2017 VARC Opener Regatta

Occam’s Razor has a very busy schedule planned for 2017, and as a result, the first ‘round the buoys regatta of the year may very well be the only two day regatta we do this year in Vancouver.  The VARC (www.varc.bc.ca) Opener Regatta, hosted by RVYC (www.royalvan.ca) is the traditional season opener on the Vancouver race calendar.  This year, it coincided with the Patos Island race over on Vancouver Island, which unfortunately split the fleet somewhat.  The meant that Occam’s was the only Division 1 boat participating, and we ended up lining up against a fleet of four Farr 30’s (who did not have the required numbers to earn their own start).  One the one hand, this was less than ideal, as the 30’s are very light and agile, and are more of a sportboat than a true keelboat like Occam’s, so it was something of a mismatch.  On the other hand, it meant that we were racing against some of the best sailors in Vancouver, which is always a good thing, if your goal is to learn and improve.

The literal calm before the storm.
 For better or worse, the weather actually did as predicted, and Saturday morning there was an easterly blowing in the Bay.  We were out early, and were able to get in a bit of practice, but the wind was trending to the North, with typically indicates a dying breeze, which is what it did.  By the time of the 11am scheduled start, the wind had all but evaporated, and it became a waiting game to see if anything would develop to allow us to race.  Finally, around 2pm, the wind started to come in from the West.  Somewhat atypically, it filled into the bay very quickly, and by 2:30, we were set for racing. 

Waiting for the wind Saturday
Race 1 started in 6 knots of westerly, with a dying ebb tide.  Occam’s headed to the right side of the course to find more current, while the 30’s headed south towards the beach.  The fleet converged at the weather mark, and in the light airs, the faster 30’s were able to gain an advantage going downwind.  After an “interesting” leeward mark rounding, with a Farr 30 not playing by the rules, the 2nd lap was more of the same, but we stayed closer to the 30’s.

For the Race 2 start, the wind was up to about 10 knots, so we started with the #2.  We got a good start, and moved ahead of the 30’s on the first upwind leg.  The wind softened from there on, allowing the 30’s to catch up on the downwind, but we still lead at the bottom mark, and managed to hold them off for the 2nd lap as the wind continued to die.

Finishing ahead of two Farr 30's on the 2nd race of Saturday (but they are too close for comfort)
Sunday was a different situation entirely.  The wind was very light coming out from Coal Harbour, but the forecast was for 15 knots, and as we headed south to the race course, the wind filled in with a vengeance.  We hoisted the main, and then put in a reef, as we were seeing consistent winds over 18 knots.  With an 18 to 20 knot westerly, blowing against a strong ebb tide, the Bay was quite a mess of waves, which we hoped would be good for us over the 30’s.  Unfortunately, only two 30’s were out on Sunday, and one did not make it past the first race.

The first race got off on time, and we were lined up on the line with Through just below us, both boats killing speed before the start.  The first leg went well in the strong breeze, but when we reached the weather mark, we had a decision to make.  Under our current set-up, with the mainsail reefed, we are not able to raise the spinnaker pole high enough to allow us to execute a spinnaker jibe.  This meant that we either would hoist early, then douse party way down the leg, jibe, and continue with the #3.  We elected not to hoist the kite, and to see how things progressed.  At about this time, a freighter came into the Bay, and started sounding it’s horn, indicating its intention to drop anchor in the middle of the course.  As we headed downwind, Through rounded the weather mark, hoisted their masthead kite, and came flying downwind.  Fortunately for us, at about the time they passed us, the race committee abandoned the race, due to the freighter.

Upwind in a breeze.  The crew has their game faces on!
The re-start of race 1 played out similar to the first time.  We made it to the weather mark first, and started downwind under #3 only.  On the way downwind. We re-set the spinnaker gear so that we would be able to hoist on the 2nd downwind leg.  In the meantime, Through hoisted their masthead kite again, and were doing well, until they broached spectacularly halfway down the leg.  We continued on in front of the 30’s, and held position for the upwind leg.  Once around the weather mark for the 2nd time, we stayed on starboard jibe for just under half the leg, then jibed, and hoisted the kite.  Unfortunately, we called the layline just a few boat lengths early, and we ended up sailing high of the (quite short) finish line.  Since we could not jibe the kite, this meant that we had to douse it before we could jibe for the finish.  However, we were not able to complete the manoeuvre in time, so we sailed past the line, and had to tack back upwind to be able to finish.  By the time we made it through the line, Idiopathic had made up enough distance to us, so they corrected out for the win, with us 2nd, and Through 3rd.

In the 2nd race of the day, Idiopathic retired, so it was just Through and us.  Both crews opted not to hoist spinnakers on the downwind legs, and with the wind going more south, the downwind legs became a fetch on wing and wing.  We sailed most of the race covering Through from ahead, and in the end, the tactic worked out for us, as we corrected out for the win.

Fabio demonstrating whisker pole technique
The third race was quite similar to the 2nd, although Through had regained their courage, and hoisted their fractional kite on the downwind legs, while we stuck with the #3.  Through’s courage was rewarded, as they corrected over us for the win in the race.

After 4 starts, and 3 completed races in 18 knots plus, the whole crew was happy to see the “no more races today” flags hoisted, and we headed home.  Particularly Karen, who got stuck on the leeward side during a tack on the last upwind leg, and ended up getting a good dunking!  It wasn’t until later that we found out that we had beat Through in two races on the day.  Given the talent on that boat, that is a result that the whole crew can be proud of!

Results of the regatta are here:  http://www.royalvan.com/files/RVYC%20Opener%20Results%202017.pdf

Karen, after her attempt to sight the seafloor below us.
The “Sailor of the weekend” award had to go to Fabio for performing admirably on bow for his first regatta in a variety of conditions, including acting as a human whisker pole while we sailed wing on wing.

Sailor of the Weekend, Fabio.  Working hard on the foredeck.
We now have less than two weeks to get the boat converted into offshore set-up as we head out for Southern Straits on April 14 / 15.