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Frostbite Racing Recaps

Frostbite Wrap Up: 12/8/18

December 8 brought the best racing weather, except for the temperature that one can enjoy in downtown Boston. Then again, had it been a Saturday in July with 80 degree temperatures, the harbor would be chocker-block full of power boats, day sailors, and excursion ferries. The NW wind varied from 8-16 and shifted through 25 degrees but averaged straight down the harbor. As such it was an easy day for race management including starts for Bob Garber’s committee thanks to a strong ebb tide.

The swift out-going current caught most of the fleet by surprise in race one. Only three boats started on the line including Frank McNamara’s team on Rigel and Dave Bryan’s shorthanded team on Phoebe. Both started next to the RC boat and tacked right on the first shift to seek current relief on the far right side. Meanwhile, Andrew Baker’s crew on Wasabi trimmed in with 15 seconds to go to just make the pin at the gun before the header, then took off on port, lifted toward the first mark. Except for two bad tacks with the big jib early, Wasabi’s team was flawless and won the first race easily.

Deploy the big jib or small jib? That was the big pre-race question. All but one went with the genoa and perhaps some regretted it. With five crew and good jib sheet management, the genoa gave more pace upwind in all but the biggest blasts. The small jibs made tacking easier and gave shorthanded teams enough speed in all but the biggest lulls.

Crew work, and having bodies on the rail, matters. That was demonstrated as early as race one. The shorthanded Phoebe dropped to 5th after starting right on the line on the long W2 courses while Santuzza, after starting quite late in last rallied for 6th. Thereafter Bob Perry’s Santuzza combined great starts with perfect spinnaker sets but all that was not quite enough to catch Wasabi on the day.

In race two Wasabi was over by half a length at the pin but hesitated before returning. Despite the late return Wasabi rallied as skipper Andrew Baker nailed the shifts on the second beat blowing by veterans Frank McNamara and Jonathan Austin to finish 3rd. In race three Wasabi took another perfect pin start, got another lefty and horizon jobbed the fleet by half a leg. But in race four Wasabi was over again, this time by only a foot while fighting off the other Baker, Fred, on Ika. Wasabi appeared to be making another comeback but trouble ensued rounding the gate. The spinnaker would not come down as the halyard somehow knotted up badly right at the exit on the mast. Eventually the problem was solved but with an 8th place finish, the door was open for Perry, Austin, and possibly others to win the day.

The finale decided the day with a long windward-leeward-windward, finishing up top. The first mark was moved further upwind to provide longer legs so the course would be about the same length as the previous W2’s. Wasabi went back to the winning formula of taking a leeward start and playing the shifts up the middle. The challenge from Santuzza made it a battle and had the top boats reversed places, Santuzza would have won the day but the competitors likely didn’t know the exact score and Wasabi held on to win by 1.5 points.

Across the fleet spinnaker work was quite good, especially spinnaker sets. The biggest problem teams had was getting the spinnaker down in time. With the gate well above the starting line, and strong ebb current, the leeward mark came up quickly, especially with the J-24s screaming along in the big puffs. A few boats had not taken down and secured the spinnaker by the gate; some even had to keep sailing downwind until the kite was down. In all of these cases, rarely heard was any skipper yelling at the crew. Either the skippers realize it is all a big team effort or the skipper’s buy into the concept, “When the crew makes a mistake, it’s the skipper’s fault.”

After two early November days were lost to too much wind, Saturday was the third fine race day in a row of great sailing in light to moderate, even gusty wind, all with colorful spinnakers and all with four or five races each time.

The first milestone of winter is past, the earliest sunset, which was at 4:11. But as the days grow longer they also get colder. Then again, the action on this one patch of Boston Harbor is heating up with spirited racing each Saturday.

-Ken Legler