Mike Hennessey checks in after a hard-fought battle (including a horizon job bullet in the final race) over the final weekend of the Atlantic Cup. Be sure to check the A-Cup thread for more stories and some more great shots like these from Meredith Block. If you paid any attention to the race, take a minute to help the organizers improve; fill out their survey here.
Last Monday was a recovery day, and then Tuesday and Wednesday were spent prepping the boat for the inshore racing. That basically consisted of stripping off all of the Cat 1 required gear, leaving anything that was required for Cat 5 and Class Rules. By the end of the effort, the boat was pretty empty inside, and floating about an inch and half higher in the water.
Thursday and Friday were practice days, and we hit the water each afternoon. For most of the team, it was their first time sailing a Class 40, and part of the time was spent familiarizing everyone with the boat. We also sorted out who would be filling each position on the boat, set and doused every sail in the inventory multiple times, and practiced tacks and gybes. We also practiced multiple starts. I actually had to go back into the office on Friday, so Ed Adams subbed in for me and provided some amazing coaching for the team as they worked up the boat. By the end of the practice session we were confident that we had the right people in each job, and every one was starting to figure out how to make the boat move. Chris was bow, with Ned in mid bow. Primary headsail trimmer was Mark, with Robbie supporting trim and calling tactics. Stan was helm, and I was main sail trimmer and navigator
The race courses used a dozen different government marks and drop marks scattered across lower Narragansett Bay with the southern most marks being the cans off Beavertail and Brenton Reef, and the northern most mark being the can to the east of Gould Island, above the Pell bridge. The organizers had set up 14 different courses using these marks, ranging from 6 miles up to 14 miles in total length.
Saturday dawned foggy, with a front sitting south of Newport and bringing moderate south easterlies to the harbor. Winds blew 9 to 14 knots with a short period of 17 knots during the afternoon. The fog slowly burned off across the morning, and by the second race it was no longer a factor. Racing started on time at 11, and consisted of three races.
The first two races consisted of upwind starts headed south down towards Castle Hill and Bevertail. Quite frankly, our starts in those first two races were weak sauce and we were second or third rank off the line. In the first race we were forced to the east and out of the wind pressure, while the western boats saw both more pressure and a lift. We never recovered from that, and we also had two sailhandling fumbles that did not help. However, our downwind sailing was quite strong, and we made up ground on virtually every other boat in the fleet. While we were seventh, we actually had 3 boats directly in front of us at the finish line and there was some reason to feel optimistic. The second race, however, did not help. We had a bad start with what we felt was some interference from Mare that we protested but ended up losing. That put us off our game, and then we were less than brilliant with the upwind leg. The down wind legs were again done quite well, making up ground in the fleet. We finished at the back end of a very tight pack of the middle boats, but it still meant 9th place.
The third race we finally started to pull it together. A down wind start helped, and then we just made the boat move well. Good communication, good sail handling and great trim put us into a solid third place result and was good way to finish the day on a positive note.
Sunday saw very light northerlies on the course, and right at the scheduled start the wind shut down as it went into a predicted shift towards the south. When it filled back in enough for a 40 minute delayed start of the first race, it was initially from the east and then from the ESE. It never got above 9 knots, and was as low as 3 knots at a couple of points during the racing. The first course sent us south on a reaching start, and involved reaching, upwind, reaching, running and upwind work. We nailed the start at the front of the pack and had an excellent race to finish second to Mare and solidly in front of the rest of the boats. For the final race, we again has a start to the south, with a reach that turned into a tight reach / beat on the first leg. We capitalized on our strong start by using our Code 5 in very close hauled configuration to be able to get down the first leg with the fewest tacks of any of the boats. We rounded with a very wide lead on second place and then went into another reach on the other board towards the second mark on what was a fairly short leg. Our rounding was perfect, and we continued to extend on the other boats that were struggling somewhat with the rounding and wind that was starting to fade. Rounding the second mark we launched the kite and chose to head in towards Brenton Reef, a move that put us out of current and kept us in what was left of the pressure. The boats that went out to the west suffered for it, and it allowed us to further build our lead. We threw in one gybe to the west and then laid Castle Hill perfectly. We made it back down to the finish line without having to put in another gybe, an important factor in very light air that made any change of course a difficult task of trying to get the sails pulling again. We really legged it out on the fleet in this last section, and finished the race as much as 10 or more minutes in front of the next boats. It was a bit of a horizon job, and a great way to finish the day and the entire Atlantic Cup.
The starts ended up being critical for good results. In almost every single race, the boats that cross the start line first were the boats that crossed the finish line first. Once we got our starts sorted out, our results improved dramatically. Our team work also turned out to be top notch as we gelled. Finally, the reaching and running sail inventory was as good or better than any other boat in the fleet. Those were the keys for the relative success that we able to enjoy.
We ended up with third for the inshore, and sixth for the entire Cup. While I certainly would like to have been higher up, it also felt good to perform well against some intimidating competition. The racing in all three legs was exciting and challenging, and the spirit on shore at the docks and bars was loose and fun. Hugh and Juliana did an unbelievable job at putting on a fantastic event. Thanks to them, the other competitors and all the people who followed the race and visited the docks in each of the three cities. This year’s edition has been one of the high points of my sailing career so far.
The next couple of weeks involve sorting the boat for Newport Bermuda. Chris and I will be racing together, double handed, although the Class 40’s are actually going to go in the Open division and some of them will go fully crewed. We will keep all you Anarchists posted as things develop.
Until next time, Rail Meat standing by.