St Francis Spring Dinghy
Report from Eric Coburn
Here was my view from the latter half of the fleet:
It was a GREAT TIME! My first Spring Dinghy and I hadn't sailed at St. Francis since college too many years ago. Aaron Ross needed a crew because his regular guy Rob Waterman had some foot surgery to deal with. Since my weight loss program hasn't been working so well lately, weighing in at 180 just barely qualified me for the Crew's Union for the weekend. I have crewed for Aaron once before but he reminded me it was 14 years ago at the NAs in Long Beach. It was great sailing with Aaron. We both bought 505s right out of college and it was fun sharing some wild rides and good laughs this weekend.
Saturday was mostly sunny and warm and a westerly filled in ranging from 12-16 knots. But there was a fairly raging 3 knot ebb. The game was to get out to the right away from the club to get better wind and positive current. Everybody played the starting line well enough to not get swept over early. Downwind most chose to wire out and the trick was to find the balance between better wind but not bucking too much current, though many seemed to go pretty far out.
First race was a one lapper and then two two lappers. Lasagna and beer at the club went down well.
Sunday had varying forecasts, but most put the wind at SSW. So the start line was down by Alcatraz really close to the leeward mark. The variability in the forecast was in the strength. As it turns out, we spent a fair amount of time sailing downwind in light to moderate and shifty winds just to stay up current of the start line. RC started an F18 race but held everyone else.
Finally it filled in stronger than the day before and out of the SW. Fronts came through bringing some nice gusts maybe around 20. With our 330# on board we were raked to -6 at times, but still just could not hang with the bigger teams (also they were just better teams as well!) The fleet really spread out on this day due to the conditions and the long windward leg. The RC has to set the mark out of the shipping channel and so it was pretty far away up by the club.
There were definitely some rivers to ride and I'm sure the top guys were playing that and the wind a bit, but we were mostly hanging on, trying to keep the boat flat as possible and minimize mistakes, which we did a good job of. No capsizes for us the whole weekend and we sailed away from every gybe. Plenty of people pitched it though over the weekend and we had some crazy near misses, and abandoned one attempt to get boat speed up before trying again.
There was a little bit of commercial traffic to deal with but not too bad. We did actually have to douse the chute once and sail astern of a huge container ship that we just did not want to mess with. Probably a good call.
The downwind rides on day two were AWESOME!!! To get to the mark you had to sail through this crazy cabbage patch of churning water with some big waves. For us, at that point in the race on the second lap we were safely ahead of the guys behind us and the guys ahead of us were long gone so we just played it very conservatively. Also probably a good call because one boat got tangled in the leeward mark and dragged it upwind, down current. Getting around that mark was tricky. We actually pulled a 5 and a 7 on Sunday, the windier day.
Only two races Sunday due to the postponements but everyone was totally worked by then.
Jeff Miller with his 40+ years of 505 experience got 3 bullets the first day and sailed well enough the second day to win. He even sailed to the wrong weather mark the first race Sunday (it was a little bit confusing) and still did well enough to win. I can't tell you what else was happening in the front because honestly, we weren't close enough to see. PVG and Parker did pretty well pulling a 5th overall.
All in all, the competition was top notch but the racing was great throughout the fleet. After some beers and Mexican food at the club a number of us headed back to the airport for the trip home. I ran into Katherine Long, Mike Powell, and Josh Dyck at the airport for some celebratory libations and food before we boarded our respective flights. I had a blast crewing and have about fifty bruises to show for my flailing around the boat. It might not have been the prettiest crew work but - hey - we didn't pitch it.
Even though I was crewing and I normally drive, I feel like I gained some good experience. Even though the best teams were so far ahead of us I still feel there is some benefit to sailing against the toughest teams you can. Bottom line though is it was FUN!