provides for great surfing conditions, if the wind is up, offering another dimension to sailing fast.
Saturday. Light and Patchy, with a little bit of current.
Saturday, we ended up with only 2 races, after waiting for wind until about 1:30pm. The course was setup with about half on the shallow shelf 30ft down, and the other half 100ft or more deep. There can be current along the edge of the shelf, where it shallows, and we saw a little on Saturday, maybe 1/4 to 1/2 knot. With lighter winds this current can influence one side of the course over the other.
Ralf Fisher and I set out to be, generally, in more pressure, while not worrying about compass/angle. It was so patchy – in one location for a while, dying, and then moving elsewhere. We chose to make hay and just stay in the the current wind, trying not to predict where it would be 5 – 10 minutes down the road. In terms of settings, we used the usual light wind settings: a stood up mast with max prebend and max outhaul on upwinds. Downwind: max outhaul and a loose rig, zero centreboard, and a heel to windward. Our goal was to stay out of packs, stay out of traffic, and just be in wind, all three knots of it.
Sunday was Different
Sunday was a different beast: the wind, right off the bat, was between 12 – 20 knots. We sailed the first race with the mast in the same settings as Saturday, but pinned down for the rest of the races. The wave was very problematic upwind, with the boat hobby-horsing. We steered to miss the larger ones, but had to accept the odd crash of the bow, and immediate boat speed loss. With less crew weight, we aimed to match other teams upwind. We didn’t think we could pull away from anyone, so, staying in touch was the motto. Carefully feathering the boat during big gusts and not ploughing into a wave worked for us.
Then, on the reaches and downwind, we got to work. We typically sailed lower than the rest of the fleet, avoiding traffic and wind shadows as a top priority. We aimed to surf, working down on puffs and waves. On reaches it meant staying flat, pumping on the downface, and keeping the surf going. Downwinds is where it got tricky. The waves really added boatspeed if you could stay on them, which meant big bearaways. This is quite unstable, going beyond dead down wind, and into by-the-lee sailing. So, we kept one hand on the centreboard in case we needed instant stability, but aimed to surf big. Being a lighter teams helped a bit here, and we generally made up ground, if we stayed away from tangles with other boats.
In the end, it was a full weekend of sailing with: a great crew, Ralf Fischer; a solid race committee; and a tasty Saturday dinner with Americas Cup replays at the RCYC. Followed by champagne conditions on Sunday for planning and surfing. Try racing “on-the-lake” sometime.