Around Long Island Regatta - 2019 edition
Time for my annual ALIR report. I was on my normal race ride - RJMS, a 1988 C&C 35. We raced in division 4 - spinnaker boats with a PHRF from 90 to 126. At 126 we were the slowest boat in the division.
For me the race event started Wednesday morning, when I helped the owner deliver the boat from Port Jefferson, NY (home port) to Liberty Landing Marina, Jersey City, NJ. The delivery was fine, not much wind, not too hot, just an 8 hour motor trip with the main up for most of it. We timed the east river properly and were going 9-10 kts down the river to the Battery. Then a short trip across NY harbor and we tied up in slip. That evening we attended the captains meeting and reception, which featured good food, lots of free drinks, and good information.
The race started Thursday afternoon, first gun at 4:00Pm, which was much later than in the past. The race committee selects the start to ensure a fair current, which help sucks the boats out of NY harbor and into the Atlantic ocean. The weather forecast was pretty grim - light and variable weather for Thursday and Friday, with decent wind forecast for Saturday. I've done this race every year since 2014 and we normally finish in around 36 hours. This race was going to take much longer than that.
So race day arrived and the weather was nice. We got out to the starting area around 3:30PM and motored around taking in the sights. The race starts near the Statue of Liberty, and the views of lower NYC, the statue of liberty, Ellis Island, etc are all very impressive. Add 60+ racing boats, large (VERY LARGE) commercial traffic, a big law enforcement presence, and there is lots to see (and lots to avoid).
We were the second group to start and we took note of where there was more breeze and then made our decision. The wind was from the north but was expected to clock to the south quickly. We had 5-7 kts of breeze from the north. We decided to start with #1 headsail for ease of maneuvering and expected to raise the big spinnaker ASAP.
The plan worked. We got a great start in clear air and worked our way south. We gybed a few times to avoid the current, then popped the big chute. The wind was fluky, shifty, and strange. As it clocked from north to south we did 4 sail changes (#1 genoa to spinnaker and back again) and 18 tacks before we reached the Verranzano Bridge! However it worked out well because we led the fleet under the bridge and down the channel. New for 2019 was a mark in the Ambrose Channel that everyone had to round. Two HUGE race boats, crewed by US Navy Midshipmen, passes before the mark, otherwise we led the fleet into the ocean.
Thursday night provided a great trip east. Much more wind than forecast, all night we had 10-15 from the S. We attempted to hoise the spinnaker around 8:00pm which turned out to be a big mistake - too much wind from the wrong angle, problems with the halyard being wrapped around the forestay, etc. After struggling for 15 minutes we gave up, raised the #1 and dropped the chute. That allowed a lot of boats to pass us but there are many miles to go.
I was on watch from 0200-0600 and it was great sailing. Gentle breeze around 10 kts and from a good angle. The big chute was up. Three on watch - helm, spin trimmer, main trimmer. We rotated positions every hour during the four hour shift. We even let a new helmsman get some time in and he did great. The skies were good and we were able to pass a number of boats. As the wind clocked from S to SW to W to NW we did a very gentle gybe (without waking the off watch crew) and headed close to land.
Friday brought the typical light air. We spent a good amount of time just floating around and trying to get the boat moving in the right direction. We watched a competitor, Shadow Fox, sail right past us and head off. I have no idea how they did so well in light air. The tracker showed another competitor, Gemini, in front as well.
We were becalmed in front of a radio tower near Montauk point and that brought back bad memories. in 2016 we were stuck near the same tower and it took FOREVER to get past it. We sailed past, then the wind died and we drifted back. Repeat. Eventually we sacrificed a beer - each crew had a sip, said a few words to the tower, then we poured out the beer. That seemed to work and the wind filled in and away we went.
No spinnaker all day, just main and #1.
Friday turned into Friday night. Around 8:00pm we rounded Montauk point and were able to raise the big spinnaker. 10:00Pm I go off watch, scheduled to be back on deck at 2:00AM saturday.
At 1:00AM all hands are summoned. The wind is up, we're sailing with the big chute and we are about to go through plum gut and then into the sound. This will most likely require a gybe so we need everyone.
We fly past Orient point but in the sound the wind dies. I guess the land blocks the wind. So no gyble required. I go back to sleep for 30 minutes.
Saturday brought more light wind. We went north, looking for wind on the CT side and trying to stay out of a foul current.
Eventually the wind built and went west. We knew that two boats, Shadow Fox and Gemini were ahead of us. We also knew that they were rated faster. If we stay close we will rate ahead of them.
As it ended up we sailed a great race and did win our division. We corrected over the first two boats by a comfortable margin.
Some misc notes:
-This was the first ALIR I have done were we didn't see a drop of rain.
-This was the slowest ALIR I have ever done - It took a little over 48 hours to finish.
-The wind was much better than forecast. A number of boats withdrew before the race even started, just because of the light wind forecast
-This was also the first race where I wasn't scared at all. Normally there are hairy moments that are scary - sail changes from #1 to #2 at night in the pouring rain, or sailing down wind in 30 kts with following seas where an accidental gybe would be disasterous, etc. This time it was all very calm - even at the end when we had to change from the #1 to the #2 as the wind built to 20 kts.
Deep Blue C, 2002 C&C 110
Mt. Sinai, NY
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