By Kim Stuart
It was a beautiful day at Lake Pleasant – although quite a bit warmer than one would expect for late October, even in Arizona – with brilliant skies and an early breeze blowing from the south when we arrived at the lake to set up and get the boat, Watercolors, rigged and ready to race.
This year, Ruth Beals Cup Chair Fay Powell did an outstanding job organizing the regatta on the water and off, and the day was a resounding success with all the competitors and volunteers.
Fay has spearheaded the Women of the AYC group this year, and after numerous meetings about the event, club members Wendy Larsen (PRO) and cartographer Rachel Kennett created a new course specifically for the Ruth Beals Cup; the course was designed to offer the RC many opportunities to shorten course if the day turned out to be a drifter, as well as providing the competitors something different from the usual tour of Horse Island and Balance Rock that we see in so many of our set course races.
Breakfast bagels, grilled by Rear Commodore Ed Scheletsky, were a hit with everyone, and we had quite a crowd at Spinnaker Pt before the skippers’ meeting. The PRO clarified a few things in the SIs for the racers, and everyone was off and running to get their boats into the water and try to squeak out a bit of practice before the warning signal.
As the day progressed, the breeze persistently clocked, proving that the forecasters occasionally get it right in areas with strong micro-climates, and we saw a solid, if light, 5-6 kts of breeze by the designated start time, and we started on time. Getting a good start is critical to doing well in any race, and it appeared that a few of the boats were slightly confused about the start line setup, even though the PRO had clarified the course start direction at the skippers’ meeting.
Our boat – Watercolors, a Santana 20, crewed by Cedric Lorch and his father Martin (also the boat owners) – got a good start, on time with speed, at the favored committee boat end, and had clear air and just enough breeze for some VMG sailing towards the first mark before the bigger boats started passing us, which we expected them to do.
The breeze was light and fluky – we likely saw max gusts around 10 or 11 kts with a base wind of 5-8 kts for the duration of the race, and staying in the pressure was a key to doing well overall. With several set marks in a zig-zag pattern, anyone racing with a spinnaker had multiple sets and douses on their game plan, and the inclusion of a starboard rounding at mark 2 made us all have to think about the next set as much as anything in our course management and tactics.
The breeze became spotty and changeable over the racing area as we headed towards the finish. There was a lively discussion aboard Watercolors as to whether or not we should sail with the breeze or sail for our position to cross the finish line (lucky we had a third person to break the tie). We knew we had sailed well, but we did not know if we had sailed well enough, and that was the discussion while we were heading back to the ramp to haul out.
While the course was shorter than some of the participants would have liked, we did have great racing, and boats of all sizes were mixing it up together at the mark roundings, which makes for exciting racing and good competition; with a short course, any boat handling or tactical mistakes are amplified since there’s not enough runway to easily get back to the front of the pack.
As luck would have it for us, we found out just before we got to the ramp that the results were in, and we had squeaked out a first by less than a minute on corrected time, and the delta between the second and third place boats was only 8 seconds! The top five placing boats included three Santana 20s, a J29, and a Hobie 16, which is quite a mix if you look at the entries.
The after-race social was AMAZING! Fay put together a beautiful layout at Spinnaker Point, with flowers, tablecloths, and music, and grill master Rick Johnson cooked an Asian-inspired menu that was positively mouth-watering. We had quite the crowd for dinner and awards, and nearly everyone stayed until sunset, with great food, conversation, and fellowship shared by all.
1st – Kim Stuart, Watercolors
2nd – Pam Neff, Bay Loon
3rd – Jen Lee, Santana 20 (Joel Hurley’s boat is for sale if you’re looking!)
Last but not least – the WAYC is looking to fill next year’s Ruth Beals Cup Chair position – if you are interested, please get in touch with Fay Powell to discuss.