Monday, July 18, 2016

Mid Season Campaign Update

I’m happy to report that the “Make Wampum Great Again” campaign is off to a good start. We are learning heaps and slowly getting the boat dialed in. In the 52 days since the last post, I’ve sailed 36 of them so there was simply no time for constant blog updates. Not only have I been racing wampum like crazy but I’ve also been kiting a lot, crewing on J80’s Thursday nights, Sonars on Saturday afternoons, and most recently doing the New York Yacht Club Race Week at Newport on the J109 URSA (also the J109 North American Championships) which just ended yesterday. Today I’m on the fast ferry from Portland ME to Yarmouth NS with work equipment and there is no internet connection so I’ll take this chance to finally make a post. 

Distractions keeping me from blogging: learning how to hydrofoil and survive wipeouts at 20+kts
After a few shakedown sails, Wampum kicked off the 2016 season on May 25th for the first Wednesday night PHRF race at Beverly Yacht Club in Marion MA. Since the Figawi was coming up just a few days later we decided to sail round trip from Woods Hole to Marion (~25 miles) all on the same night. Departing Eel Pond around 4:00, we rounded Penzance Point and popped the spinnaker in a nice sunny southerly breeze for a deep reach down to Centerboard Shoals off Bird Island. We carried the kite past the starting area and downwind into outer Sippican Harbor. By the time we hoisted the jib and doused the spinnaker it was getting close to 6PM when the first race signals are made. I think we made it back up to the line but sailed off to one side far too long in the pre-start and we were far from the line when the gun went off. We over stood our first lay line by several boat lengths. It began to sink in just how steep this learning curve might be. 

Friday May 28th we started off the Figawi Feeder Race from Falmouth Harbor to Hyannis with better luck thanks to the Rocknozzle our secret weapon tactician. We had a great start, and seemed to find the puffs in the fickle light air. About halfway down the course we rolled over the top of Lyric a J/105. It felt like we were able to hold better speed at lower angles but they were probably just out partying us. This race is pursuit format (staggered starts by handicap with theoretically even finish) so at the end is when boats start to converge and things get interesting. Dark n Stormy and Waterwolf, two other J105s were duking it out at the front, Wampum was close to catching Sparkle Pony and Pressure Drop who has the most waterline in the fleet was going high and fast towards an area of more pressure farther to the East . It looked like all down wind and down current to the finish, but Rocky was wearing too many hats this day. We accidentally sailed inside Hodges Rock, one of the marks of the course and although were only 1/4” mile away when we figured it out, the time it took to hoist the big genoa and  douse the spinnaker was extremely costly. Upwind and up current in >5kt of breeze made for less than 1 knot of speed over ground. We made it around the mark, re-hoisted the spinnaker and I went down below to pass up beers and roll a “victory” cigarette. We were DFL by almost an hour.

The big Figawi race was a blast. With a party of 10 onboard things were honestly quite cramped. At the start it was blowing into the low 20’s and we opted for a reef and the blade jib. Due to all of the chaos in the starting area we waited to hoist sails until about 10 minutes before our start. We had 1 practice tack, and were suddenly in sequence. Rocky called a good start, and we were screaming down the first leg passing 40-50 foot cruisers to leeward, out pointing all of them. We put in 1 quick tack to clear our lane, and were suddenly on starboard lay line and out pointing everyone around us. Rounding the first mark we shook the reef in the main sail, hoisted the red A2 spinnaker and settled in for a 10+ mile broad reach on stbd tack. After about 20 minutes the wind died and we were forced to sail hotter angles just to keep the boat moving before eventually becoming becalmed. With no steerage we drifted up to a big full keeled boat and had to use our body weight to heel the boat away from another boat to avoid our masts tangling. We took the spinnaker down and eventually got moving with the 155% genoa and a light westerly wind. As the wind built we put up the A1 spinnaker only to have the wind angle go forward requiring the genoa to come back out. By the time we neared the turning mark at Great Point the breeze had come back to the high teens but rather than do another headsail change we decided to try to keep the big genoa to power through the 5’ chop and hoped we could keep it flat with 10 people on the rail. 
Wampum appearing on the cover of the Boston Globe online Figawi story getting squeezed out by two bigger boats on a long reaching leg
As the wind built to 25 its we experienced a heavy heeling angle, and a constantly flogging main sail forced us into take a reef but this produced an unbalanced sail plan and a lot of weather helm. It was hard to tell if it was the sea state or poor sail choice but the result was a SOG >6 knots. Not acceptable for a 6 mile tight reaching leg. We finished 7th out of 8 in our class and 119th out of 159 finishing boats. At least nothing broke! We had a fun day sunday on the island surfing at Cisco Beach and drinking at the Mt. Gay Rum tent party along side NE Patriots players Julian Edleman and Rob Gronkowski. Monday’s delivery back to woods hole had 25kts on the nose and rain. We dipped Downey Flake Donuts in Goslings black seal when we cast off at 0630. 
Wampum's slip at the Nantucket Boat Basin
Tuesday we nursed hangovers and Wednesday night we were back at it with more PHRF racing in marion. Again late to the course we had minimal time to get dialed in and were 1 minute late to out start. This blurred into a string of DFL’s in mostly stormy conditions over 15kts. One of the most notable being the Mattapoisett Spring Round the Bay Race where Wampum finished 20 minutes behind the fleet in pouring rain after a race that featured almost exclusively reaching on a rectangular course. 

Start of the Mattapoisett Round the Bay Race (thanks to Barbara Venuti)

Finally on the last race of the June series we had wind >10 kts and combined it with a great start thanks to Greg Packard. We found a high-point mode where we pinched off 2 J105s and rounded the weather mark within spitting distance of a J120 and a J109. The wind dropped significantly on the way downwind and we were able to sail to the right side of the course to catch a new wind line. We ended up in 3rd place on corrected time and brought home a little hardware for the first time. A big sushi dinner at Turks Seafood ensued.

Finding jib control settings that work and are worth repeating

Deep draft forward and a nice open slot gave us speed in light air

Finishing 3rd at the last BYC June Twilight PHRF race
Once July rolled around we were quickly banished by the Marion harbormaster for rafting up on Hardtack’s mooring. We spent a few days squatting on Hardtacks other mooring in Hospital Cove and raced a Wednesday night with the Old Sigh Race Series. With a slightly less competitive fleet, we managed to grab a 2nd place 30 seconds behind Lyric. 

Delivery Mode
Wearing out our welcome in Hospital Cove, Wampum sought refuge on a mooring in Woods Hole. Again we did a 12 mile spinnaker run down to the starting area a wednesday night race at OSR and this time the downwind leg of the race actually involved a gybe!  Wampum got line honors and placed 2nd behind Lyric by only 7 seconds corrected time. We could almost taste that bullet, but we washed that taste away with ample libations while savoring an extra long and colorful sunset on our 12 mile beat back upwind to Woods Hole. 

Trying to dial in our rig tension. We have more head-stay sag than a pair of Jnco's

Draft stripes on the blade jib
Two days later it was time for the Vineyard Cup in Vineyard Haven. This 3 day regatta features 1 distance race per day with a 70 boat fleet ranging from singlehanded Solings, to J70’s, to 1930’s wooden classics owned by celebrities. 
Friday’s start isn’t until the afternoon so Wampum was able to leave woods hole at the 11:30 drawbridge and have plenty of time to do the delivery and tune up before the race. Friday saw wind in the high teens, the course took us up to Green Harbor in Falmouth and back to VH. We had a green crew and decided not to fly the spinnaker on the broad reaching legs. A brave J70 managed to hold theirs at hot angles and plane their way to line honors among a much bigger 12 boat fleet. 

Saturday’s course took us 16 miles directly across 3 of the choppiest shoals on Nantucket Sound. Pounding through large square waves with very deep troughs do not favor Wampum’s relatively light hull and high aspect ratio keel/rig. We were fooled by the protection of East Chop lulling us into thinking the wind was lighter than it was up the course, so we picked the genoa when we would have been faster with the blade. Sunday’s course was a similar shape, and about 10 miles. We finished around 13:30, and sailed back to woods hole quick enough to catch the 15:00 bridge into eel pond. Again wearing out our welcome on a mooring in Woods Hole, we delivered Wampum to Mattapoisett Harbor another 10 miles away the same afternoon. 
Delivery Mode after The Vineyard Cup
Stay tuned for more updates as we slowly get Wampum dialed in. Next up will be another 3 day regatta, the Edgartown Round the Island Race. This race will have a bunch of TP52’s, Farr 40’s and other high end grand prix racing yachts. There are Windward/Leeward drop mark buoy racing for free on Thursday and Friday followed by a 55 mile course around Marthas Vineyard on Saturday. 

After that we’ll begin doing Wednesday night racing back at Beverly Yacht Club in Marion, the Buzzards Bay Regatta also in Marion this year, and hopefully Nantucket Race Week! 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Test Sail #2

Wampum went out for another test sail on Saturday 5/7. The weather was about 50 degrees with intermittent rain but we were all itching to sail so we went out anyways. We motored out into Vineyard Sound, but between the lack of wind and the foul current we struggled to even hold our ground. So we fired up the tin topsail and motored through woods hole passage and out into Buzzards Bay. Once clearing Penzance Point we found a light and puffy NNE wind in the 5-10 kt range, with gusts into the low teens according to the on-board wind sensor which I don't  really trust.

With the big #1 jib we had plenty of power, and it was great to finally play around with different settings on the in-hauler and car location. If you look closely in the picture the controls are much different than any boat I've ever sailed on. There are 2 tracks that run athwart-ships with low friction eyes, so you can adjust the clew height and its sheeting angle. Its going to take a lot of time on task to really get these dialed in for optimum boat speed in various conditions. The 30 degree shifts in the wind and huge velocity swings didnt allow us to really run a controlled experiment but it was fun to just tweak.

Enough about tweaking the techy bits... Time to talk about the downwind run! 

With a building breeze and only 4 sets of hands (Ronnie Whims, Sarah Fuller, Trudy Crowley and myself), we were a little hesitant to hoist the big spinnaker but went for it anyways.

 The Y bridle sheets and snap shackles on all 3 connection points made the rigging very straight forward. Rather than launch out of the forward hatch, we clipped the spinnaker bag to the leeward lifelines tucked nicely behind the big jib. We beared away around a make believe mark, and the A2 was hoisted totally under control. The jib came down, got secured to the deck and we gybed right away so we didn't end up down by West Island. We soaked some nice deep angles for a while and before we knew it we over-stood the rhum line and had to heat it up to 120+ TWA to make it back into woods hole. The boat felt very responsive and well balanced and we saw over 8kt on the GPS fun meter.

Once in outer Hadleys Harbor we hoisted the jib and the girls performed a nearly flawless windward overhaul douse into the hatch. We hardened up and sailed upwind through woods hole passage with a fair current pushing behind us. Of course the engine was running just in case, but we never had to put it in gear. It took 6 or 7 tacks and luckily there was no other boat traffic. 

On mothers day the local laser fleet had our 4th sunday race of the spring frost biting series. I really felt like I was getting the hang of the boat handling on the laser and could approach tactical situations with some confidence. It was blowing ~20 kts and I managed to avoid capsizing for the entire day. The last two days have been spent kite surfing, and this afternoon we're headed out with a full crew to sail Wampum again making this my 5th day in a row of sailing. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Spring Maintenance -> Launching -> Rigging -> Shakedown

After 4 months in my driveway, Wampum got back in the water on Friday April 29th. It was a hectic week leading up to the launch. After work, many hours were spent wet sanding her bottom, and doing annual maintenance on the Yanmar 2gm20F diesel.


That night we stepped the mast and installed the bow pulpit with some help from a local construction crane. On Saturday April 30th, we brought the boat from Great Harbor into Eel Pond. We rigged the lifelines and boom with the help of Fred Denton, Sam Moore, Sarah Fuller and Trudy Crowley.

Once she was mostly rigged, it was time for a shakedown sail. The forecast of 8-10 turned into 18kts (8+10), A fully hoisted main sail, suddenly made us feel over powered. We took a reef, set the small #3 jib and felt the boat balance out.

Wampum sailed downwind into the bottom of Great Harbor and back upwind into Vineyard Sound where the easterly wind was blowing straight against a strong flooding current causing 3-4 foot stacked seas. Immediately after tacking to head in we heard a distinct TWANG! as the lashings on the starboard check stay let go. We dropped sails immediately and motored in past Nobska Light with big smiles on our faces.

We caught the last bridge into eel pond at 4 PM to conclude an excellent sunny first day of sailing. With only 3 weeks until the Wednesday Night Twilight series in Marion begins there is still a lot to learn!