A Dispatch from Genoa – A (air, heavy) to Z (zephyr)

Friday night, on a stop over in Charlotte, on my way back from Gainesville, I learned that one of my crew could not sail Saturday or Sunday. Based on the forecast, it was going to be heavy air on Saturday. I called my son; he already had made plans. Kelsey Neal was in Santa Fe visiting her parents. I was getting on a plane. Well, Rob was going to make it. I figured, to paraphrase one of my father’s expressions, we’d be the pair that beats a full house. I rationalized that instead of sending Rob forward to grapple with the whisker pole after rounding the windward mark while I tried to drive and control the sheets, I figured we could just sail higher, a broad reach, and hope our speed and gybes would compensate for the greater distance sailed.

The new North genoa had arrived and was in the cabin of Sloop Dogg. There was no point putting it on, given the forecast, as Jon Gardner had told me it was good to a maximum apparent wind speed of 20 knots. On Saturday, we sailed better than our finishes would suggest. That is, if you overlook that I hit marks during both races and sailed past the finish line in the first, thinking that the course called for twice around.

Back in the slip on Saturday, Rob and I took down the old genoa and put the new on one. Fortunately, the wind, which had not lessened much, was directly on the bow. Switching the sails with the wind coming from any other direction would have been considerably more difficult. The only problem was that overnight, the wind kept howling. In the morning, my laptop revealed overnight wind speeds that were even higher than on Saturday and showed no sign of abating. More problematic was the wind direction. It was coming across the starboard beam. There would be no pointing the boat into the wind, not in the slip, anyway.

Aware of the problem, Mike Ferring suggested the obvious solution of sailing with just the main. Rob and I motored north from the marina toward the committee boat. In the open lake, waves broke over the bow and spray collected on my sunglasses. By the time we checked in with the race committee, the wind speed seemed to be dropping. We cautiously unfurled the genoa and spent the pre-race time we had left, working on the genoa trim–leech line tension, jib lead position, skirting the foot of the genoa.

After a 4th in the first race, the new sail and our evolving proficiency with it led to better finishes–a 3rd, 1st and a 3rd in the last race, a drifter where I applied Andrew Kerr’s mantra of sail to the wind and caught a narrow wind line, which we rode on port tack to windward until we were close to the layline to the finish line. Like Big Papi says about never giving up, we came from behind to improve our position in 3 of the 4 races on Sunday.

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