Wednesday, July 27, 2016

2016 Nationals Day 1 Report

Thistle Nationals, Day 2 recap - Race 1&2, By Brad Russell, 3948

It was an absolutely gorgeous day for racing sailboats on Fern Ridge Lake in Eugene, Oregon today.  The sun was out with just a few clouds in the sky, the temperature was in the upper 70s, and mountains in the background.  The fleet headed out to the course in mostly 8-10 knots from the most typical North direction, but with significant holes being easy to find. 

The fleet was a little anxious and the first start caught 4 boats OCS.  I know at least one of those boats were near us and several others were pushing the line very early. 

It became obvious pretty quickly that you had to stay on top of the compass numbers.  Puffs and shifts would roll down the lake with huge swings, but they never lasted long enough to endanger the race with the 30 degrees for 5 minutes rule.  By the end of the day we saw numbers up to ‘up 40’ so the breeze likely shifted through 60-70 degrees, if not more.  These big shifts saw huge gains and losses to the boats on the edges and made staying conservative incredibly difficult.

In addition to the shifts, there were significant holes to be found.  On our boat, we had a great position a 1/3 of the way up the first beat, but tacked through 120 degrees and came out in a hole and watched the fleet swallow us up.  Combined with the puffs being very difficult to see here, it made for a very challenging and sometimes frustrating first beat.

Per usual, Mike Ingham got away clean and picked his way up the first beat.  I’m not sure if he or Chris Pollack led at the top mark, but Mike eventually ended up out front and never left the race in doubt, finishing ahead of Pollack and Abdullah.  Our boat was playing catch-up after finding at early hole and having to do a 720 for something unexpected.  From 10th down, there were a ton of position changes, but the little things made the difference and we were slowly able to get back to 10th after being around 30th at the first mark.  Staying smart and taking consistent small gains seemed to be the key to getting back into it.

The second start was again aggressive, bringing a general recall and a Z flag to follow, keeping everyone in line and getting the race off clean.  Our boat again had a great start towards the pin and just focused on the numbers and letting the fleet selection occur for a while.  At times both sides looked really good, but again there were holes to be found and it was difficult to tell when chasing a puff or shift was the right thing to do instead of sailing the compass numbers you had at the time. 

We again found ourselves in a great position well up the first beat, but ended up going for more leverage to the left side and watched the right come in hard.  It was such a tough day to consolidate gains, but again Ingham picked his way up the first beat well to a lead.  Scott Griffin also sailed a great first beat and looked to be in the lead at times.  Ingham won again, followed by Griffin and Sam Ingham rounded out the top 3. 

Mike Ingham has an 8 point lead after day one, followed by Paul Abdullah, Scott Griffin, Jack Finefrock, John Baker, and our boat in 6th.  The scores clearly reflect how shifty it was – a far cry from some of the big water nationals venues we have.  As one Thistler said after the race, “It was so much different finding yourself deep on the first beat here, knowing you had a chance to catch up unlike on Lake Erie.”

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