Well, it might seem that we fell of the end of the world there for a few days, but things got a little hectic. In catching up, this post is a bit long, I give you fair warning.
After the qualifying rounds finished on Tuesday, we showed up Wednesday for the 1 pm start only to be met with more weather. The winds were high, storms kept sweeping through and so we sat in the club house watching the radar and the clouds.
Finally at about 2 or 2:30 the RC announced we were going out, so everyone dashed to put their boats in. There were about 50 boats using one hoist and so, although the process went very smoothly, it took a while. By the time Ben and I just got our boat in, a squall came through,and the race committee sent everyone back in. At that point, everyone took their boats out and 30 minutes later a lovely sea breeze set in!! Argh! Still, that was it for the day and we were told to come back Thursday for a 10 am start.
Thursday started out looking better. There was a decent wind, they started the race (windward-leeward twice around), and off we went. The wind shifted a bit and the race committee was really trying to make things perfect, so they kept shifting the marks, providing a whistle at the preceding mark to alert us to the change. Unfortunately, on the third leg they muffed the setting of the mark, turning that leg into a reach instead of an upwind leg. For some reason, they then finished us at the end of the third leg, probably (maybe?) because they figured that was a crazy race and better to just end it as soon as they could. Ben and I were not only well back in the fleet, maybe 17th or so, but we didn't get a finish, which is the first moment we realized we had been over early at the start. They had put up a individual recall but do not announce boats, so you just have to guess. Ben knew we had been over before the gun but thought he had dipped below well before. It turns out, the "I" flag was up, meaning not only do you have to go around an end to restart if you are over early, but you have to be behind the line one minute before the start. We had forgotten that important detail!
Luckily for us (to spare you any suspense) they had to throw out that race because in the instructions for this particular regatta the minimum race has to be four legs. Whew!!
Next they tried another race, again windward-leeward. We got a good start that time and headed pretty hard right in the dying wind. We got to the windward mark just behind John and Susie Domagala. As we rounded the mark we began to realize just how much the wind had died and we ghosted down the course, barely under way all the way to the leeward mark. We rounded and went left and the wind died still more. I will spare you the painful details, but it was a long, long leg during which what wind there was shifted and we put up our spinnaker again. Finally, we were in spitting distance of the mark, the water like glass, when we heard the abandon horn. The race had not been completed in the allotted time. What torture!!
So we'd been on the water since 9:30, it was now 2:30 and we had no races that counted yet. Looking grim!
Happily, when we got in, a sea breeze began to blow, they sent us out again and ran a lovely race. We decided on a conservative start and to head right, which we did. We traded tacks with two or three boats up that leg, but managed to round in first place, got our chute up though the wind was light, and headed to the leeward mark. We managed to pull away a little on that leg and also benefitted from a big traffic jam right behind us when about six boats got to the leeward mark at the same time. The next two legs we did the same and pulled out more. They finished us downwind and by that time we were about 20 boat lengths ahead of the next boat. That was a fun race!!
Friday they had to run two races to even make the regatta count and things were tense. They had us start at 9:30, got a good race in with a moderate wind from the north east. We had a conservative midline start, played the shifts, had the boat going well upwind. Each mark we rounded in second place, though the leader changed every time! In the end, Kim and Dave Thinel, of the Florida District, had the best boat speed and won the race. We were second and felt really good about our finish.
Then, just like the day before, the wind died and we sat, and sat ... and sat. The smart boats, including John and Jen, headed in to get out of the sun. By the time we figured out we could do that they had decided to try to start a race in a wimpy north wind that had shown up. They were running out of time, the race had to start before 3 pm and it was already 2:15. As they started the Championship Fleet we saw the seabreeze coming in from the exact opposite angle and Ben said, "Deb at the start, get ready to put the chute up." Luckily, the RC also saw what was happening, abandoned the race, we all trucked down wind, they set up a new course and voila! we got a good race off in a steady, moderate wind. Hallelujah!
That race was similar to the one on Thursday. We traded tacks with a couple boats on the way upwind. One boat, Greg and Diane Kampf from Massachusetts, got there first, then we were second. That was the situation for almost the whole race until the last upwind leg, when our closest competitor, John Kreidler, got by us to finish second.
We had a one, two and three finish, which gave us six points. John K had nine points, so that made us the winner of the Challenger division. We are feeling pretty darn good about it!