Vamp’s Vineyard Voyage

We met at American Yacht Club for lunch. The crew (well, not me, I was
the last to arrive) had prepared the boat, loaded the provisions and
sorted the sails. After our pleasant lunch we said goodbye to land for
a few days and took the launch to our J-44 at her mooring. As the crew
started running sheets, guys, lines, laying out jack lines and getting
ready to unfurl the main,I sat at the nav table, synthesizing four
different weather forecasts, while plugging the course into the computer
and the GPS.

The Vineyard Race is an annual event from Stamford, 70 miles to the exit
of long Island Sound, 44 miles further east to the Buzzards Bay Light
Tower off Martha’s Vineyard (round leaving to starboard), 28 miles to
Block Island (round leaving to starboard), back into Long Island Sound
(either via the Race or the “Gut”) then back to Stamford (238 miles
total). (website www.stamfordyc.com/sailing/racing/vineyardrace.htm).

During the hour-long motor to the starting area, we had a team meeting.
There were eleven of us: skipper/owner Lenny, his watch included Tom
E., Heather D., Dr. Franz and bowman Doug L. The other watch
consisted of Watch Captain Skip S., Bob B., Tommy C., Whit B. and
bowman Bobby S. I was navigator with a “floating” watch. In some
ways a “floating” watch is tougher than a fixed watch, my
responsibility was to ALWAYS be aware of our position, our strategic
goals, the current and forecast weather conditions and any “trigger”
conditions under which I needed to be notified (woken up). Our team
meeting / briefing covered safety, performance, operations,
housekeeping, food, watch assignments and other details.

Our start was at 3:50PM. The starts were at 10 minute intervals, the
first had been at 3PM, we were the sixth division to start (of eight).

The wind was southwesterly when we started (confirming all our
forecasts). With the course direction being east, that meant a
downwind start. Those are always tricky beasts, you can get it right,
or VERY wrong. We managed a PERFECT start, had clean air,
hoisted our spinnaker 20 seconds before the start (15 seconds before
any of the other eight boats in our division) We crossed the line
first and with pace. Soon we had a 200 yard lead on all our
competitors … not long after that, with clean air and a clean lane we
had a quarter mile lead. GREAT start.

Our strategic objectives in the first part of the race were to stay
“clean”, stay fast and not get into “fights” with other boats. This was
looking good … we saw one rival J-44 Brown Eyed Girl (BEG) going deep
to the Long Island Shore (hoping for better breeze or cleaner air?),
and two others (J-44 Resolute and perennially successful Swan 46
Galadriel) dueling for clean air. We “made tracks” downwind,
downcourse and monitored our competition.

The weather was beautiful … breezy enough to drive the boat with
speed, but not so much as to present any boat handling challenge. It
was sunny, warm and clear. A beautiful afternoon for a sail. We
saw the REALLY fast rather spectacular boats pass us, the maxi-yachts.
Wow. The amazing thing was that they were in the midst of gybing duels
… they move so fast that they need a lot of room to maneuver. They
were SWOOSHING left and right, using the entire four-mile width of LI
Sound as a runway … WOW. It was amusing, actually, as they gybed
back and forth rather rapidly, other, smaller boats started gibing …
but what’s appropriate for a maxi is not for a smaller boat. We held
our course.

We continued going “downwind” as efficiently as we could manage. We
maintained a loose cover over our competition … Brown Eyed Girl and
Galadriel between us and the LI Shore, then J-44 Resolute attacking
Galadriel. It was a beautiful sunset.

At 8PM we commenced our watch routine. Cap’t Lenny’s team took the
first watch. I noted our “distance to go”, because the watches had
pledged to battle each other for an overall distance contest. Dinner
was great: chunks of filet mignon in gravy over rice, served in bowls
and eaten on the rail. By the time we finished the meal and cleaned up
it had gone completely dark.

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