Wild and Woolly Racing in Sunfish Opens the SYC Team Race 2011 Season
Sakonnet River, July 17 -- Cushing Anderson, SYC Race Committee
Sunday morning, July 17, 2011 broke with a fair wind, blue skies and a moderate swell.
Seven intrepid sailors, eager for salt spray, sunshine and sailing met at the Sakonnet Yacht Club for the first of two scheduled team races. After discussing the possible opportunities, the assembled crew decided that sunfish would be the weapon of choice for the friendly duel. Six sailors, assigned to either the "White-sailed" or "Multi-color-sailed" teams and one race committee member set off into an increasing southwest wind in the mid-morning.
The start of Race 1 should be considered a tune-up: Two of the White-sailed team attempted what can only be interpreted as strategic blockade of the committee-boat end of the starting line by "scuttling" themselves with 15 seconds to go before the start. They collided, capsized and entangled themselves – eventually using the bouy at the pin-end as buoyancy assist during the several-minutes long righting process. They were unsuccessful at preventing their three opponents from starting the race. This race was cancelled by the committee because a plurality of the fleet hadn't left the start line 3 minutes after the start whistle sounded. (It’s the sailing equivalent of the mercy-rule.)
Race 2 was a better example of seamanship. Tom Woodhouse (white-sail team) attempted an unconventional and unintenitional "body drag" to avoid being over the line early with about 5 seconds to go to the start. He was initially successful. But it is unclear to this observer that he actually needed to leave his boat and drag by the mainsheet for 30 seconds in order to affect a more strategic position at the line. The multi-color-sailed team won convincingly 6 points to 15.
Race 3 saw the white team attempt a modified blockade – with one boat capsizing near the start line while Bruce Chafee (multi-color sail team) and Tom were engaged in a legitimate luffing match at the stern of the committee boat just prior to the start. New-comer, but clearly not neophyte, Peter Parsons, of the Multi-color sail team was apparently bored with the stalemate and "forced" the issue between the two stalled competitors. This caused Tom, Peter's apparent target (and opponent) to capsize. No fouls were called, all boats started fairly and the race was on. The multi-color-sailed team won this race 9 points to 12.
Race 4 started with more distance between the boats though Bruce (multi-color team) and Chris Woodhouse (white-sail team) took advantage of a pin-end-favored line to brazenly execute port-tack starts. After a tight up-wind and down-wind duel, Chris won the race, but the multi-color-sailed team prevailed 10 points to 11.
Race 5 saw an increased attention to proper positioning at the start, with Tom and Chris (now both of the white-sailed team) starting fast in the middle and pin end of the line. Opponents Bruce and Chris rounded the windward mark first and second and began a gybing duel downwind with the wind and swell increasing. This slowed them both, allowing opponents Tom and Peter to fight for first. Peter established a leeward position with only yards remaining to the finish, luffed Tom to firmly establish his lead and finish a boat length ahead of Tom. By consistent sailing, Will Shore finished third and assured a multi-color-sailed team win, 9 points to 12.
The final race ratcheted up the excitement even more. All six boats were on the line and drawing at the start. Tom attempted a port-tack start and was almost caught by Bruce on starboard, but managed to tack clear. At the windward mark, opponents Chris and Peter were 1&2 but that wasn't the end of the race. Somehow, in the fog of competition, Peter failed to see a leeward boat still on the prior leg, necessitating some extreme boat handling – resulting in a "delay" of the lead boats and a capsize. Bruce ended up in the lead but found himself out of position to slow both White-sail team's Karl Hoyt and Tom Woodhouse who surged to finished 1-2. The white-sail team won the final race 8 points to 13.
Overall, the multi-colored sail team won 4 races of the 5 completed but that misrepresents the competitiveness of the sailing. Successful team racing requires each member the team to contribute. Chris Woodhouse, in his first competitive sailing he has done for 10 years won 3 of the 5 races (sometimes for white-sails, sometimes for multi-colors). Bruce Chafee (multi-color) & Tom Woodhouse (white) were instrumental in both organizing the format and their respective teams and spent the morning dueling, dodging and harassing each other to support their teammate's success. Peter Parsons and Will Shore were great additions to the team race fleet by applying pressure and key finishes to help their teams. Karl Hoyt helped ensure a victorious finish for White with a first place finish in the final race. Overall, each team member had an opportunity to support their team's success and "mix-it-up" with the competition.
I am sorry this report doesn't do justice to the fun and excitement of team racing. Please join us Sunday, August 21 (@9am) and see for yourself as we gather for a new installment of this great racing format.