Who would ever guess the morning of the second day of the J/80 Worlds would be spent sitting around the tent, at home, at the office or at breakfast? That’s the way it was. With a scheduled 1030 hours start time either in area B (up the Bay) or area A (offshore off "R2" about 2.0 miles), crews are generally up by 0700 hrs and getting ready to roll to breakfast, get down to the docks in time to see where to sail by 0830 when flags are hoisted on the pole at Newport Yachting Center and then get the ball rolling.
The forecast this morning was awful. In fact, it sucked. Rain, no wind, torrential downpours. But, the bright side was that a Low was forming south of Cape Cod that could simply suck all the crap out to sea! Who knew, right? Could the weather forecasters using the dozen different models available to them ever be at least 50% right? Perhaps. All models seemed to be violently in agreement…a scary proposition. Could Sailflow, Clearpoint, NWS, GFS, NAMS, WxUnderground have been using the same copy machine? Some weather feature indicated a deepening and strengthening of the Low offshore so that as it accelerated, the ENE winds from the day before would vaporize and a subtle shift would occur in the morning hours that would bring in a stronger WNW flow. Well, it happened.
Perhaps lotsa kudos ought to go to Tom Duggan, Brad Read and others on the SailNewport Race Management team as they fretted about what was best to do for the fleet. I can tell you, no matter what decision was going to be made, there would be a HUGE amount of second guessing between dozens of knowledgeable sailors, coaches, supporters and, perhaps most importantly, Mom. Yes, somehow Mom always has that gut feeling that what’s supposed to happen, happens. In this case, it was true. Call it feminine intuition. My Mom said to Bob, "have to go attend to some friends at the Episcopal Church, dear, you can enjoy the day on the water, the Lord Be With You. By the way, looks like late in the day could be nice." Word to the wise, Reverend Mary J is not often wrong.
Well, whether it was Rev. Mary’s prognostications or a group of wise men that saw Tom and Brad simply divine the tea leaves before them, it was an incredibly wise decision. By noon, when PRO Tom sent the Spanish Armada and their various European and American disciples to sea, it was clear as mud that it was the right decision. By the time the fleet both powered and planed under sail out out to the starting line offshore of "R2" in a building WNW breeze, one might have thought we were collectively, and simply, mad. Pouring cats and dogs, thrown in with a few hamsters and guinea pigs, we only needed locusts and some hail to ensure that the Second Coming was around the corner. Rain squalls, fog, haze seemed to be the order of the day. A popular head-dress was the classic black fisherman’s sea hat with chin-strap combined with a dinghy smock top sealed off to you were blue in the face!
By the time the first race was started around 2pm, the fleet was already chaffing at the bits in their teeth, ready to set a blistering pace down the first stretch and around the race track. A general recall, Z-flag recall, then a Black flag start finally got the ball rolling. What ensued was an amazing race. For us, it was pretty incredible. Starting off the port third of the line, we simply rolled forward and somehow rounded in the top three overlapped with cousin Jeff J on LITTLE FEAT (BTW- the were flying upwind in these conditions- still can’t figure it out— bro Chuckie Allen won’t tell us even after offering him many beers!). Next to us was Glenn Darden on LE TIGRE. As usual, the Spanish teams seemingly flew out of the woodwork to catch us all…they all rounded somewhere in the top 15 at the weather mark, but it simply didn’t matter to them. So long as the conditions are in the 16-25 knots range (which it was) they have an uncanny 6th
sense to know when to go "displacement mode" or "planing mode" downwind. In any event, the rocked through the fleet and made some huge gains. Must be some good Spanish paella– all the great spicy food that gets them ready to hunger for more! Anyhow, they blew doors, again. Getting 1-2 in the first race…we were happy to beat a recent Spanish World Champion (Pichu Torcida) and get 4th in an all-out planing finish! Smiles all around on the great yacht RASCAL, I think Henry had such a big grin on his face that he may have been in shock.
The fifth race of the regatta was pretty unbelievable. The PRO Tom Duggan took forever to get the ball rolling, but for all the right reasons. The winds were in the 270-290 range in long streaks and it was clearly a pain in the butt to get the fleet off cleanly. The port end boat was floating around on an anchor line that was up to 500 feet in scope…adjusting as necessary. The RC boat was no different. Gotta hand it to these guys for working their tails off to make it happen in very difficult circumstances. But, after several general recalls a postponement was flown to re-organize the RC troops. Wise decision. By 4pm, yup, 1600 hours, the fifth race was started with a goal of 5 legs on a 1.5 mile windward-leeward course. That was a pipe dream. Nevertheless, the RC wisely shortened course to three legs. It was incredibly tight racing, with the top 15 finishing in about a 90 second time span? Anyhow, fun, fast, unbelievably close racing. To
boot, it had to be one of the more spectacular finales to a day of racing in years— the front was passing with a clearly defined line of clouds to the West with an imminent sunset by 6:15pm. Sure enough, as the fleet was entering Newport Harbor, the sunset broke in a most spectacular sight for anyone onshore- the undersides of the brooding grey clouds above highlighted by burnt red-orange and the skies off to the west a bright burnt orange glowing through the sea of carbon and kevlar sails heading into port at day’s end.
How are the sailors doing? Well, the Spanish Armada are doing OK. Just taking the top three spots already. Surprised? The top American teams are clearly mystified or just shocked—can’t tell. Certainly impressed, that’s for sure. Perhaps a bit like that Italian team that won the recent M32 Worlds in San Francisco last week. Where are these guys learning how to sail like this? Simple, time in the boat. They know when to hit "the pedal to the metal" and turn on the turbo-chargers or when to go slow and hit displacement mode for tactical advantage. They surely have no speed advantage upwind, hell, we proved that ourselves– dusting off two J/80 World Champions off the starting line in two successive races. Instead, it’s their uncanny ability to get around in the top 15 and then use their speed downwind to gain advantage. Then, if they’ve got the first beat figured out (or not), do the opposite on the next! Seems to work. There crew work
doesn’t suck either, very few mistakes for the most part. More tomorrow on whether this all holds true.