Sunday, June 4, 2017

Figawi 2017

The morning of "the big day" the crew was running late, and after Friday's debacles on the feeder race course I honestly didn't care if we started on time, just that we got to Nantucket without any mishaps. Catching the very last launch to leave the HYC dock that morning might have stressed out some crews, but we were surprisingly not worried. Coming out of the harbor and witnessing 200 boats eagerly awaiting their time to cross the same starting line is always a sight to be seen. They gave us one of the longer courses, at 25.6 nm so this meant we had a slightly later start around 10:58.

We were very lucky to have an awesomely talented crew of 9; including 4 Catamounts, and 1 lucky Irishman. Adam Ceely was calling tactics/wind and he did a phenomenal job throughout the nearly 7 hours of racing.Once again it was a predominantly downwind race. We started with the 155% genoa up, less than one boat length from Lyric who was OCS and had to return to the line to restart. We gybed as soon as we had a lane of clear air, and in the process we happened to squat on Dark n Stormy's air. They were forced to gybe back towards the West where all of the cruisers were sailing slowly wing-on-wing. We on the other hand headed wayyyyyy out to the East as the northerly breeze slowly died. Once firmly on the far left side of the leg, we did a couple gybes to avoid sailing into dead zones and did a great job of connecting the dots, linking up puffs and keeping the boat rolling. We had several close interactions with much bigger boats who started ahead of us, and were able to maneuver around them with relative confidence in the light wind.

About 3/4 of the way to the Tuckernuck Shoal buoy, a wind line approached and we noticed several boats to the east of us were forced to sail away from the mark for a period of time while they doused their spinnakers. We were proactive in our sail change, and had the genoa up and ready for when the wind line hit us allowing us to climb over and roll several much bigger boats. We had maintained our lead over dark n stormy, but lyric had had been the farthest east and got in the new wind first. We rounded tuckernuck shoal and headed upwind on a 3.5 mile beat into a strong current. At this point the wind was around 10 kt, but still very shifty and we put in a tack when we felt our first big header, about 5 minutes after the rounding. This was well timed and Dark n Stormy was again suffering from our bad air and were forced to tack back into the header and over to the right side of the leg as we went off into cleaner air on the left. Dark n Stormy had one this class for the last 5 years in a row, and we had to do everything we could to prevent a six-peat. Unfortunately this was one of those instances where current was a more dominating factor than the wind and when we re-convened with them we were behind by a boat length or two. This time, they tacked on top of us and forced us to clear our air again. This time the current was so foul, that our tacking angle of 135 degrees puzzled both me and our tactician. But yet again we headed left for clean air, and DnS went right to get out of the current. This is when luck won us the race. The wind clocked around another 30 degrees, and we were able to lay the mark from where we were on starboard tack. This also meant that DnS had over-stood by many many boat lengths and the extra distance they had to sail hurt them badly.

We did a very wide rounding at Great Point to avoid being swept onto the mark, and by now we were leading our class (unbeknownst to us).  Just 7.5 miles of light air reaching stood between us and the finish, and the current was finally in our favor. Unfortunately the wind basically vaporized, and we were struggling to keep the boat moving through the water. It was almost as if our current induced sweep over the ground was causing apparent wind to barely fill the sails enough for us to keep some tiny semblance of momentum. As the wind continued to drop it began to look like we might not finish within the allotted time. I became fidgety, and was struggling to keep my focus on the helm so I passed it off to Connor Aswad and went down below to clear my head. We were yet to hit our J quota for the day, so I twisted up a pair of fatties while proclaiming "I'll bet none of the other owners have to roll their own!" At some point it sounded like dark n stormy were riding a puff and making a comeback; trying to roll over the top of us. I emerged from the cabin with a pair of walrus tusks, and they were a mere 10 feet away and to windward of us! We had a good laugh and I offered to try throwing one to them. Instead I lit them both, passed them opposite directions around the cockpit where the entire crew appeared to be casually sitting in the stern. Immediately the smoke filled our sails, along with some of the wind that was propelling DnS. Thankfully our bow was still ahead of theirs and our air was clean. As we sailed ahead I'm sure they could smell our sweet stench - also a friendly reminder that they were in our disturbed breeze. Gavan the hilarious irishman even said "More like Narc-n-Stormy".


It was still uncertain whether we were going to finish in time, and as the breeze shifted slightly we made the decision to hoist the brand new Code 0 sail for the first time to check if the stripes matched our color scheme. Nothing like a little head-sail ADD to risk blowing a perfectly good lead right? The extra depth compared to the genoa definitely allowed for some extra power, but as the apparent wind shifted forward again and we decided to go back to the genoa, dousing the kite into the cockpit. 15 minutes later, the wind shifted back yet again so we re-packed and re-hoisted the Code 0 again. This time it was up to stay, and it propelled us over the finish line where the race committee on Gun Smoke suggested we cover our ears before firing off the shotgun, only half a boat length away from us.
We couldn't believe that the gun was for us, we thought maybe some other boat to leeward had just won their class, but sure enough we'd just won the f'ing FIGAWI race! We were actually 22nd out of 47 boats on the long course, but this was still a major check mark on my bucket list! We were so stoked that we hoisted the battle flag inside the spinnaker and carried it all the way past Brant Point Lighthouse practically all the way to the boat basin before putting our sails down and starting the engine. It was a dream come true! We got a rockstar's welcome on the island, including a free suite  where my mom now works at the Nantucket Hotel - overlooking the boat basin! Everyone we encountered seemed to know that we'd won figawi, and we assured them that "We're Still Winning!!!" as we celebrated all weekend long. After awards we rushed straight to Cisco Brewery only to remember that it was a Sunday and we'd arrived right at last call. Since my brother and brother in-law both tend bar there, we still managed to get the trophy filled with one massive ice-free F-yeah cocktail with 4 XL straws so we could all pass it around and share the rewards!

Figawi juxtaposition: an Irishman drinking English rum in front of an American flag on a boat named after Native American currency 

Sailing to Nantucket, regardless of the race, has always been personally significant for me. A large part of my closest family lives on the island now including my sister and her two island born kids, Tyler Jr and Hazel Jane.

Monday's delivery home was quite possibly the worst sail I've ever done. It reminded me of deliveries to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, minus a dodger. Nasty NE wind, heavy rain, and air temps in the 40's. Hypothermia was a real threat. We hung out at Straight Wharf drinking cocktails (with a crowd that resembled last call on a friday night, not  noon on a monday) delaying our departure until 3PM in order to let the worst of the rain pass, and to catch a favorable current back to woods hole.  We got in at 8PM soaked to the core and lacking simple motor skills for things like knot tying. We logged over 120 miles on Wampum's keel in 4 days, which included two days of strange tribal rituals in a tent on a faraway island.

Finally, all of that vacation time spent in the driveway, chipping barnacles, wet sanding the bottom, installing electrons, rushing to paint the nonskid in narrow windows of warm weather, drilling out new thru-hulls the day before launching, doing my own legwork to correct Kingman's fuck up, the 12+ attempts to run a new mast head cable, the entire paycheck put towards entry/dockage fees, taking on another roommate for the summer to make sure my mortgage gets paid, ALL of it was FINALLY worth it.

Next up, the Mattapoisett Spring Round the Bay pursuit race out of my home town. Then hopefully the Whaler's Race hosted by New Bedford Yacht Club which is 105 miles, with marks at Nomans, Block Island, and Cuttyhunk, on the first full moon of summer and the shortest night of the year.