Get your slalom stuff ready, it's going to blow like stink...
At least, that was the received wisdom the day before. And while it was breezy on Saturday morning, it was nowhere near full-on slalom conditions. Instead, the Event Site served up the usual perfect Formula conditions (powered on a 9.9, warm air and water, grassy rigging...).
After a brief skippers' meeting, we got out on the water. The course had an upwind gate for the first lap, with an upwind mark further up for the second lap (off the hook outside of Wells Island), which made for fun tactical options. Starting on starboard, you might make it with one tack, then go downwind in the channel. Starting on port, you were virtually guaranteed to make it in one tack, and would then have the option of playing for a lucky puff on the inside, where the Southerly comes off the shore sometimes.
Bruce and I both got our 5-minute signal and found ourselves gambling on a port start. Dale and Jay and Doug and a bunch of other sailors played the starboard card. At one minute to go, as I'm looking down the line, I'm noticing Dale and Jay lining up and shooting over the line by the boat. As I'm thinking to myself that this is a bit late to come across for a last-second port start, Bruce and I approach the line battling for position. Turns out, they thought they were starting (a minute early), encourage by Darren who had gotten confused with a borrowed watch (ok, it was mine, so I guess it's all my fault...) and had them on their merry way at minus one minute. While that made for a nice clear port start for us, it also meant the race had to be thrown out since there was no way to rectify that situation afterwards.
Not to worry, though - we ended up getting seven more heats that day. I got thirds in heats 2 and 3, in both races beating Dale upwind but getting reeled back in downwind. A fourth in heat 4 after I mistimed my port start and had to go way below the pack, which gave Kieran (who had a brilliant start and good speed, and didn't let up throughout the race even though I was nipping at his heels at the end) a third. In heat five, I was third around the first lap, then got flung in my jibe at the bottom of the course. As I was flying through the air looking a bit like a cartoon character (you know, running off a cliff and moving horizontally for a while before gravity finally asserts itself), I saw three sailors bearing down on me, all scrambling to find a lane between the mark, the log raft, my gear, and me - a bit nerve-wracking, I'd say. Miraculously, there were no collisions, and once I got back onto my gear after a bit of a swim, I managed to claw my way back to 7th on the second lap.
After a short lunch break, we went back for three more heats. Heat 5 had me lining up on port again, which by now was becoming a bit crowded. As I was finding my gap on the line and threading through the starboard guys, who were coming further and further down the line to cut us off at the pass it seemed, I was barely able to avoid two sailors who had some sort of yard sale just below me. That left me the choice of either spearing them (I still don't know who they were; I think Stefan was one of them) or pushing upwind, which put me right in Joe's path. I chose the latter and dropped myself and my rig to windward, hoping I'd either give Joe space to avoid me or at least make it a low-speed collision. The plan worked, but resulted in me getting off the line at 2:30 minutes after the gun, after untangling from Joe and making sure everything was OK. I finished the heat, getting back up to 8th mostly on the strength of good UW angle and speed.
Race 7 still had me a bit rattled, and I bobbled a tack as I was in 3rd coming up on the second Windward mark. This resulted in two guys getting on top of me, and me having to throw in two extra tacks to make the mark, resulting in a sixt.
Race 8 saw Bruce sitting out taking a throwout (as he'd already beaten Dale for the day). I started below Dale but was a bit early, so I ran the line for a bit and ended up ducking a bunch of starboard starters. As I got to the gate, Jay was approaching from the other side (he'd started on starboard) and crossed in front of me (Dale was leading quite a bit at this point - he was using Bruce's fin and found out why Bruce had that extra little bit of speed all day). He had one jibe to make it down to the mark, and he was out in the channel where things were steady. I wasn't going to reel him in by being conservative and going out into the channel, so I gambled on the inside. It almost worked, too, except for a wee hole at the bottom of the course, so I double-jibed and rounded the leeward jibemark behind him. At this point, he put on afterburners, and no matter what I did, I couldn't close the gap on him until the end.
Results can be found here. Jay and I tied on points for third overall this day, with him taking the tie-breaker since he placed second behind Dale, giving him a higher best placing for the day.
Overall, a great day of racing. Anytime you get 8 heats off in near-perfect conditions, with this kind of fun and competitive fleet, I'd call that a good day. Kudos to Scotia for putting it all together and Darren for running smooth races and a nice course - now we just need to work on figuring out that count-down feature on my watch for him ;)