Wickford Regatta 2021, as reported by Matt and Russ
The 10th running of the Wickford Regatta for 505s was held this past weekend off North Kingstown Beach in the West Passage of Narragansett Bay, just North of the Jamestown-Verrazano Bridge. Nine 505s showed up for the promised Rhode Island early summer, complete with sunshine and sea breeze at this beautiful venue.
For those who showed up early on Friday hoping to train, the weather was cool and overcast with little wind in the late afternoon. I sailed with Matt Barry, so we clearly had a bunch of boat work to get sorted because he hadn’t touched his completely disassembled boat in over a year. However, Lars Guck had worked a bit of magic on it in the preceding months, so our first victory was not having to flip the boat and deal with his old high maintenance 470 style gasket. Big Bucks Barry had shelled out the coin for Lars to install a standard gasket system supplied by 505 rigging specialist Craig Thompson of Thompson Boat Works (TM). We eventually launched for a quick evening session in low wind (4 – 6 knots). We learned the boat (mostly) worked, the sails went up and down, and that our light air boat handling had room for improvement.
Saturday arrived with a civilized 10 am skippers meeting and 12 pm first signal. The sun was out and air temps were a summer-like 75 – 80 degrees on shore. Water temps were around 55 degrees. The weather system was a high-pressure dominant south of the coast, and a small low north, which produced a forecasted of a slight southerly gradient. The forecast was for a “sea breeze like” gradient to build with the high temps inshore. And build it did.
Race 1 started with Duane and crew recruit Mike Hull as the rabbit (how Kivney avoided being the rabbit I don’t know, I thought the US 505 Constitution, Section 13.5.05 read that Tom Kivney shall forever be the first rabbit at all Region 1 events… ) in about 10 – 12 knots of wind. Lulls were big and shifts were about 10 degrees either side of the 185 degree course axis. Matt and I managed to keep up with all the lightweights to stay in touch. Father/Son Dream Team Ingalls were practiced and easily dialed in. They hit all the shifts, stayed in the variable pressure and won the race, Matt and I were second, and Mike Zani and crew and class recruit John Farrar was a very close third. It became clear that although everyone felt (and potentially was?) out of sailing shape, mistakes would be paid for dearly.
Race 2 started in about 15 knots, with puffs to the upper teens (if you were to believe the Quonset Airport weather station). There were still lulls to be avoided on the course. Matt and I worked hard in the breeze and changed gears accordingly. Although we made a few blunders, we kept nipping at the front group’s heels. Zani and Farrar nailed their race plan and won the race. The fight for second through 4 was tight, with Matt and I in 4th trailing Tom Kivney with crew Gordon Russell in second at the final weather mark, and Dave K with Sol in 3rd. Kivney and Dave K decided to follow the leader and head towards the mainland in a gybe set. Matt and I saw a great puff in the channel next to Conanicut and straight set. We had the pressure and an excellent angle that lifted to a gybe and then into the knock and continued pressure. The mainlanders ran out of pressure and then gybed into a lift. Matt and I then zoomed into second at the finish just ahead of Kivney and Dave K and Sol.
By this time it was getting windy, although I’m sure a west coaster would argue the point. For Race 3, it started around 15 knots, gusting to upper teens, maybe 20 knots. Pressure across the course was solid and only increasing. Matt and I remembered what we learned in San Fran and put in the flattener reef, raked-back, and pulled the board up. He started to whine like a skipper and I reminded him that Dr. Courtney (his wife) does not accept that behavior, he needed to hike hard and pretend to be a big boy. I channeled Mike Mills “Be Big” crew advice and felt good about my chocolate peanut butter milkshake fitness program. We motored upwind, planed hard downwind, and executed all maneuvers (mostly without fatal mistakes) to win. Everybody finished with huge smiles and good stories to tell at dinner that evening.
Feeling like Matt and I had found our gear, we were ready for a fourth race. The rabbit had some issues with not knowing they were the rabbit, and the start got blown off. As we reset, the wind increased further, and some large puffs ripped down the course. We saw two F-18s pitchpole in front of us, a J22 broach, and an unidentified 505 team taking some swimming lessons in short progression. Once the RC had a handle on the situation, we started the day’s final race in 20+ knots and a 30 degree right shift. The pressure continued, and we raked back to somewhere around -2 or -4 and started motoring up the course. Like all weak skippers, Matt became too tired and looked to his faithful crew to do all the hard work, so he passed me the mainsheet upwind. I told him this would be acceptable as long as he acknowledged I could shame him in the regatta report. We had sailed about 2/3rds of the first beat before the race committee abandoned the race and signaled us to head in. Bummer, we could have had a proper west coast windy race. The ride in was a hairy and fun two sail reach. Everybody arrived safely ashore, happy, and super tired. Narragansett Bay had delivered the promise on the brochure.
At the beach, max wind speeds were debated – there was talk of upper 20’s or even a 30 knot puff – although we didn’t see anything recorded over 30 at weather stations adjacent racing area. Quonset airport – somewhat projected – reported a max puff of 25 knots. Rose Island on the East Passage recorded puffs of 30 knots, so you can be the judge of what we experienced. Over dinner at Wickford Yacht Club, stories were told, boats were fixed, and beer, bbq, and Advil were consumed. The Ingalls had to pack up to send Luke off to college Nationals. Good luck and GO RAMS! Wickford YC puts on a great bbq at their beautiful club. This really is a wonderful venue and should be on the list of every 505 sailor every year.
Day 2 arrived even sunnier and warmer than Day 1 with less wind to start. The weather picture hadn’t changed much overnight, so there was a promise of wind for the sea-breeze faithful. The sail out was a hot and long drift in a weird westerly/north westerly gradient and the RC wisely postponed for the Southerly to fill. Heat clouds developed in-shore and the southerly started to fill slowly.
The first race of the day started in hiking/marginal trapping conditions around 12:30. Winds were reported to be around 8 – 10 knots, with big lulls and some puffs to maybe 12 knots. Shifts were maybe 10 degrees either side of 185. Zani and Farrar came out with knives in their teeth and sailed a commanding first race to tie us for the series. We missed a shift out of the start and got pinged the wrong way. We ground it out hard to get back up to a second. It was a super tight finish to pass the Irish (Peter and John) and Kivney in the last run. Not as much planing but great tactical racing.
Race 2 was showing signs of the breeze building. We started in 12 – 15 knots. The first beat was looking somewhat dire us as we had committed to the right, but my long days of training out of Saunderstown way back when showed me to be a bit wiser than I look. A 15 degrees righty filled with 15-18. Matt Barry and the Moustache Man (myself), tacked, planed over the fleet, gybe-set around the top mark, and never looked back. We sailed the last run in 18-20 knots, with the leeward mark RC boat doing their best to hold us up on our final gybe into the finish. Disaster avoided, we won the race and watched the fleet come barreling downwind. I think the water might have been red from all the rust getting shaken off, but everybody had huge smiles. Dave K and Sol worked out some kinks to finish second, Kivney and Gordon showed they might know a thing or two to finish third, and newcomers (or new to me?, welcome to the fleet and nice to meet you guys!) Keith Longson and Ted B finished fourth in 9186. Zani and Farrar finally realized they were a bit light at an estimated combined 325 pounds and sailed their throw-out.
I only mention this because upon realizing we had sewn up the event if we just sailed a reasonable final race, Matt and I decided to test our capsize recovery skills and to keep ourselves on our toes. First, we experimented tacking into a backwind which capsized us instantly. Matt then inspected the gasket for the first time, and it looked GREAT, with a perfect seal. Gatorades and dry bag saved, we recovered nicely and managed to prepare for the final race start. We then set up too high for the rabbit and implemented the “tiller extension stuck in the traveler due to emergency bear-off” scenario to test flipping over during a start. We quickly recovered due to our recent capsize practice and started the race before the gate closed. The breeze moderated and became shifty, leaving opportunities for tactical/strategic gains. We tried a few things that didn’t work, primarily being out of phase, and a few things that did, like putting the bow down and going fast, and managed to grind our way back to fourth. We couldn’t see the front three boats clearly as they were launched, but when the dust settled, Tom K and Gordon earned their ice cream and proved old guys really can still sail fast by winning the race. Peter and John were a close second, and Zani and Farrar got third (I think they gybed too early out of the pressure while Kivney and the Irish dug in?).
It was super fun racing and everybody pushed hard. What a great event. A huge thank you to Skip Whyte and Wickford YC for organizing and hosting the event. Narragansett Bay really is one of the top East Coast venues. Thanks to Matt for his hospitality and putting up with my antics. We managed to just focus on sailing well and having fun, the results seemed to follow. I hope everyone had safe travels home and we will see you all at the Sakonnet Open on July 17 and 18.
|8965||Mike Zani /|
|9005||Thomas Kivney /|
|8951||David Kirkpatrick /|
|8987||Peter Scannell /|
|8786||Luke Ingalls /|
|9186||Keith Longson /|
|8930||Duane Delfosse /|
|9183||Michael Breton /|