Step aboard the Ron Oard’s Shields, Glory, as he recaps the first week of the 2022 Spring Series in Newport Rhode Island’s Shields Fleet 9.
In a nutshell, that summed up the first race of the season for Shields 158 Glory.
Our evening started well. While there was no wind north of the bridge at 4pm (making me think we might have to tow ourselves out with our dinghy), by the time we rallied to get on the boat the sea breeze had reached the Navy base, and we picked up our fifth crew off the pier at 5:15 before heading out. We got to the course early enough to get upwind and put the spinnaker up for the first time this season to eliminate any surprises and get some practice gybes in.
The course was Delta (Hammersmith), 6 (Green bell Southeast of Rose Island), twice around. The line was square, but most boats went for the boat end to stay on starboard tack all the way left, causing two general recalls. Good news for us, as we were forced over early on the first start (like 2/3rds of the fleet), and on the second start 33 shut us out at the boat end. It was a bit surprising there was so little current, but upon reflection we were only just over two hours into the new tide cycle and the current had not shifted much if at all in the middle.
The Race Committee moved the pin upward about 10 degrees before the third start, which moved boats down the line. We started at the boat end about five seconds late, but quickly found we could not point with 107 who was below and ahead of us. We hoped to keep above them because they were in danger of getting gassed by 254, but hope is not a strategy, and we tacked to clear our air. Sail number 245 was well below us having cleared their air and ducked us right at the start line, but they slowly worked up under us over 2-3 minutes, forcing us to go back onto starboard tack. We ended up going most of the way back left, and then we were working the middle left of the course where there appeared to be the best breeze and thinking there was more adverse current on the left. It certainly didn’t work out for us, as 254 and 245 made out by continuing right, and 107 appeared to make out big by banging the right corner. Upon reflection we should have ignored 245 and continued right.
We rounded the weather mark last with only 166 within ten boat lenghts. We did well to halve that distance on the downwind leg at one point, and after rounding the leeward mark and following the fleet to the left, we decided that we needed to do something different to have a chance to catch anyone. So, we tacked and banged the right corner on the second upwind leg. It looked good for a while, but that didn’t pay off either. We rounded the windward mark well behind 166, and knowing the Race Committee had shortened the course for a downwind finish we set the chute, broke out the beer (I can say that publicly now because the Navy no longer owns the boat), and started the music (thanks to the waterproof, floatable speaker one of my crew purchased for the boat), and sailed downwind through the finish and under the bridge.
Congrats to Apollo 11 for winning the first race of the season. I just saw the standings, as we were not close enough to see how things played out up front. Andy Green probably owes me something for telling him he needed to move his partners aft 1.75″ when I measured the boat this spring… the rest you can blame me.
Nowhere to go but up next week. We spent most of this race admiring the artwork on the stern of the other boats and the backs of their crew.
By Ron Oard
Shields Fleet 9, Newport Rhode Island