Aurora, USA 50095
Aurora in 12-14 kts of breeze, the highest winds of the race
Wednesday. A2N race committee reports all 70 boats have now finished or run out of time due to light air. Our final place on corrected time in our IRC I class was 11 of 12 – disappointing. In overall IRC standings we were a quite respectable 15th out of 40 boats. No fault can be found in the way Aurora was sailed and tactically it was a crap shoot for much of the race. I asked Gus, Gary, John and Devin for a post-mortem analysis and here is my interpretation:
The light air was bad news for an older (1994) relatively overbuilt sailboat like Aurora, which competes well in strong wind. “We knew going in the conditions were not going to favor us ,” said Gus. “Considering that we are a much heavier boat and therefore not as good in light air as some of new lighter boats, we sailed a very good race, a very smart race and the crew work was fantastic.”
Long periods of dead air created a parking-lot effect in which boats that seemed to be ahead were caught by boats sailing up from behind. Relative positions for much of the fleet were reshuffled more than once. With no compelling wind scenario presenting itself, and shifts forecast from nearly all points on compass dial, we opted for a conservative route near the rhumb line and approached the finish from the west side of Block Island, where there was a slightly more favorable current. A2N RC posited that the wind velocity might have been just enough stronger east of BI early Monday to overcome our current advantage.
Given that we kept the boat moving well and took no big risks tactically, our back-of-the-pack corrected time raised questions about the ratings system and the IRC rules we were racing under. As Gary put it: “The sail handling was flawless for an amateur crew. The down part of this all is that Aurora is a design whose time has gone by compared to much ligther boats that are out racing today.” He continued “When it’s very light downwind conditions like we had for many parts of this race, the light boats will sail away, which tells me that the handicap ratings system aren’t adjusted properly for different types of boat forms.” From Devin: “We sailed the boat as well as we could given the wind conditions and competition. The boats that we were sailing against were all very well sailed and optimized for the rule that we were racing under.”
Photo by Alden Winder
Participating in such a well-oiled program, with a mix of world-class ocean racers and talented young sailors, including an 18 year old, was a unique journalism experience, not to mention a chance to do my first true blue water ocean race. I learned from the best, including how to prepare dinner for 20 on a gimballed stove without catching the boat on fire. “Given the complexity of course, with two or three races in one, that new crew really pulled together, ” said program coordinator and watch captain John Winder, whose son Alden was one of the college-age crew. This highly competive group of sailors is used to performing at an elite level, winning races and not making excuses. Still, all felt it was a great race for the boat handling, navigation, camaraderie and of course for showcasing Thomson Reuters as a high-performing brand in a high performance sport. “On the water, with the brand on the mainsail and spinnaker, everyone knows we’re the Thomson Reuters boat,” said Gus.
Final results: http://www.race.annapolisyc.org/uploads/results/2011_Annapolis_to_Newport_Race-2011/2011_A2N_race1.html