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Update from GryphonSolo2 on the Monhegan Island Race and Ida Lewis Distance Race

by Joe Harris - GryphonSolo2 26 Aug 15:00 BST
GryphonSolo2 © Joe Harris

GS2 has returned to the race course recently and competed in two races. The first, the Monhegan Island Race out of Portland, Maine, started on Friday August 7th in very light winds, and from there the winds just got lighter!

We had a decent start at the pin end of the line but promptly fell into a wind hole. Our two main competitors, the fellow Class 40 'Amhas' and the Reichel-Pugh 45 'Rikki'- squirted out in front of us as the breeze vacillated between 5 and 10 knots as we beat out of Hussey Sound. It was slow going in very light wind just as the weatherman had forecast and we had a feeling it was only going to get worse. Just south of Portland on the way to Boone Island we finally switched from our main Solent jib to our light-air Code Zero which helped keep us going but did not allow us to sail very close to the wind and the first mark was dead upwind.

When the wind finally dropped to below five knots, we decided to pack it in just before sunset and informed the race organizers of our retirement. While it is never fun to retire from a race, we did not fancy bobbing around all night in no wind and eventually all the boats in our class retired as well, so there was no stigma to quitting. Oh well, this sometimes happens in sailboat races.

We delivered the boat down to Newport, RI from Portland via the Cape Cod Canal the day before the start of the Ida Lewis Distance Race on Saturday August 15th. In stark contrast to the Monhegan Race, the weather forecast for Ida Lewis was for Northeast wind from 18-20 knots, with gusts to 30 and a nasty sea state. Before the downwind start off Rose Island, my Double-Handed (DH) partner Rob Windsor and I discussed which sails to go with given the heavy winds.

We decided to start with one reef in the Mainsail and the big A2 spinnaker, which was a bit risky given the high winds, but as the first leg was a deep downwind run, we thought we could handle it. We started cleanly and set the kite nicely as many other competitors had problems setting their spinnaker, wiped out (rounded up), or just went with a jib. We had to gybe three times before the first turning mark off Pt. Judith and each one was quite scary and sloppy in 25k of wind. We got the kite down at the turning mark and set off upwind towards Buzzards Bay Tower. Two of our competitors could not get their spinnakers down and sailed off towards Block Island with their kites flapping in the breeze, ultimately retiring from the race, as did many of the DH competitors.

We had our big adventure after we rounded Buzzards Bay Tower and set off downwind again towards a buoy off Montauk, LI. We set the big spinnaker and it thrashed around in the heavy wind as we didn't get it sheeted in quickly enough and it got tangled and twisted around the sock control lines. Big mess. We tried to lower it to the deck, but instead it went into the water. We Be Shrimpin'. We finally let go of the head and the tack and let it drift back behind the boat attached only by the clew and then hauled it in hand over hand over the transom.

Rob and I were exhausted from the 30 minute exercise and guzzled water before getting the boat going again under the smaller A3 spinnaker. During this ordeal we had been passed by Ken Read in the new Sunfast 3300 'Alchemist', who recovered from their own spinnaker mess at the start, and rounded the Montauk mark behind them and Jesse Fielding on the new foiling Figaro 3 'Fearless'.

We went to work and passed both boats upwind and rounded BB Tower in first place and set the A3 again downwind. However, Alchemist and Fearless caught us at the turning mark south of Block Island and we had to again grind them down going upwind to the Newport finish, which we did. So we took the gun for the first boat across the finish line on elapsed time. Any time you can beat Ken Read (arguably one of the GOAT sailors) across the line, it is a good day. Very satisfying.

However, because our rating of -9 was so radically different from Alchemist at 63, we owed them nearly three hours on corrected time, and we dropped back to sixth place on corrected time. Although I don't generally care about corrected time results as we mostly just race against our fellow Class 40's and handicap ratings are not involved, it still does seem ridiculous the ratings for the two boats are so different when they are clearly so lightning fast downwind. Whatever. We were one of nine boats that finished out of 17 that started in our class, and we did not break anything, ourselves included, in very rough conditions. That is a testament to good preparation and many offshore miles sailed in similar rough conditions by both Rob Windsor and myself.

So next up is the famous 'Vineyard Race' over Labor Day weekend. The race starts in Stamford, CT, goes out LI Sound into Block Island Sound and around Buzzards Bay Tower and back to Stamford. More training for the RTW Globe40. We are hoping for more big breeze, Lets Go!!

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