RS Aero Groundhog Day Distance Challenge – Florida – February 2021

RS Aero Groundhog Day Distance Challenge – Florida – February 2021

The Groundhog Day Distance Challenge supported by Intensity Sails was a lot of fun, held mid-week within the RS Aero South Florida Race Week. Tony Corkell designed an interesting zig-zag course that had us scooting all over the bay in a shifty 5-18 knot NWly breeze, after being postponed from the previous day due to the gales.

The Race Committee gave competitors the interesting challenge with the option to go either clockwise or counter-clockwise around the course. I was super late to the start and just followed Madhavan Thirumalai, Phil (Flip) Myerson, Trin Ollinger (in a 5 rig) and Ellis Ollinger (7 rig) in the clockwise direction, while the 9s, a few 7s and Tony Corkell in a 5 went counter.

We clockwisers had a square beat to the first mark, then a very broad reach across the bay to Mark 2. On the next reach I flipped to windward when the wind just shut OFF, allowing Madhavan and Phil to zoom ahead in a nice puff. After gybing around the next mark, it was another very broad reach to a mark again all the way across the bay. Mad went high, Phil a bit lower, and I stayed closer to the rhumbline.

At first it looked like the high road might work out, but I was able to sail on a good angle in the last 1/5th of the leg to round right behind Madhavan and Phil. The next leg was a blast reach across the bay. The three of us sailed a bit low at first, so had to harden up for the final 1/4 of the leg, which favored the heavier-weights (Mad and me), with Phil rounding right behind.

The final leg for the clockwisers was a long beat back to the finish. Phil (never one to avoid splitting from leaders) tacked quickly to port and soon got a nice righty to look really good to windward. Fortunately, a leftie came through for Mad and me. We both tacked and crossed, then tacked again as we got to the righty Phil was in. After this I played puffy shifts more up the middle, while Madhavan committed left and Phil (who couldn’t get back to the middle without eating a bad header) more right.

Even with the leverage Mad had out left, I felt good in the middle until he started pointing 20 degrees higher on port in pressure! I also was lifted on port, but in a lot less breeze. Tacking over would have been too costly, so I just stuck it out and prayed the left would collapse.

Meanwhile, Madhavan was bombing in with incredible pace on port. The breeze where I was was dying and slooowly shifting a teensy bit right. 100 boatlengths from the finish I had to tack onto starboard in a little pressure. Madhavan was starting to slow a bit and sheet in to closehauled on port. The cross was incredibly close, me about a boatlength behind on starboard. Madhavan stayed on port and headed toward the committee boat end of the line, while I was nearly pointing to the pin on starboard.

The breeze nibbled a little left and I tacked onto port, sailing just a few lengths to cross the line, maybe 1.5 boatlengths ahead of Madhavan after nearly 90 minutes and over 7 miles of racing! Phil crossed the line about 2 minutes later.

Fortunately for us the clockwise approach was fast, and the three of us corrected out 1-2-3 on timed handicap between the rig sizes. Everyone seemed to enjoy the distance race. I’m sure it’ll be back with a few tweaks next year – I’m looking forward to it!

Many thanks to Intensity Sails, who donated some nice prizes which were handed out at safe distance apres-racing. Huge thanks to Zim Sailing for their support of the RS Aero South Florida Race week events with their fleet of charter RS Aeros and providing owners with boat transport to escape the bitter weather of northeast USA. This bolsters the events and enables sailors to experience the RS Aero in a fantastic environment.

The RS Aero North American Midwinters starts today, Feb 4-7 to conclude the RS Aero South Florida Race Week.

Image: USSCM / Mike Grant
Report: Marc Jacobi

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