June 12, 2017 Race Report – NMBN – Light, Gusty, and Swirly

After months in hiding Billabong has finally poked her nose back into the racing world! The rebuilt motor purrs like a kitten but what that boat really likes to do is sail and sail fast.

Race: Ballard Cup Series II Race 2.
Course in Shilshole: NMBN
Crew: Ben L, Robert K, Keith H
Winds: 0-8 knots (guesstimate) gusty and swirly
Average Speed: 2.7 knots

Robert let me helm the boat which surprised me a bit being as this was our first time out together and he knows I do not have much experience helming a big boat in general, let alone racing it as well. I think I did a decent job. I tended to overcorrect and reacted too quickly but I think that will get better with a couple more times out as I get to feel the boat better.

At the start winds were probably about 5 knots (wind speed indicator is busted, another project 😉 ) with a significant flood coming at us. We knew we wanted to head in to the beach and I mistakenly picked our start about 2/3 up the line away from the beach thinking of a port tack start. Most of the class started next to the committee boat which put them closer to shore and more out of the current. It also meant that when the wind completely died right after the gun went off further out they were able to eke their way up to the beach and tack back out to the M mark. We had nearly caught our class (On your tail Figaro!), even with the extra 2 tacks, when the wind died on our position. Anarchy, Blue Lullaby, and Figaro all coasted around the mark as we watched the rest of the fleet thunder down on us. It was a float fest for a while as everyone watched a wind line slowly come down on the fleet. We were all bobbing near the pin. Water Street, a Cal 24 which is much lighter than Billabong, took off and we were right behind her! We could hear the crews behind us leap into action and start calling out commands for spinnaker hoists and leeward space as they jostled for mark room.

We cleared the mark and headed down to the leeward B mark. We were making pretty good time just on the front edge of the wind line on a beam reach. We caught and passed Water Street. They are friends and I may have tossed out a few friendly jabs about their spinnaker handling skills. No offense guys! You did great! Winds were really shifty and we went from pointing at the locks to Bainbridge and back again several times, all without moving the sails an inch. At one point we fell into a hole heading towards Bainbridge and watched all the spinnakers go cruising past only to die a few hundred feet past us. We noticed the wind clock around nearly 180 degrees before they did and took off again.

Nearly the entire fleet wound up at the leeward mark together. It was a complete cluster. Crews were fending off other boats all around them. We managed to skirt around the outside of the cluster and were nearly around on a port tack when Water Street came charging through on a starboard tack and forced us to turn down. Mark thought he could sneak through and force everyone out of the way since starboard has right of way but he got pushed away from the pin and had to do a 360 to get back in the game.

The leg back from B to the finish was a smooth (nearly) upwind sprint. Boats were crisscrossing everywhere but nobody interfered with anyone. At one point a boat on starboard came pounding up toward Billabong as were were on a port tack. The smart maneuver would have been to turn down and go behind. Robert was busy with another line and could not let out the main for me to turn down so I spun up! One of those over corrections. I parked us in a hove to position and lost us at least 4 minutes of time…whoops! I am more familiar with Breeze and that boat does not like turning down with a tight main. Turns out Billabong could have done that with ease and lost hardly a beat. My motto though: If I am not winning I am learning!

We came in at least fourth, maybe fifth after time correction to Frog Prints due to my spinning blunder. Overall though I would count it as a good race with a shorthanded crew on an entirely new boat to me! Bigger and better action to come in the future I am positive.