August 2, 2023
By Terry McLaughlin
Our third regatta in Newport this summer was the IC37 US Nationals held July 13-16, hosted by the New York Yacht Club at Harbour Court. Two races were held on Friday inside on Narragansett Bay in very shifty, puffy conditions. We ended up with an 8, 10 in the 16 boat fleet. In both races we finished just behind a pack of 4-5 boats, which is always a little frustrating.
We didn’t feel that we were going that fast and initially we were not sure why that was so. On the previous Monday, after the Sail Newport Regatta, I had asked the class measurers to come take a look at our mast tuning as the sideways bend was different from one tack to the other. After playing around with the lower and upper diagonal shrouds they decided to start all over and retune the mast from scratch. Unlike almost all other classes, in the IC37s the class measures and fixes the forestay length, the mast butt position, the tension of the upper vertical, lower diagonal and upper diagonal shrouds. There are tension meter settings for the shrouds in the class rules, but those are now ignored by the class as the new goal of the measuring is to equalize the mast prebend at the dock. (I might be losing the interest of my squash buddies who are on this supporter list.) My small tuning adjustment request turned into a 3 ½ hour complete retune, that resulted in, among other things, moving the butt of our mast 2 cm forward, which is a lot for a mast butt movement. This made the mast much straighter fore and aft than we had sailed the last few years and required far more running backstay tension than we had ever used before. We didn’t really catch onto this while racing Friday and ended up sailing with too straight a mast. When we got a puff, we would tip over more so than accelerate forward enough. It was frustrating day, but we belatedly learned a lesson.
We did survive a race 1 weather mark collision with another boat when they tacked onto starboard inside the 3 boat length circle and had no chance to lay the mark in the adverse current. With little speed, they luffed up to and past head to wind in a futile attempt to make it around the mark. We came in on starboard with speed, saw that they were in trouble, luffed up in attempt to avoid them but as they were now standing upright and we were very much heeled over, our masts first made contact and then our leeward lifeline stanchions scraped along the windward side of their hull resulting in 3 bent stanchions on our boat. We protested them and after a hearing on shore they were disqualified meaning that they had to pay for the damage. A call to Defiant owner Paul L’Heureux resulted in Paul acquiring 3 new stanchions right away. Paul brought the new stanchions and some tools to the dock at Sail Newport at the end of the so Paul and a couple of crew members made a quick job of replacing the stanchions, while a few of us prepared for the protest hearing at Harbour Court.
On Saturday the race committee took us outside to Rhode Island Sound where we had three medium air races. In the first race, we had a great start 2/3 of the way down the starting line, punched out from all of the boats around us. The regatta winner, New Wave, had a good start at the leeward end of the line. A few minutes after the start we were, at worst in second place in the race. As we were getting out to the left side of the course, I decided that we would tack to port in order to consolidate our position on the course. I had a feeling that the left side had better wind than the right side and was fully prepared to tack back left after we had consolidated our position. Well, we never did tack back to the left and remained in a lane that normally would result in a good, conservative first mark rounding. In this case it didn’t work out well as most of the boats that went left behind us all found more wind and passed us. What a waste of a great start as we finished 10th in the race.
In the other two races we scored two sixth place finishes. In both we had a chance to be top 3, but little mistakes here and there made the difference. On Sunday racing was delayed on shore for an hour and then called off for the day due to too much wind to safely race in. So, what to the Canadians do when it is too windy to race? We go out sailing. Before going out I drove to our storage locker to pick up and old jib and spinnaker so we wouldn’t wreck our new ones. The wind was probably 16 to 28 knots in the puffs. For practice, at the dock we reefed both our jib and mainsail. We hadn’t sailed with reefs in quite a while. At the Invitational Cup in September, the race committee has the option to hoist flags prior to the start requiring all competitors to reef either the jib, the mainsail or both. The setup on a reefed jib is quite different than on a full jib. When the square topped mainsail is reefed the running backstays, that attach to the mast not far from the top, can easily, when slack, flip over onto the wrong side of the mainsail. I know from experience that when this happens it is near impossible to rectify without partially dropping the sail.
We had a great spinnaker ride from near Fort Adams all the way to New England Boatworks in Portsmouth, RI where the boat had to be delivered for haulout. After planing downwind, with all available crew at the back of the boat in an attempt to keep the bow from digging into the water too often, we dropped the spinnaker and tacked our way back upwind all the way to the Newport Bridge before hoisting the spinnaker once again. Our previous top boat speed of 18.5 knots (21.3 mph) had been recorded in Toronto Harbour in 2020 just prior to a wipeout on a gybe that eventually put me into Toronto Western Hospital for a thumb ligament repair operation. I am the one in the red vest in the attached video. When the mainsheet came across the boat on the gybe, it caught first my thumb on the port lifeline, and then my body, resulting in me being flung across the width of the boat at a rapid speed where my head ended up under water through the starboard lifelines. This past Sunday we only had one wipeout on the several gybes that we did. When the speedometer hit 20.09 knots (23.1 mph) there was a loud cheer from all crew members.
All in all, I am satisfied with our summer’s results of 3rd, 4th, 8th in the three Newport regattas. In the NYYC Annual Regatta June we won two races of the five held and in the Sail Newport Regatta we had a 1, 2, 3 in the six races. One of my goals this summer was to try to avoid really bad races where we would finish in the bottom few. We did succeed at that. In the Invitational Cup there are 12 races scheduled with no discards, meaning all scores will count. Now we have to turn more mediocre races into good ones.