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North Sails NEWS
Story Contributors: Ched Proctor
CHED, CHARLIE & MEREDITH WIN CT-RI DISTRICTS WITH TRIPLE BULLETS
Light Winds and Strong Currents – The Excitements of Niantic Bay!
The 2017 Lightning Class Connecticut-Rhode Island Districts were held at Niantic Bay Yacht Club this weekend with 18 Lightnings at the race course. Although the wind forecast was pretty dismal for the whole weekend, we were able to race all six scheduled races, three on Saturday and three on Sunday. Wind direction was from the 130 to 140 on Saturday. The first race was started with the normal 200+ direction. Later the cloud cover prevented the thermal influence and it backed into the 160-170 direction, however one puff did come from around 70 for the last leg of the third race on Saturday. Regatta chair, Dave Peck sailing with his wife, Nina Peck and Brian Lilly used this puff to pass half the fleet and win the race. Most of Saturdays racing was light to very light. At night we had a great steak dinner and the fleet and club members were treated to a local fireworks display.
We were greeted by a light Southerly justifying an on time 10:30 am start on Sunday morning. The wind came around to the common 235 direction. For many years, text book way to sail in this wind direction is: tack to port off the starting line, go to the layline and gain from the righty puffs off the shore. Since most competitors have this pattern ingrained in their minds, the starting line was very crowded at the weather half. It was very challenging to find a spot on the line. This led to a few general recalls and PRO Franz Edson utilized an I flag, then black flag to keep the fleet behind the line.
Notable exception was that defending District champion, Nick Sertl that started several races off the leeward end of the line all alone and with a very good high mode. They was able to be one of the early leaders to the right and by picking the layline well, thy were able to arrive at the weather mark consistently among the leaders and finish second in the regatta.
With a flooding current, you tend to get pushed to the mark on starboard tack. This made picking the layline from a half mile out and having a clear lane the keys to getting to the weather mark in the lead.
At the end our team with my son Charlie Proctor and Meredith Killion, picked the right spot more often than not to emerge in the lead. It was a bit challenge after several of my starts that left us looking for a clear lane before we could settle into the parade to the shore. The exception came on the last beat of the day. We had rounded the leeward mark in the lead and chose to protect the usually successful right side of the course. Long time local, Don Barrett, led a group of three out to the left corner. It was prescient, since Saturday morning he had told me that the flooding current at the mouth of the bay takes you to the mark. And the current is strong! He led this group back on port tack to come out bow to bow with us 50 meters from the finish line. Only two quick tacks saved the race for us, while the group of three from the left took 2nd, third and fourth in the race. Such is the excitement of racing in Niantic Bay.