Bloody Mary 8th in a Graduate
At this years Bloody Mary, I was determined to arrive in plenty of time. It's normally a bit of a bun fight to drop off your boat, remove the car to the car park, rig, find a launching ramp that is not blocked by boats that are going to start later than you, change and launch. I was going to sail the event with my wife, either in a Scorpion, but having picked it up from P&B just before Christmas, we have had no more than 10 knots or +2 degrees to train in. So crashing round at the Bloody Mary was perhaps not the ideal time to practice in 25 knots. The fall back option of a well sorted Graduate was ideal. Grad 3005 had not been on the water since the Nationals in the summer and was still in race tuned condition, but this was not going to be anything like the Battle of the Classes:
Having left home at 06:30 - we were at the lake by 7:50, prime spot taken and breakfast eaten by 10:00. It was blowing a good 25 knots as we launched, but with the forecast to moderate, we were keen that the race got away before the wind died too much.
Spotting the course before the start is always a stress. Launching on the east side of the lake, we were able to spot those marks that were not as visible from the club house and sailed round to the starting area, arriving just in time to see the Toppers start. It had taken us a good 15 mins to get there around after checking the other windward marks to the South of the lake. Despite two course cards and lots of checking, I can't say I was completely in tune with the course, perhaps its due to the lack of features that can disorientate you.
Our start time was +15 minutes. I knew that the GP14's were starting just 3mins after us and the firefly's were starting with us. We nailed the start and I quickly looked around to find out how we were performing to windward compared to the Firefly's. We already had a jump of 5 boatlengths on them starting at the biased starboard end, and with the forecast to go right, I was happy to take the first shift to the left on the first beat. This paid dividends as the wind went back to the right and we were 12 boatlengths ahead at the first mark. The next leg was a very broad starboard reach. We used the first gust to plane well below the rhumb line which again paid dividends on the Firefly's as we took out a large lead into the leeward mark as the wind moderated for them closer to the southern shore. By the time we were back on the West side of the lake we set our sights on catching the Topper leaders who were dicing with the Laser 4.7's. Then it became apparent that they had missed out a windward mark completely and the lead boat with a large red flag started to lead us round the course. As we passed the starting vessel, one of the Moth sailors shouted - "how many laps have you done - 2?" "Just one unfortunately" I replied. As we reached the leeward mark on the South East side of the lake - the first moths passed by with a whizz. We still had an hour and a half to go - I expected to see them again long before the end.
Thankfully the wind started to moderate and swing - which was good and bad. The good part was that the Graduate could start to come into its own - A Grad in sub planing conditions is a fantastic beating machine - and we had the advantage of sailing in strong winds as the rest of the fleet had been on the shore. The bad part was that the beats and runs were now not symmetrical so the lap was getting easier for the later starters.
We were only half a beat ahead of the National 12's (Dead Cat Bounce design) and a 3000, but we seemed to hold our luck with the windshifts to hold them off, but in the blink of an eye, a 14 sailed by Robert Gilbert and Ben McGrane passed us just after the start of the second lap. The long downhill sail to the South East corner of the lake was hard as the 12's and 3000 followed by Merlin and Fireball and Merlin - then we lost count. There seemed a long gap behind us as the race end gun was fired so we limited any more losses before approaching the finish.
We raced for two and a quarter hours and the best part was the start and the finish. Waiting for the inevitable chase down was fun, but we beat our goal of top 50 by a little more than I expected, matching an icy Bloody Mary some 24 years earlier of 8th place. What a great days racing. Relatively warm and windy. I can't wait for next year.