We had a great time in Charleston Sailing at Race Week this year … AS ALWAYS!
This year was a big change for us; we moved up to the pursuit spinnaker class after several years racing in the pursuit non-spinnaker class. Since there were four times as many boats in the spinnaker class the competition was incredible. CRW is one of the weeks I look forward to each year. The level of effort put in by the organizers, the race officials and the hundreds of volunteers is off the chart and it shows. This year was not our best race week, I hope we don’t have another year like this any time soon. Let me tell you about Charleston Race Week 2019 for team Peregrine
Sailing Day 1
The first day we had good wind; our start was not great but we were across the line within a minute of our start so not a disaster. We sailed very competitively to about the midpoint of the jetty and then seemed to lose our edge and some time against our competition which we weren’t able to recover. After the 13-14 gate we were able to sail a direct course with our symmetrical spinnaker. The asymmetric boats were forced to tack down to the mark, generating more boat speed but sailing a longer distance. For the boats nearest us it seemed to work in our favor. We were a little slow getting the spinnaker gear out of the way for the upwind leg which hurt us. We sailed most of our legs smoothly and with good boat speed.
Sailing Day 2
This was the light air day, so light that that it was very difficult to maintain steerage approaching the line. The RC choose course 1 which was the shortest of the courses to ensure that boats would get finished at a reasonable hour. As a result, boats were bunched at the line. We were third in a line of boats approaching the mark in sequence to make our starts pretty close to on time. Unfortunately, we were on a port tack and another boat with a slightly later start came in on starboard tack and rained on our parade. The first two boats were smaller and were able to tack away, Peregrine weighs in at almost 30,000 lbs so in the light air our only option was to fall off. The starboard tack boat was moving slowly as well and we ended up drifting into their stern rail which would have resulted in a legitimate protest if it had been filed.
After circling around we were able to make our start about two minutes late and continued on the with the race. Fighting an incoming tide in the light wind was a challenge and the fleet started to bunch up just past Fort Sumter outside the side of the channel. At this point we along with a number of boats decided to drop anchor to wait for the wind to pick up or the tide to slack. Shortly after 12:30 the race committee abandoned the race and everyone motored back to the dock and the evening’s festivities.
The final day was one of those days that we should have stayed at the dock and enjoyed the weather. We were a little early to the line and were luffing to kill speed but drifted toward the port (pin) end of the line. As a result, we weren’t able to make the mark. We hit the tetrahedron, fouled it’s anchor line on our prop and dragged downwind. We dropped our anchor and our sails and put one of the crew in the water to free the fouled mark. After much struggle we were able to free ourselves. We hoisted sail and began to sail off of our anchor only to run aground, we were able to free ourselves from the soft grounding and then began to sail the course (about 40 minutes after our start time).
We checked in with the RC to verify that we had in fact started by crossing the line even though we hit the mark. The sail out of the channel went smoothly and we were able to get some great pictures of the incoming fleet. Once we rounded the mark and started our return we hoisted our asymetrical spinnaker for the broad reach in and were enjoying a fantastic ride. Just as we entered the jetty’s we blew out the spinnaker. I didn’t want to risk another sail for what was going to be an inevitable last place finish, so we sailed in under white sails alone.
After going back and looking at the start sequence and thinking about what we’d seen in past years, it seems like the Pursuit Class at CRW has become a victim of its own success. The pursuit class was developed to encourage cruisers to participate without the stress of a normal race start. The our first few years of racing, the pursuit start worked great; you had the line to yourself. This year the line was a zoo! There were three fleets using the line with 53 boats (15 hybrid pursuit, 17 spin A, 14 spin B, 7 non-spin ) across all the classes. With that many boats trying to stay close because of the incoming tide and light winds, the starting area was very crowded. I’ve heard other captains mention this as well.
For illustration, say that boats will be in a box bounded by the starting line plus 3 boat lengths and about 10 boat lengths deep for the 3 minutes before their start and up to 2 minutes after their start. For Peregrine sailing course 1 there were up to 7 boats in the box at once. Estimating an average boat length of 38′. A rule of thumb for line length is 1.25 (Race Management Handbook p. 215) times the length of the boats starting, so in our case a 332′ line. I didn’t measure it but it seemed like the line was under 300′ so rather tight at that point in the sequence. The shallow water off the port side of the line meant that boats couldn’t maneuver that side of the course. The RC/PRO did work hard to keep the line clear of non-starting boats and I really appreciate their efforts.
In the interest of making every year better, perhaps next year we could find a starting location that offers good depth on both sides of the line and allows us to stretch the line out to accommodate the bulges in the starting sequences. One option would be either back into the harbor about 0.4 nm near the Range “C” line. Another would be out into the channel in the area South of G21 near dynamite hole. Thanks again to all the volunteers and organizers that make this fantastic event possible! I’m looking forward to an amazing Charleston Race Week next year.
Sailing in Charleston is always a lot of fun, the weather is frequently excellent and there are a lot of things to see around the harbor. Peregrine is available to charter for your next adventure, visit our website to reserve your date!