It doesn’t always pay to take the middle. Moderation in all things, but that includes moderation. You can try to hedge your bets by not committing to an extreme, but that doesn’t make it a good bet. Sometimes you have to go all in to make a gain.
One of the really compelling things for me about racing, as distinct from cruising, is that it holds up an objective mirror of your sailing. You can have fun approaching sailing casually, and if you work at it you can become a better sailor, but if you want to really improve you should race. When you first start racing you’ll lose a lot. But that’s okay. Those losses are the honest friend who’s willing to tell you the truth: you’re not very good. So get better.
Racing (by which I mean, losing) made me a much better sailor. All the crews in the VOR are better sailors than I will ever be, but the lessons continue for them, and one of the lessons from the last few days is that the middle isn’t always a viable compromise.
The two boats that went west (ADOR and Brunel) are well in front at this point. They’re emerging from the doldrums, and I think there’s a good chance one or the other of them will go on to win the leg. It’s still a long way to Cape Town, but opportunities to pass are fewer after this.
Vestas made a gutsy call by going east, and the result is that at this point I think they’re solidly in third, with the best chance of any of the trailing boats to break into the top two.
But oh, those boats in the middle. Twenty-four hours ago Mapfre was even with Vestas. But Vestas went east while Mapfre went west, into the middle, and the result is that now Mapfre is 25 miles further from Fernando Island than Vestas is.
There still a chance for a reshuffling in the trailing four boats as they work to emerge from the doldrums; I’m pulling for SCA, back in seventh again, to catch a break and move up. But I feel for those last four boats. They can see from the scheds what’s happened, but there’s nothing they can do at this point, except fight for whatever gains they can make among themselves.
Watching the videos from the last day takes me back. As a southern California racer I’ve spent many hours sitting under slatting sails, trying to get the boat moving. I actually kind of enjoy it; there’s a delicate balance, a quiet intensity, like building a house of cards. One false move brings the whole thing down, but if you maintain focus and push your senses to the limit you can feel a breath of air, and get a little movement, and then a little more, and build on it.
In one of the videos you could see that the boat had partially rolled up their headsail as they rocked, windless. That might seem surprising; normally you’d think that the less wind there is the bigger the sails you should use. And mostly that’s true. But in the lightest conditions, especially if there’s a leftover swell, a small sail can actually be faster — sometimes much faster. The big sail flops against the rigging and never assumes the proper shape. A small sail, though, can fill quickly during the precious few seconds when a puff hits, getting the boat moving. It’s really fun when it works, especially when you go screaming (hah!) through a fleet of competitors at a knot and a half with a tiny windseeker up while they’re sitting motionless with their #1’s.
Reposted from http://ift.tt/1yYShVY.