A Rough, Sad Day...
Crew: Brian, Seth, Bob & RW
Winds: WSW, avg 22 kts, gusts high 20’s, 33 max, lulls 10
Weather: Clear & Sunny, Temp 78 F, Baro 29.58
Current: ebbing, flood - North Hill 1410
Start/Finish: West Harbor entrance
Start time: 1155; Finish: 1439
Elapsed Time: 164 minutes
Course: Course #4, s/f-(C5)-(N2W)-(N16)-Vixen (N28)-Silver Eel (R2)-NH(R2)-s/f;
Distance: 13.0 nm
Arriving at Fishers after a wet motor over from Noank with hour & a half till our class start, we decided to anchor in the lee of Flat Hammock. Resting there quite comfortable, we listened to radio traffic between the RC & boats checking in/withdrawing and the chase-boat assessing the conditions on the backside of the island. They were starting in 10-minute intervals and we were to be the fifth class to go. Once it became evident an inside course & a downwind start were in the offing, we decided at 1125 to check in and began preparing the boat. If it were an upwind start, I would have declined or flood against this wind probably not have ventured out.
A little late to line on starboard at the pin, we rounded to raise the 30 year old drifter, our version of a ‘chicken-chute’ wing & wing with the pole. Ahead Brer Rabbit, Checkered Demon and Salud favored the right near Fishers’ shore, while Draggin’ Z & Wunder Dog veered off to the left, and we took the middle. If memory serves correctly, Checkered Demon & the J-24’s hoisted spinnakers while the Rabbit (maybe) & Salud continued under genoas. Halfway between Clay Point and N2W, the Demon had a spectacular broach and lay on her side a while, not long enough for us to gain much though. Brian (thankfully) realized that N2W was off to our 1 to 2 o’clock position rather than ahead on the path of the J-24’s and I was able to correct without a jibe, though at times dangerously by the lee.
Rounding Middle Clump R2W, and already on port, a jibe of the drifter carried us to Eel Grass. Entering the crossing of the channel, Wunder Dog began sailing towards Noank, evidently withdrawing due to a breakage of some sort. Short of rounding R16, I monitored radio traffic regarding a man overboard (MOB), though no boats ahead appeared in difficulty.
At Eel Grass we raised the #3 jib commencing the brutal beat. We’ve not had much experience with this sail, only the 3rd time we’ve used it. This time we used tracks inside of the upper shrouds which seemed to work better, as before I had to fall off too far to fill it. We did not get it hoisted firmly though & nearly maxed out the cunny instead. I also noticed the car needed to come aft, something to accomplish on the next tack.
We decided to sail north of Ram through NSY’s mooring field for current avoidance, and tack along the shore of the Mystic River, Morgan Point and Mouse Island. These are Brian’s home waters. Prior to the starboard tack to gain the channel and adjust the car, Brian had to duck below for another PFD, as his had auto-inflated a few minutes previously.
Sailing out of the river we were passed by Leda (Melges 24, having weathered Ram) and received a hearty yell from Chris Fields. Tacking around GLP R22, my hat became history; my now pink forehead a reminder. Short of Horseshoe Reef we came upon Persistence (a Pearson 36-2), a victim of the reef though free and receiving assistance from two power boats. We extended out from Horseshoe precluding another tack prior to Vixen. Here we were passed by ‘One More Time’ (Farr 30) getting a wave of encouragement from Donzo.
Passing Vixen, we began a long near-reach to Silver Eel, the wind 24+ with some 6 to 8 foot seas. Now it was Seth’s turn for his PFD to auto-inflate. About 2/3’s the way down, a particularly steep sea broadside tipped the boat enough to send me head over heels down to the far leeside of the cockpit. Fortunately, I recovered quickly (and steering while upside down in the cockpit, prevented an auto-tack which could have been disastrous) with the crew anware of an issue.
Approaching the mark we discussed prepping the drifter again, should we need it. The #3 was more than sufficient broadreaching in winds of mid-twenties. Short of rounding Silver Eel, I heard some radio-chatter about an injury and taking someone off a boat for transport to the hospital. Jibing around R2, Bob in the cockpit leeside got hit by mainsheet (no pain), though reminiscent of Jeff Lamothe’s broken arm last fall.
Nearing North Hill we witnessed ‘Showdown’ upon the rocks of South Dumpling, some crew working aboard, others ashore. A very deliberate jibe in 25+ knots set us up for screeching run to the finish, wing & wing sans pole crossing at 1439.
Fishers Island YC wisely chose to downplay the after race festivities, curtailing the finish/winner announcements, to be posted at a later date on their website.