Day 1 of the Champagne Series is probably one of the "prettiest" race in Marina del Rey Why? Well, most of the time, Los Angeles gets hit by lots of rain, and if we are lucky, the sun comes out during the weekend and offers for the racers (us) a beautiful view of Los Angeles, surrounded by mountains covered with snow…and NO SMOG. I like it!
Here is a little summary from Day 1 of the Champagne. We had 7 Open 5.70s registered to race. On the water, we were 6 (Team KOA, USA 274, although the first one to enter the race did not make it). Out of 11 Open 5.70s based in Marina Del Rey, CA, we were still happy to see that some chose to go out sailing versus skiing!!
After 5 days of hard rain and storm (with some tornados south of LA), the sun was back with a little breeze that finally filled in around 12:30pm.
We were on for 3 races, with some new boats on the line: USA 281, George, racing for the first time on his Open 5.70 in Marina Del Rey, USA 286 with the gray/orange/carbon look open 5.70 and black sails. USA 286 was sailed by two junior sailors from CYC and were definitely going to be tough to beat on the race course.
Race 1: we (USA 275) had an awful start, ended up in bad air of 2 boats, Peter and Nik. My tactician, Doug, insisted to stay on the same tack anyway and suck it up. This was the longest tack and Doug knows that I cannot point well but I have speed. We stayed on starboard for a while and the fleet started to tack over to port. We decided to stay but we had fallen behind and after 2 tacks, we crossed the fleet behind. We kept focused and followed the shifts with attention, finding ourselves in great sync with the wind. We sailed our way to the weather mark and had passed one boat (USA 281 – sorry George) and rounded 5th. We had noticed a strong right shift going upwind and decided to set and gybe. The first 4 leading boats were already sailing downwind but on the starboard gybe. We got the boat in VMG mode: main eased out all the way, boom vang hard on, outhaul out, cunnigham out, weight forward and windward…VMG, VMG, pressure, no pressure, trying to catch some waves and always sail deeper and deeper. After 5 minutes, one boat gybed (USA 169 Tracey), but already, we were looking really good against the other ones. The shift persisted and we kept being headed to the leeward mark. Great! We are making huge ground on the fleet, and with a little more work, we could cross just ahead of Tracey.
Loooong leg…and finally, as soon as the wind pressure went down and we could feel a little lift, we decided to gybe out. We are now pretty much in a "collision course" with Tracey…but that lift transfers into a header and we are now ahead, with Tracey a few boats length behind us.
WOW! We went from 5th to 1st place in 2 gybes. At the leeward mark, we have about 5 boats length lead over Tracey (who passed Peter on the way). Unfortunately, my turn is too sharp and I touch the leeward mark as we round it…Doug is speechless ! ha ha ha! We decide to go upwind for another 30 seconds, get some speed and start our 360 penalty turn. Tracey is now right there. We finished our turn and get the boat back to speed. Tracey is only half a boat length away…that is the ultimate finish upwind. Tracey is pointing higher but we have more speed…we gain a little more and decide to tack to starboard. We cross ahead. Pressure is coming off. Tracey decides to push further on the port tack but gets headed, giving us more time to finish 1st place…man! Fun racing. Tracey crosses 2nd and Peter 3rd. Nice job!
Race 2: the second race is interesting as we were the only one to go around the "right" course. The confusion was all over the course, in all the fleet, ours included…but Doug and I decided to stick to the flags we saw on the RC before the last minute of the starting sequence. The fleet was all over and we raced pretty much alone the entire race…As a result, we got 1st place and the other open 5.70 earned each a DNF (7 points – ouch) for running around the "wrong" marks. Great discussion were taken place after the race, and at the bar, and still on Sunday! CYC Junior sailor Tony Festa on his brand new USA 286 was the only one not racing: on the start, the shackle on the clew of his main sail came loose and he had to jury gig something and wait for the 3rd race.
Race 3: for the last race, the wind picked up a bit more. Upwind, we now had to hike out hard and keep the boat flat. We had a goo start, choosing what seems to be the favor end of the line (the RC boat), with plenty of speed and room, windward and leeward. Peter was the only one by our side, with speed but not pointing as much as usually. I guess the two girls on his boat really provided some distraction! Tracey was leeward and with less weight on the rail was not as fast as we were. Peter, with 3 crew aboard was doing great but decided to tack to port tack. We decided to stay and separate from him. This paid off as we got into a great lift. We waited for the right time to tack which paid even more because we tacked in a huge header. Our tacking angle on the last tack was 50 degrees! Yeah !! Because of this (we did not see it coming that big), we over stood the layline, got some speed one and rounded the mark first, which is all we wanted. Peter was hot on our heels, followed by Tracey. Downwind, we just decided to play VMG again and cover the fleet. Tracey had amazing speed and passed Peter, who also lost another place against George who had great speed and VMG on that last leg. The course was shorten and we actually got the gun, rounding what was supposed to be our leeward mark.
With 3 first place, we were really happy. It seems like we did the right thing, called the right shifts and got lucky as well ! the fleet seems really close, which is for this first warm up regatta very cool. The only thing I can really say about this race is that the leads changed multiple times during the races and make it very exciting!
At last but not least, the Open 5.70 fleet was the largest fleet on the water and we can all be very proud of this! For Day 2 of the Champagne Series, we are expecting another 3 Open 5.70s on the race course: David (USA 274), Bryan (USA 209) and Michael (USA 186). With 9 boats on the water for Day 2, the race report should be even more fun.
Thanks for reading