The day was almost a no-go after discovering that Starbucks wasn't open on New Years Day, fortunately the boys are good at thinking on their feet and a trip to Tim Hortons saved the day. On the drive to the boat Benj's car was reading -5 outside, and when they arrived at the club the docks were completely frozen. In addition to the inhospitable temperature it was also blindly foggy. Not wanting to kill themselves, but still wanting to race they made a call to Vancouver traffic, the local harbour authority to determine that there were not big scary boats planning on going through the narrow channel under the Lions Gate Bridge; this is the channel through which the boys have to go to get to the race course on English Bay. Vancouver Traffic confirmed that it was safe to transit and Dave and Benj headed out with frozen decks and lines into a pea-soup like fog to get to the race course. This is the first time that either of them has gone under Lions Gate Bridge without actually seeing it. Fortunately Dave is a pilot for a living and has developed highly honed "Fly by instrument" skills, he was able to keep the boat on-track as they headed out against the current. They felt comforted knowing boat is equipped with an AIS transmitter so all of the commercial boats are be able to see them, and most importantly, all commercial traffic appears on the on board GPS. Fortunately there were no issues, and the boys were shortly at the starting line.
This race is a unique adaptation of the famed LeMans start. Instead of crossing a line, under sail after a count-down to the start, each boat has to be anchored with all sails down, and crew below-decks. Once the starting horn sounds, the crew jump on deck, bring up the anchor, rig the sails, and start racing. Dave and Benj were somewhat disadvantaged as they were double-handed and were racing against a bunch of boats with full crew. Double handing meant that the two of them had to perform all of the tasks quickly and efficiently if they wanted to be competitive.
The race was simple, around two markers and back to the finish. The challenges were the lack of wind, combined with strong current, and also the depth at the last mark.
The race committee had chosen a "Dolphin" as a turning mark. These are put in place to indicate shallow water, and while there are times when the water bear them is passable, it is generally considered poor seamanship to go near, let alone inside one of these markers.
After a brush or three with a boat that shall remain nameless, the boys were off to a great start, and quickly sped past a number of other boats, including regular frenemies Windy Feat, Flaming Red Head and were hot on the heels of Ultraman II.
On the approach to the first mark, they decided to rig a never before seen out of the bag light-air spinnaker for the next leg. It sure was ugly, but the lightweight cloth meant that the sail would remain full with less wind than the other, slightly heavier spinnakers. Their plan paid off, and the sail was drawing, even in the lightest of breezes.
For most of this leg the wind was constantly changing from light to nothing and back to light again. It was an exercise in patience and concentration. Dave was trimming the spinnaker, while Benj was taking care of the main sail and driving. This worked well, and the three way battle between Thursday's Child, Windy Feat and Ultraman II continued.
Where did the water go?
When the Race Committee started the race, the tide was in, and there was plenty of water in the bay but as the race slowly progressed the tide was quickly going out and the last mark (remember - the one that marks the shallow water?) was becoming increasingly concerning. The worry is that the boats would hit the sand, and since the tide was going out they could become stuck for a very long, and embarrassing time.
As Thursday's Child rounded the mark, her depth gauge indicated that they had a little under a foot of water under the keel. After a few very tense and quiet moments aboard they had cleared the shallows and were headed out towards deeper water.
Where did the finish line go?!
As they headed to the finish a brilliant battle between Thursday's Child, Krikket, Ultraman II, and Windy Feat broke out. Each boat was fighting to find even the slightest bit of wind. Many tacks and gybes ensued, and each boat was constantly going from first to last to first and back to last again. At this point the time limit on the race had passed, the race committee had gone home, so the boats were all just playing for fun. As a fleet they decided to race to the 'Hamburger', a fixed mark in English Bay, which would serve as a makeshift finish point. The boats battled and jockeyed to get rights and to finish first; somehow after hours of racing all of the boats managed to finish at 2:38PM. The first boat of this group was within a minute of the last boat.
In the end a little breeze had filled in from behind bringing late-runners Flaming Red head and OCD up to the rest of the fleet. They fought for every moment and Flaming Red Head managed to win the unofficial race! It's great to see them doing so well! TC managed an unofficial third place, ahead of their favorite frenemies and ultimately everyone had a fun day on the water!
This was a fantastic start to 2016!