This year's Valentine's Day Regatta was anything but warm and loving. The trickiest wind we've had all season caused numerous headaches and frustrations out on the race course. Despite wildly shifting winds, and multiple delays for lots and lots of traffic, we still managed to get in five hard earned races. Heading into the day, we knew that winds were going to be light and shifty. The forecast from the NWS said NW winds becoming SW in the afternoon. But when exactly that would happen was still up in the air. The temperature was an initial concern too, with temperatures staying in the low 20's all day long. However the sun was out, and that can really make a difference on a day like this.
As the fleet headed out to the racing area, it was pretty much a dead downwind run. The breeze was still NW blowing straight down from the USS Constitution. The starting line was set off of East Boston, near the Nantucket light ship. As the fleet continued out to the course, the breeze started to lighten up, and we started to see some left shifts coming from Fort Point. The right edge of the shifts seemed to be coming from the Old North Church and Boston Sailing Center. The windward marks were set in line with Rowes Wharf, in order to be in the middle of the shifts. The wind was definitely light for the start of Race 1. Zack O'Brien/Butch Roth were the first to start at the boat end, and Chip Terry/Ned Bicks also had a good start at the middle of the line. As the boats made their way upwind the wind went 45 degrees to the left, blowing from the ICA. The breeze eventually settled back to Fort Point, and also dramatically decreased. At the leeward rounding there were three boats that had pulled far ahead of the rest of the fleet. Matt Marston/Alex Wisch were in the lead, with Terry/Bicks and John Pratt/Bob Coyle close behind. No strangers to tricky winds, these three boats were almost one leg ahead of the rest of the fleet. The first seven or eight boats all took the left gate. The three leaders opted to stay in the middle going upwind, with three boats trying to go far left and hope for a big lift. Marty Gallagher/Cindy Olsen were probably the eighth or ninth boat to round. But as they drew close to the marks, they noticed a slight righty starting to build from the coast guard base. They made their way up the right side of the course and rode that breeze past most of the fleet. Meanwhile on the far left side of the course, the boats were almost moving backwards. Gallagher/Olsen were able to pass most of the fleet and finish in fourth, but were unable to crack the top three. They finished in the order in which they rounded the leewards, with Marston/Wisch in 1st, Terry/Bicks in 2nd, and Pratt/Coyle in 3rd.
We were forced to delay the start of Race 2 while we waited for an inbound tanker. Luckily the tanker didn't take too long, but unluckily it managed to take most of the wind with it somehow. We sat and waited for the wind to fill in. On the far right side of the course, there appeared to be a slight breeze from the USCG base, and on the far left side, there was a little breeze from the ICA. But right in the middle where the starting line was, was nothing. It seemed like a cruel joke at the time. But our patience eventually paid off as the wind started to fill in from Fort Point and we were able to start Race 2. Of course the breeze went way left at the start, and most boats opted to start at the pin. Marston/Wisch were OCS with about 15 seconds to go, but were able to dip start and be closest on the line, along with Dana Robinson/John Karakashian. Luckily the wind settled a bit during the upwind leg, and most boats were wing on wing as they headed towards the leewards. Terry/Bicks and Robinson/Karakashian both reached the gate at the same time, with the former going left and the latter opting for the right gate. Gallagher/Olsen rounded in 3rd and took the left gate. Coming downwind to the finish they were neck and neck with Terry/Bicks. As they approached the finish Gallagher/Olsen eked out enough of a lead to not be caught and grab the bullet.
For the start of Race 3 we shortened the line some, and it was a much tighter starting group. Most of the fleet was up close to the line, but it looked like Terry/Bicks were again closest to the line in the middle. Manlio Lopez/Cole Constantineau wait for two seconds and hit the boat end of the line with a lot of speed. Most of the fleet then tacked off pretty quickly. The breeze then went more left that we had seen all day, and most boats were able to fetch the windward marks. As the last boat rounded the windwards, we were able to move the windward marks far left so that it would be an actual upwind leg this time. With the breeze so far left, most of the fleet took the left gate. Lopez/Constantineau rode their good start all the way to the finish and took 1st. Terry/Bicks finished in 2nd and Gallagher/Olsen in 3rd.
The start of Race 4 again saw most of the fleet a bit back from the line. Marston/Wisch did another dip start with about 20 seconds to go and were by far the closest to the line. Close behind them were Dylan Callahan/Mikael Pittet. This would be a quick race because as the fleet reached the windward marks, a car carrier had already cleared the Tobin bridge and was headed our way. The race was shortened, and Callahan/Pittet were delighted to discover they had won the race when they were the first boat to cross between the leewards (which is the finishing line in a shortened course). Close behind them were Gallagher/Olsen in 2nd and Conant Brewer/Damian Gray in 3rd.
Race 5 would be our last race of the day and again the start had a huge left shift. It would eventually come back, but most of the fleet tacked off pretty quickly right at the start. Marston/Wisch were again closest to the line, but they were still off by a boat length or two. Just like the previous four races, our last race was just as shifty and variable. It had mostly evened out by the time the fleet reached the leewards. Gallagher/Olsen were in 6th when rounding the gates. They, like the five boats ahead of them, took the left gate. However, they were able to (again) find some magic and blew by the rest of the fleet. They finished in 1st with Brewer/Gray in 2nd and Marston/Wisch in 3rd. For Gallagher/Olsen their worst race of the day was their 1st race when they finished 4th. They were never out of the top 3 the rest of the day. They were the clear winners on what was definitely the most frustrating day we've had. The constant shifts and unpredictability of the day had our most veteran sailors scratching their heads at times. Anyone who was able to make their way around the race course on a day like this deserved a strong beverage from Pier 6 afterwards. Thanks to everyone who came out and congrats to the top 5 finishers on the day...
Marty Gallagher and Cindy Olsen - 11 points
John Pratt and Bob Coyle - 22 points
Matt Marston and Alex Wisch - 27 points
Chip Terry and Ned Bicks - 27 points
Dylan Callahan and Mikael Pittet - 28 points
Nate and the Courageous Frostbiting Staff