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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

9.9- Unilateral mid-race course change

"Maggie's Magic"(left) and "Il Gatto" (right) as seen from "Light Wind" during the Wednesday night beer-can race

Race Report:
The winds were in the 10 to 12 knot range, giving the Capt. and crew (including me) of the appropriately named "Light Wind" something of a chance of keeping up with the other, much longer vessels in this weeks informal Wednesday Night Race around the three gov.t markers near Oriental ("Oriental 1," "Adams Creek 1" and "Neuse River 7" a.k.a. "Garbacon Shoals").

For some reason the race started on a downwind leg from Oriental 1 towards AC1... normally the race starts at Oriental 1 and heads first towards the more windward of AC1 or NR7.

The two boats in today's picture had something of an advantage on "Light Wind" on the dead run towards AC1, but we were pleased to remain within striking distance of the leaders, knowing that "Il Gatto"s weakness was pointing upwind, while "Light Wind"s favored point of sail is close-hauled in 10 knot winds... giving us a good chance to catch up on the upwind leg from AC1 to NR7...

Sure enough, we rounded AC1 and steadily began catching up with "Il Gatto"... "Maggie's Magic" leaped far ahead of everyone, so the race to NR7 was on between "Il Gatto" and "Light Wind." This was all that mattered to us - a chance to whup ass on Capt. Joe.

While we were on our second (starboard) tack heading upwind towards NR7 after a port-side rounding of AC1, and "Il Gatto" was on her third (port) tack, we had her on a "constant bearing, diminishing range"...

The only question was who would cross whose bow, a bit hard to judge because of the distance, but we were on a starboard tack, so "Il Gatto" would have to give way and cross our stern if it was anything close... that would put us in position to tack on top of her and steal some of her wind until we were well ahead of her!

It seems Capt. and crew of the 30 foot Nonsuch "Il Gatto" were aware they were about to be passed by a 22 foot Catalina, so they came up with a strategy to avoid the embarrassment...

"Il Gatto"s Capt. Joe, the organizer of the un-organized race, decided to make an ad hoc change to the race course, unilaterally eliminating the NR7 leg of the race. We first suspected this when "Il Gatto" tacked again onto a course that did not appear headed to NR7. We then hailed her on the VHF, and asked for confirmation of the race course... We were told that it was from O1 to AC1 and back to O1, in a voice that feigned surprise that we had needed to ask (Maggie's Magic, the vessel on the left in the photo had by that time reached NR7, so we began to smell a rat)...

Our radioman responded with an ironic but unprintable remark concerning the appropriateness of a particular vernacular translation of the name of Capt. Joe's vessel.

It is unclear to us if Capt. Joe had even bothered to announce the mid-race change, since we were concentrating on trimming sails and pointing high more than we were on monitoring the VHF ... but even if he did announce it, sailboat racing rules require all course changes to be announced and confirmed prior to the start of a race.

As it was, "Light Wind" ended up crossing the NEW finish line a mere five minutes behind "Il Gatto" (about 6 to seven statute miles between start and finish)...

After "Il Gatto" lowered her sails, uh, I mean sail, and fired up her engine like a bunch of lubbers, we held ourselves a victory lap by beating up into Raccoon Creek for the post-race committee meeting at the Tiki-Bar... we topped it all off with a 9.8 "Bean"-scale landing* at the town dock under full sail and right in front of the awed and shamed faces of Capt. Joe and his crew, who were just sipping their first beers at the Tiki-Bar.

Our formal protest, and "Il Gatto"s varied excuses, were presented to the race committee on the Tiki-Bar deck... But since we were all splicing main-braces, no official decision was ever reached.

That's OK... we'll get her next time!

*note to non-local sailors - The "Bean" rating for landings falls within the realm of "local knowledge"... sail into to Oriental harbor, land at town dock and get a coffee across the street to find out more... but I will say that landing under sail earns extra points.


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