Frostbiting Recap Week 1: 2019-2020

In Frostbiting by Caitlyn Ridgely

Week 1 is in the books!  Congrats and thanks so much to everyone who came out for our kickoff to the Courageous Frostbite 2019-20 season.  It was so great to see faces both new and returning  From the looks of it we have a great season in store for us, and I'm excited to keep going.  For those of you who weren't able to make it, Week 1 featured some of the more challenging racing our fleet has encountered in some time.  Trying to make sense of what was happening on Saturday was not easy for anyone, but let's see what we can unwrap now that we're a few days removed.

My non-frostbiting friends insisted that Saturday was "freezing" but with sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 40's, I found it a perfect way to start the season.  If you recall last season's kickoff was during a gale warning, and we were forced to cancel when winds picked up to 35 kts as we were about to head out.  So again, a pretty good way to start Week 1.  While the sunshine and mild temperatures made for a pleasant day in the committee boat, it was the constantly shifting wind that was giving our fleet a headache.  Winds would shift 50 degrees for 2 minutes before shifting somewhere else.  Giant holes would envelop the course, bringing the fleet to a standstill multiple times.  The forecast called for NW winds at 5-10 becoming SW in the afternoon.  As we left the dock at 12noon the wind was still NW, but we could see the velocity dropping and the direction starting to change.

We set our race course in our usual Frostbite spot, which is usually somewhere between the Nantucket Lightship in East Boston on one side, and downtown Boston or the Seaport on the other side.  Due to the very light and shifty winds it took some time for the fleet to reach the race course.  There was also a slight postponement as we waited for the wind to fill in.  By 1230 we were able to get a gauge on the extent of the wind shifts.  From where we were set up, the left edge of the breeze was coming from the Fish Pier in the Seaport, and a few times went as far left as the cruise terminal.  The right edge of the breeze could go as far as the Coast Guard base, but was usually somewhere near the Customs House tower.  We set our windward marks in line with the ICA in the Seaport and our leewards just upwind of our starting line.  A strong current was running through the course from right to left.  Heavy rains the night before meant that they spend most of the day draining the excess water in the Charles River, creating our current.  By 1230 the course was set, the breeze had momentarily settled in, and the racing could begin.

Race 1 started with two boats over early (OCS).  Both were forced over by leeward boats heading them up with only a few seconds to go.  The winds being in a right phase at the start created a big pile up at the boat, but a few boats were able to break away from the fleet at first.  John Pratt/Bob Coyle had a great start off the line, as did Cole Constantineau/Manlio Lopez.  Some boats like Niko Kotsatos/Carolyn Marsh decided to hang back a bit and hit the boat end with speed and away from the clumps of boats.  As the boats made their way up the course for the first leg, the wind went back left and stranded a few boats that had gone out far to the right.  Cindy Olsen/Sandy Hayes were the first of a group of about 6 boats to get to the leewards.  They and most of the group opted to go for the left gate, which seemed to be the favored side.  At the back of that group was Bryan Lee/AnneMarije Veenland-Lee.  They took the road less traveled and went right along with David Chudzicki/Richard Kelly.  It was when most of the fleet had rounded the windwards for the second time that the wind shut off.  While most of the fleet was stuck at the top of the course, there were three boats that were able to get away.  Olsen/Hayes had managed to keep their lead but they were closely followed by Lee/Veenland-Lee (apparently the right side really paid off) and Matt Marston/Cheney Brand.  As they crawled towards the finish line the wind had gone completely still. And In one of the most intensely dramatic, yet also the absolute slowest finish I have ever seen, Lee/Veenland-Lee were able to find the lone zephyr on the course and take the bullet.  Hayes/Olsen would come in second.  Marston/Brand were about two boathlenghts from the finish line when the breeze started to fill in from the top of the course.  As the fleet menacingly approached, it appeared that the fleet would catch and possibly surpass them.  But through what was probably sheer force of will, they managed to get their boat across before everyone else showed up.  The rest of the fleet was very tightly packed, and it was less than a minute that separated the fourth from the last boat.  The words "craziest race I've ever been in"  could be heard from a few boats after they had finished.

The next four races would prove to be equally challenging.  The shifts in direction and velocity were abundant and confounding all day long.  Race 2 was all clear at the start.  Reade Everett/Dana Robinson and Chip and Lara Terry got out to a good start and an early lead.  Jen Bodde/Dylan Callahan shut the door at the boat end, forcing another boat to circle back and start in the 3rd wave.  Kotsatos/Marsh again waited for the cluster to move and had a solid boat end start in the 2nd wave.  The breeze was in a left phase for most of the first leg, with most teams opting to stay on that side.  But as they started heading downwind, the breeze shifted back to the right.  Kotsatos/Marsh rounded first and went right, followed by Constantineau/Lopez, the Terrys and Lee/Veenland-Lee.  Olsen/Hayes were one of the few boats to go left.  The breeze died again during the 2nd time around but Hayes/Olsen were able to find a little bit of wind on the left side that allowed them to pass quite a few boats and finish again in 2nd.  Kotsatos/Marsh held off the fleet and maintained their lead for the bullet, with the Terrys coming in 3rd in a very close finish were the top 6 boats were all within a few feet of each other.

Race 3 started with the wind in a big right phase.  This created a rather sizeable pileup at the boat end, with about 8 boats OCS, and a general recall was issued.  The wind was so far right at this point, that it was looking like we might have to shift the entire course.  We postponed for a few minutes to try and adjust the line a bit, and to see if the wind would come back.  Luckily, the wind did come back and we only had to make a minimal adjustment to the course.  The restart of Race 3 had a clean start with Pratt/Coyle right on the line, as was Zach O'Brien/Butch Roth.  Constantineau/Lopez won the boat end of the line and also had good speed on the upwind leg.  Kotsatos/Marsh also had a good start at the boat, but pretty much as soon as they could, they tacked off to get to the right side of the course.  As the boats reached the windward marks, the wind shut off again for a few minutes.  It came back in just a few minutes, but it was very far left when it did.  Kotsatos/Marsh were the first to round the leewards and headed to the left side.  As the rest of the fleet was rounding, a non-racing sailboat out for a cruise decided that they would like to sail right through the fleet.  I'm not sure exactly what that person was thinking, but it's a good reminder to always be aware of other boats on the water.   Kotsatos/Marsh wouldn't be caught and took home their second bullet of the day.  The Terrys, Everett/Robinson and Marston/Brand would finish fairly close behind them.

Before Race 4 could begin, and as an absolute surprise to no one, the wind died again.  Patience was the name of the game on this day, and our patience was finally rewarded after another 10-minute postponement.  At the start of Race 4 O'Brien/Roth appeared to be entirely OCS but managed to clear themselves at just the last minute for a very well-timed start.  Constantineau/Lopez also had another good start.  They very quickly tacked off and headed towards the right side of the course.  This appeared to pay off greatly for them, as they were the first ones to round the leewards and would not be caught.  Marston/Brand rounded in 2nd behind them, and would finish the same way.  Kotsatos/Marsh rounded in fifth, but decided to go left.  They were able to jump up a few spots and finish 3rd.  Race 5 would be our last race of the day.  The wind was a little more left than it had been at the previous starts, and the line was mostly square, but a little pin favored.  Pratt/Coyle had another strong start, as did Everett/Robinson.  As the boats made their way up the course, the wind went way left.  Although Pratt/Coyle were still able to find some breeze on the right side.  But at the leewards it was Olsen/Hays who were 15 boat lengths ahead of the next boat.  They went left, as did the next few boats behind them.  This time it was Lee/Veenland-Lee and Marston/Brant who went right.  They were able to jump a few spots as well and finish 2nd and 3rd.

Despite the racing being challenging at times, I think everyone would agree that it was a great day on the water.  We had good weather, great competition and warm company all throughout the day.  Afterwards, we retired to Pier 6 for some very much-needed beverages.  Don't forget to join us there every week after racing.  It's a great way to unwind after the day, and there are always great discussions that often prove to be very enlightening, especially after days like this.

For those of you that weren't able to join us, I hope to see some of you next week.  You can check out the scores from the day right here.  We are finishing up the final version of our scoring system, which will be up and running for Week 2.  In the past it has sometimes been difficult to keep track of who is on what team, especially if people are sailing for multiple teams on different days.  Something that we think could help clear up the confusion would be Team Names.  If each specific team has a specific name associated with them, it could make things significantly easier from a scoring standpoint.  We encourage you to come up with a team name that suits you.  It could be as simple as your last names, or you could get creative.  It's up to you!  There will be a spot on next week's sign in sheet where you can put in your team name.

This week the weather looks a little dicey.  There is a gale warning in effect through Thursday, with the possibility of more gale force winds over the weekend.  Obviously we are still too far away to make any kind of actual weather assessment, but keep your eyes on the weather this week.  Remember that if the wind is consistently blowing above 30 kts, we cannot go sailing because things generally start to break at that point.  Fingers crossed this week....

As stated before, we couldn't have imagined a better kickoff to frostbiting.  Congrats to everyone who sailed that day for dealing with such challenging racing, and a big thank you to everyone on the Courageous team who helped get us ready for this week.  It's never easy, but they make it look like it is.

If you have any questions, or comments or concerns or anything at all, please don't hesitate to reach out to us.  Also if you know anyone who would be a good fit for this fleet, we still have boats available.  The more competition we have, the more exciting the sailing gets, so spread the word!

I'll be back on Friday with our Week 2 preview and hopefully some good news about the weather that weekend.  In the meantime, I hope you all have a great week!


Nate and the Courageous Frostbite Team.