What can I say, but wow, this is going to be a fun series. While the Easter Regatta was a warmup event it featured aggressive sailing, strong competition, and every type of weather imaginable.
Friday, with racing delayed nearly an hour for the breeze to fill in, had sun, 15-20 knots of breeze, and 3 windward/leeward races. Saturday, by forecast the windiest of the regatta, was limited to a fixed buoy course with a short reaching start to a laid mark, then a bear away to a run with a course that was more reach/run than beat. They got everyone off the water before the breeziest squalls arrived, so while there was some carnage, it was nothing like what was to come on Sunday. The last race was started in 20-25 knots, with what was effectively a downwind start, then a long beat, a shorter run, and then a beat to a shortened course finish. It was in many respects an inverted w/l course. We saw 35+ on our instruments for sustained periods and there were reports of gusts to 40 from other boats, with many shredded kites, and 2 MOB incidents (all recovered safely), and 2 broken bowsprits in the fast40+ class.
There were several major questions looming for us on OV, prior to the start. Since the keel change we had not competed in a single W/L event nor had we had any reaching or running boat for boat with the Carkeek 40 or Ker40+ designs.
First, would we see any meaningful improvement in upwind performance that could be converted to a meaningful competitive edge. Second, would we be able to keep up downwind against the lighter/newer/more powerful designs, and third, how big would our reaching deficit be knowing that our relative lack of volume forward will always make it hard for OV when jib reaching. And of course, the majority of the crew was new to the boat, would we gel, could we get around the course without major issues when under pressure, and would the fun component be maintained.
1) Otra Vez is competitive with the newer designs. Upwind she has legs on the fleet and when we get out in front upwind she walks away.
2) Running in moderate to fresh conditions she can hold her place, and in w/l races this is a key advantage.
3) We have a lot of work to do on reaching performance versus the newer designs. We will need to solve sail trim, weight placement, and sail choice issues to not suffer badly on tight reaching legs.
4) Lots of small improvements in sail handling and boat handling to come. The work list of small tweaks is long, but the fleet is going to push everyone's level up.
5) The crew work improved every day and we had fun as a group. For me, this was the most important outcome of the weekend.
In terms of the actual racing, the first three races saw us go from an average, to a good, to a great start, and in race 3 we lead around every mark, as a result. Saturday, we had a "scrappy day", a few driver error wipeouts (3 or 4 as i lost count of my mistakes), a poor reaching leg where Jubilee, the GP42, rolled us like we were standing still and a poor beat where i let the boat stray from the targets for far too long as I was still thinking about the reaching leg. Focus, Focus, Focus!!!
Sunday was a near survival day and we finished without breaking anybody or anything. Even after the keel change OV is still a bit nosy downwind, and after Saturdays performance we implemented the aggressive aft stack both in the boat and on deck as we used to with the old keel. I think you will see in the photos in Presuming Ed's post how tightly packed the team was downwind (we did not do that well on Saturday). We also glued in some lee cloth track in the compartment behind the traveller bulkhead and will keep all the loose gear except for the safety equipment there, under some custom lee cloths.
For the first run, we were just ahead to windward of Invictus for the entire run. We were in the low 20's the entire time, and while Invictus clearly had a little more juice it was not enough for them to get through. They had a better drop, got inside at the mark and led us upwind, but OV legged it out and rounded the top mark first and again led the rest of the race on the water.
All the owners I have met have been gracious and welcoming to Otra Vez and I think we are going to have an amazing time on the water.