The 2011 Canadian 505 Championships saw a good fleet of 12 boats for two days of racing out of Kits Yacht Club in Vancouver. Several teams made the trip up from Washington state, and we saw some new faces trying out the boats for the first time. The weather (finally) cooperated in Vancouver and we had two days of summer sunshine. While the Westerly breeze never really kicked to its full potential (the Vancouver thermal can be very fragile), we still got off 9 races in conditions ranging from 8 to 14 knots or so.
Both days of racing were pretty similar, with the thermal building through the day. As always in a Vancouver Westerly, it paid to bang the left corner upwind, although this weekend was slightly atypical in that there didn’t seem to be much tide relief and sometimes less pressure in shore, so some teams made staying a bit right work, especially off the start line. Day 1 featured some aggressive starts, but great Race Committee work to keep the line square and get the races off with the help of one black flag. After a few races the course was moved closer to shore, which led to more tacking and opened up some tactical options. Several teams showed great upwind speed, with team Steve/Rob winning the first windward mark several times, and Cynthia/Charles doing enough to earn 2nd place on the day. Still our team (Phil/Reto) managed to win the day with straight bullets. While we got buried pretty handily several times on the first beat by teams starting at the boat and rolling, we managed to pass boats downwind pretty consistently and hang on in the second beat. Sunday was almost a carbon copy of Sat, although team Piper/Dan found a new gear in the lighter stuff, winning 2 races with horizon-job efforts and doing enough to lock down 2nd place. Brian/Evan hung around in enough races to eventually claim 3rd in a very close battle, even while earning one shameful black flag DSQ. We managed to win the last two races for the championship.
I think one of the keys to the weekend was knowing when to wire reach and when to sit run in the changing conditions. We learned that even in marginal wire reaching conditions it still seems to pay to jump wire, every time we wire reached we gained, even in barely-planing conditions. The key to making this work is keeping the boat on the plane at all times (the minute you fall off the plane it’s game over as your VMG will tank). If you can’t plane without reaching way high, time to sit run. We do this by getting the crew right to the top of the wire, and I typically yell at Phil to sail higher the minute I sense we’re about to slow down, and gently tell him to soak if we’re too powered up – it’s easy for the crew to tell by how hard they’re hiking or crouching in. This is definitely harder to do in marginal conditions if you’re a heavier crew, but I think you can still pull it off at a decent crew weight (we’re around 380lbs combined, crew 195lbs at the moment). At the PCCs we leaned that some of the heavier California crews have a rather politically-incorrect expression for this technique related to some of the apparently less macho members of our increasingly dominant European fleets. But it works.
All in all a great weekend of 5-oh sailing, with great work being done by the race committee and volunteers. Also thanks to Cynthia & Charles for providing most of the organizational muscle this year, and for keeping the beer flowing and food delivered on time! Looking forward to next time…