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stiff little fingers

atlantic cup onboard

stiff little fingers

Rail Meat on Dragon breaks down leg 2 of the Atlantic Cup. Title props here.

Racing these boats, particularily short handed, is a physical exercise compounded by the fact that I could probably stand for a bit more time in the gym and less at the desk. My back, arms, legs, neck, and ass are going to be sore for days if past experience is any guide. But nothing says "offshore racing" like the hands. The finger tips are sanded smooth by the lines and deck non-skid. Nails have to be cut really short to avoid problems that end up looking like a third world torture job. Cuts and scrapes appear out of no where. And worse of all – by the end of the race the mitts are so sore and swollen that it hurts to gab onto that cold bottle of PBR.

Regarding the run to RI, I am trying to figure out how feel about the results. The initial reaction is crushing disappointment with an 11th place finish. But after the benefit of 3 hours of sleep and a bit of caffeine, I can find the positive in the outcome.

We had a great race down to Barnegat. The boat moved well, we made the right routing and sail plan choices and the results showed that we could be at the front of the pack in what was effectively a drag race. We rounded that mark feeling pretty good about ourselves, sitting in second and with a decent feel for the fleet’s capabilities.

The segment from Barnegat to Newport was where the wheels began to wobble. Primarily, it came down to a navigational choice. The wind was on the nose, and I went at it as a fairly simple exercise of picking the favored board. That sent us up initially to the north on starboard, then east on port, then north again on starboard all the way to the Long Island shore as the wind shifted back and forth. We were basically in phase with Campagne who were always in sight through Sunday afternoon. I went with that plan of attack because my forecasts did not show any real differentiation of pressure or direction for the wind across the course, which obviously did not prove to be the case in the long run. 

Imagine my surprise when we got up to Long Island, back into cell phone range, and discovered that the boats that went east did an end run around us. There were some glum faces. In peeling back what happened, clearly they had more pressure to the east and a better angle. My navigational choice was influenced by the weather I had available, and the inability to get fresh weather caused by my INMARSAT did not help. Also, in retrospect I may not have paid enough attention to the macro weather conditions. But I also can’t really fault the choice I made – it was logically correct for what I was looking at. The boats that went east just made a better choice. 

I do feel a bit bad about the last 20 miles, where at least 3 boats managed to get past us. We failed to cover Toothface and chose to cover Picoty instead. As a result, Toothface was able to gain some gauge on us to the east which worked better as we went down the west side of Block Island where we got headed. We had to aggressively pinch up in an effort to clear Point Judith, while they were free to sail a better angle to the mark. In retrospect, I should have slid east a bit to put a controlling cover on both boats. I also should have just bit the bullet and put a hitch into the east once it became clear we were going to have to pinch…I just kept crossing my fingers for the lift that kept teasing us with little shots of righty and then soul crushing returns to 082 to 086 TWD.

Then in the final two miles, we just had some bad luck with a wind hole that we fell into. We chose to get to the west side of the passage in a belief that the north easterly would effectively blanketed on the east side of the passage by the land mass. Not the case – we flopped around in 3 knots of air over on that west side with the Code 0 up while over on the east side of the passage Eole Generation Suez was able to simply sail right through us with a bit more pressure and much better angle. That was just the stiff, swollen, fickle finger of fate…. it could have just as easily been us that caught a break and been able to reel in Toothface or Gryphon Solo. Frustrating, but not anything I can beat myself up over. Not that my swollen hands could beat much of anything up right now.

Ultimately, the finish order was so tightly compacted it was amazing. 3 hours 30 minutes for the entire fleet. When we finished, it was with a pack of 6 or 7 boats that all finished within minutes of one another. Sail 240 miles, much of it out of sight of one another and then trade tacks with a pack of boats in the last 3 miles? It is amazing racing, and incredible endorsement for what this Class is all about.

Finally, a shout out for my crew Chris Museler. Boundless energy and a continuing focus on trying to make the boat go fast. It was our first time really sailing together, but a lot of fun. His match racing exeperience was an entirely new input for me, and a great learning experience. I am looking forward to doing Newport Bermuda with him. But a bigger shout out for his wife who let him go sailing only days after the birth of their third. Thank you, and congratulations!