Crunch!

I was in Guelph last weekend. There was a memorial celebration for Molly Saturday night at the sailing club, and excellent Snipe racing Saturday and Sunday. About 15 boats racing.

I like the Snipe a lot. Very tunable, not too athletic. I’ve always liked short course lake racing. And there are some very good sailors racing there. My friend Harri in particular is a great sailor, and has spent a lot of time building the fleet there. I think everyone was happy to see him out again, and he won the regatta sailing with Inessa.

Saturday was a bit of a write off for us as we hit some snags getting the boat ready after a winter in the shop. But Sarah and I were ready Sunday, and had several pretty good races, with 7-5-4 finishes. We’ve only sailed the boat a few times, and each time we’re getting a bit faster and smoother and learning how to set up the boat. The breeze was gradually building from a patchy 5-10 knots at the start.

A few minutes before the 4th race Sarah lost her hat and prescription sports glasses overboard after tangling with the vang during a gybe.

We’d had three good starts. The fourth didn’t work out. I was being indecisive, and decided at the last minute to abandon my pin end strategy and get closer to the committee boat in order to be able to get right after the start. So we reached across the line on port tack against the wall of starboard tackers. We ducked the first clump of 3-4 boats. And there was a nice hole above and behind them with about ten seconds left.

We were probably two boat lengths behind the line, and I hardened up on port to try to get closer to the line.

That was a mistake, as it was Harri’s hole. He responded immediately by heading up sharply to block me. Smart move, and one I should have predicted, but anybody else would have let me in and I wasn’t identifying the boats.

Probably in hindsight I should have crash tacked and taken my lumps. But I bore off instead to take Harri’s stern. We were almost on opposite courses, with him sailing close hauled to the line and us reaching away.

Just as we were passing Harri’s transom another boat on starboard tack was bearing off to avoid his stern, and probably didn’t see us coming. I didn’t see them until just before the collision. They hit us about as squarely as possible just behind our port chainplate. Sarah had no warning.

The bow of their boat stuck about 3″ into out boat. After pulling the boats apart and having a quick look at their boat – it was fine – I waved them off to go racing, and we sailed in to assess the damage.

After the other boat came in we confirmed that they hadn’t suffered any material damage. I assured the other crew that I felt that it was my fault – I was on port and they were on starboard.

The boat is repairable, and we’ll leave it in Harri’s capable hands. But it smarts. I’ve been thinking about my accident history, and that’s actually the first time ever I’ve damaged a sailboat in a collision. I’ve broken a few spars, and have crunched Mazurka twice. But my record sailing is no longer unblemished

What went wrong? Coming across on port is pretty aggressive and potentially dangerous, but I’ve done it lots on big lines in the Laser fleet.

I’m not sure why the boat that hit us was bearing off to duck Harri rather than heading up inside him. Maybe they didn’t respond quickly enough to his sudden course change and were more concerned with keeping clear than anything else, or maybe the committee boat was blocking them. Doesn’t matter. I was taking a risk and got nailed when I didn’t properly assess the situation.

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