I had a chance to watch a number of the Third Round World Fizz Cup 2009 Qualifying Races at Starboards Yacht Club this weekend. Since the official numbers are not quite up yet, I decided to tell you about just one of the races I saw; I’ll put it in context later. There were so many great matches though it was really hard picking one to talk about, so I pretty much pulled one out of the hat.
What that really means is: If you haven’t been following Fizz3 races… let me tell you, you’re missing something pretty spectacular.
OKOK, I’m psyched after watching the third race from the Sunday Morning time set. Four sailors competed: Momomos Netizen, Kei Cioc, Macro Nacht, and Shinobi Woodget. They raced the SYC-L2 course, shown here on the right. In my opinion, L2 is sort of a non-standard “technical” course, that tests a skipper’s boat handling skills on a sequence of four hairpin, 150°-160° turns. If you try this at home, take Dramamine first. The only tactical issue issue that might arise associated with the L2 design is the chance that a lead boat going from #3 to #4 could interact with a slower boat still enroute from #1 to #2. That’s unlikely with such a small fleet, and how to handle it will depend highly on the situation. So the real competition tests Fizz3 handling skills.
Here’s the Weather Forecast for Round 3:
race wind dir 225
race wind speed 15
race wind gusts 15
race wind shifts 11
race wind rate 1.0
race wave height 0.7
race wave length 60
race wave speed 8
race wave height variance 15
race wave length variance 10
race current dir 045
race current speed 0.1
The first leg of the L2 course is the longest, and consists of an otherwise standard, direct-shot beat to windward.
For every Round 3 race I watched, all the skippers opted for a “conservative” starboard-tack start, and the third race was no different. All four boats approached the line under a head of steam in fairly close formation, but at least three boats balked and wisely luffed sails at the last moment to avoid an ‘over-early’ call.
As far as startline strategy goes, I think many sailors would agree that with a Starboard Start and a straight upwind first leg, the best starting position is at the Port side of the line near the red buoy. That position usually gives you the longest leg before the first tack, and places you upwind of the fleet in clean air. However, the red buoy is also frequently the first tactical fight in a race. Since the lee boat has ROW, if two boats are overlapped approaching that end of the line, the lee boat can call “UP” and force the windward boat off the course or into the buoy.
In the above picture, Momomos Netizen maneuvers to gain exactly that overlapped, leeward advantage over Macro Nacht, who loses momentum and is forced to fall astern. Momomos then crosses the line ahead of the rest of the fleet at +00:00:01, a full five seconds ahead of Macro. Audacious move, Momomos!
Kei Cioc and shinobi Woodget chose to stay out of that ‘red buoy fight;’ they cut the line in the middle, with start times of +00:00:03 and +00:00:08, respectively.
This proved to be a wise decision. Both KC and SW maintained momentum and pulled out front in the 1-2 positions on the first leg.
The above picture shows Kei expanding his lead, but remember he started from a less advantageous leeward position on the line, and he’ll have to make up that distance when he tacks.
You can see what I’m talking about above; Kei was the first to come about and head for the green top mark, but his position cost him much of the lead; the other three boats were right on Kei’s tail as they progressed on the second tack.
This time however, Kei had the upwind height and he took advantage of it. He accelerated as he fell off the wind to reach the green buoy, relentlessly widening his lead in the process. The lower picture above gives the false impression that after taking the turn Kei actually became airbourne and took off… Grin; he might just as well have. With “good air” and no other boats in the way, there was nothing on earth to stop Kei, and he showed it.
Lying in his wake, Shinobi, Momomos, and Macro were still sailing closely together as they took the Green Mark and then raised gennikers for the broad reach to the #2 pink mark.
Kei’s widening lead and his flawless technical proficiency were undeniable, however. He adroitly spun around the pink buoy, changed sail, and fell into a close haul as he headed to the third, orange mark a short distance further windward.
Well, as any Fizz3 sailor will tell you, mastering this boat is far from easy; it’s quite a bit like mastering a fast racing dinghy in RL. You tend to spend a lot of time swimming.
Kei is outstanding sailor in second life, and his technical prowess is amplified by his considerable experience. He’s been here before… and he came within a heartbeat of winning the cup last year. Today however, Kei had a bit of extra help. Once he passed the first mark he was blessed with wide open water and clean air.
The trio of boats behind him were unfortunately saddled with a much more difficult task. They not only had to somehow catch up with Kei… they had to fend off each other in the process. That simple, obvious fact left them with few good options and added a bonus sequence of headaches that still ahead in this race. Take a look at what happens next!
Rounding the pink marker, Macro Nacht appropriately swerved to allow Shinobi adequate inside room to take the turn first. In the process however, Macro pitch-poled and was thrown headlong over the bow of his boat. Always the skilled sailor and unfailingly polite, however, he avoided splattering any of his personal, random body parts against shinobi’s hull.
Shinobi and Momomoso decided to let the race committee clean up what was left of Macro; they forged ahead in overlapped formation, moving resolutely windward toward the Orange marker a short distance away.
The picture below shows Kei still way out front, rounding that aforementioned Orange marker. Shinobi and Momomoso are half a sim astern, and you can also see Macro, getting back in the saddle again and doing his best to stay in the race.
Well, as I mentioned previously, the L2 racecourse seem to be designed as a test of technical boat handling. That view seemed proven once again at the Orange mark. In the image below, Momomoso is still overlapped with Shinobi as they reached the 2 boat-length zone; Momomoso had the inside right-of-way as they both set up for an acute turn around the buoy to reverse direction and head to the bottom mark.
Momomoso cuts the turn wrong, unfortunately, and gets thrown over the handlebars into the murky brine. Shenobi maintains her respectful distance throughout, in accordance with Rule 18. She then proceeded to slide past Momomoso’s soggy self as she charged ahead into open water once more.
I have to admit, however, when I quickly looked back, I found it hard not to laugh out loud! There was Macro again! He not only recovered from his dunking, he had made up the distance and was pushing forward with a rather incredible, damn-the-torpedoes momentum. He barely had a moment to spare, waving to Momomoso as he passed, pirouetting around that orange mark and setting his sights on Shinobi; she was still far ahead.
I’m guessing that Shinobi must have looked over her shoulder and been as surprised as I was when she caught a glimpse of Macro under full sail and bearing down on her, because in the middle of open water Shinobi suddenly then tripped and turtled, dunking her Fizz a few scant meters west of the Committee Boat parked against the raceline.
As you can see above, there was no stopping Macro now. He steamed past Shinobi, flying to the last mark. Monomos was still game and back in the race, too, but he had no chance to get near Macro ever again in this race.
The final image above shows Kei Cioc shortly after he crossed the finish line with a time of +00:11:09; it was truly a blistering performance, considering Macro’s second-place finish time was +00:12:43, well over a minute and a half later! As you can see in the above picture, Momomos was still in the race and shortly behind Macro, with Shinobi bringing up the rear. What a great showing!
This was, however, only one of 24 qualifying races held this weekend, and the qualifying sequence covers several weeks. The race I described above showcased a great performance by an outstanding sailor, Kei Cioc. He has the skill and ability to win this entire competition. It would be foolish to make any predictions at this point, however. The field is full of outstanding competitors. In the group of four I discussed above, Macro Nacht showed incredible tenacity and strength today; a few weeks ago I described a race where he also seemed totally unstoppable, and finished several sims ahea of Kei. In today’s race Shinobi also shined and would have come in on Kei’s heels except for her accidental capsize close to the finish.
And you might be wondering what I think of Momomoso. This is the first time I’ve seen Momomoso race and, compared to the others, he is fairly new to the race circuit; he only has a few official Fizz races under his belt. Maybe I should say something encouraging about his performance…?
Grin; I don’t have to. In the race that immediately preceded the one I described in detail above, Momomoso knocked Kiel, Macro, and Shinobi all flat on the mat, pulling off an impressive first-place showing in Heat #2 of the series. Pretty impressive stuff.
Hey, Momomoso? Welcome to the Varsity squad. Now all it takes is: “heart…”