Zooming Around Bowen
Wednesday June 18, 2014 - With a litany of work commitments, end-of-school-year family commitments, boat haulouts and injuries keeping much of the regular Krikkit crew off the roster for the Round Bowen Race, Krikkit picked up Martin 242 sailors Ian Dube, Sher Gray and Brenda Bevis to join Simon, Kevin and Liam for this always-enjoyable event.
The good times were fully accounted for this year, but what was notably missing were the normally unavoidable wind holes around the island, which usually create parking lots at Cowan Point, Hutt Island, and/or Hood Point. This year it was blowing solid (and very gusty) all around the island, so there were no restart opportunities for the back-of-fleet boats and the official start actually mattered for once. Who'da thunk?
Of course if there ever was a Round Bowen start that mattered, it's only natural that the wind would die out across half the line at the 10 minute mark and Krikkit would get trapped on the wrong side of the line in the becalmed zone. We did have the presence of mind to fire up the diesel while we still could, and drive at full clip towards where we needed to be, cutting the motor two seconds before the start sequence. This got us to the correct side of the line, but three-and-a-half minutes of sailing in sequence wasn't enough to move more than a few boat lengths towards the better wind, so at the 30-second mark it was time to do a slow flip onto starboard and begin the suffering.
There's nothing like being glued together with a clump of boats with no useful steerage, all ghosting across the line on starboard and gently fending each other off, and then having someone come in on port who can't … quite … clear … ahead. Naturally, when their predicament became clear to them and they turned downwind to try and duck, they lost all their apparent wind and thus all hope of making the duck successfully, and instead ended up plowing straight into the clump, choosing Krikkit as the point boat. Much excited shouting. Much vigorous fending. Who was that big blue boat?
After handing us that steaming dung-pile of a start, the wind started coming back on, but it was light at first. We decided to hold our starboard tack a little later than the rest of the wrong-end crowd, which got us a nice clean lane of air when we finally tacked onto port and allowed us to take good advantage of the big ebb tide.
By the time we converged with the rest of our division it looked like our recovery strategy had worked okay, putting us with the second and third-row starters from the windier, landward end of the line. The first-row starters, however, were solid gone, with Natural High leading the charge.
The rest of the race was textbook, if your textbook has Bowen Island with gusty 8 to 20 knot winds and no significant windholes. There was a fast spinnaker run along the south of Bowen, and aboard Krikkit we minimized the gybes (we kept it to just the one) and did the takedown early enough to avoid running off pointlessly. We passed a few boats that held their spinnakers too long then got into trouble entering Collingwood, and we saw some pretty exciting-looking gybes too.
Going up Collingwood Channel we stayed out a little from shore, making up ground on boats that ventured in too close and got trapped in serious lulls. Favouring the offshore side also had the advantage that we had a bit more warning of the gusts as they rolled off the Bowen shore, so we were able to work them for speed instead of getting rounded up like many of the inshore boats.
We also saw someone flip overboard from one of the Martins (identity concealed to protect the innocent) but she had the presence of mind to hang onto the sheet, and after a scary few seconds of getting dragged behind the boat she was able to grab the side, and they eased sails and slowly hauled her aboard (she probably had about 300 lbs of water trapped in her foulies). They never wavered off direction, and were back in the race within 30 seconds, having lost perhaps 100 feet of ground against the other boats. Neat trick!
We managed to get lunch served between gusts near Hutt Island, and then as we rounded Hood Point we got into an unintended and unproductive tacking duel with a big Div 2 Beneteau called Contagious that unglued itself from a shoreside wind hole just as Krikkit approached, and then sat on us and matched our every tack on the beat home, allowing Electra and Rhumbline to start reeling us in. We finally got out from under the Contagion when they carried well past the finish layline because they didn't realize the finish was INSIDE the mark, so they then had to come back downwind behind us. Mind you, the mark was so tight to the shore that I hardly believed it myself!
In the end we crossed the line in a fastest-ever 3:07:10 for a solid mid-fleet finish, and the after party was epic. I'm already looking forward to next year!