On the July 10-11 NYC hosted Round Five of the SL-VT Qualifying series for the upcoming SL-VT grid-wide finals in August.
A fantastic fleet of racers converged in Blake Sea – Atlantic for two days of match competition, and the contest proved to be the most exciting display of ACA racing skill so far revealed in the qualifying series. The Round Five skippers truly set a new, high bar of racing finesse. In fact, the sailing was so much fun and so full of tight finishes and close Rules calls that I wasn’t able to fit it all in one article here; today I’ll just tell you just about the first two races!
Round 5 Match Finals:
NYC chose to hold elimination races in various timeslots on Saturday, and then advanced the top four sailors into a round-robin shoot-out on Sunday. Here’s how that six-race lineup looked as the haze cleared over the Atlantic race line Sunday morning:
1 Astro Marksman — Carmen Foden
2 Gemma Vuckovic — Glorfindel Arrow
3 Carmen Foden — Glorfindel Arrow
4 Gemma Vuckovic — Astro Marksman
5 Glorfindel Arrow — Astro Marksman
6 Carmen Foden — Gemma Vuckovic
The race course is shown above on the right. With a wind from due South, it favored a Starboard start from the West (Windward) side of the line. Under ideal conditions, a skipper could clear the startline and then choose a first-leg turn point that could get them all the way to the second mark in only two tacks. ( that sounds good, but when was the last time race conditions were ideal? 🙂 )
In any event, the course was short, simple, and undoubtedly familiar to most in the SL-VT competition fleet. On Sunday morning, the four qualifying finalists were Ready to Roar.
Race One: Astro Marksman — Carmen Foden
It’s hard to imagine two sailors who have more enthusiasm or raw “ACA racing street-credibility” than Carmen and Astro. Even though this was the first match of the day, it promised to be pretty exciting.
Wow, it was way more than that. The show Carmen and Astro put on strongly raised the standard of competition to a new level, and clearly demonstrated what it’s going to take to win this regatta in August.
Match racing is, of course, not about being the fastest boat. Sure, speed helps, but a match race is really a competition between two skippers, and the strategy they use at each step to gain advantage as they try to knock out their opponent. It’s a boxing match between friends wearing sailing gloves.
Winning the Start is a big deal in any race, and it’s particularly true sailing the ACA33. A good deal of match race skill therefore focuses on ‘prestart’ strategy and tactics. In the first race, Carmen and Astro gave a free demonstration of how that’s done. From the moment the clock began the three minute countdown, the two skippers went at each other in a fast-paced duel where they dodged and parried for position, each trying to block the other and gain a start advantage that would throw their opponent off balance.
There were woots, gasps and and loud cheers from the spectators watching these prestart pyrotechnics, and I admit this turned out to be one of the most exciting, and most realistic ACA match races I’ve seen in SL.
Most skippers will opt for a Starboard start in fleet races, but in a 2-boat match race there’s less of a starboard advantage. Carmen apparently decided on a ‘port strategy’ for the Round Five match series, and as the final clock seconds ticked away, she broke away from Astro. As shown above, Carmen flipped to a port tack and headed to the opposite end of the line.
That put Astro six seconds ahead, but Carmen clearly knew what she was doing.
After she crossed the far side of the line she quickly flipped back to a Starboard tack; the maneuver put her on a fast, windward beat with the first mark in her gunsites.
Astro of course had a similar plan, but he opted to cross the line on Staboard; when he turned to fetch the mark, that put him on Port tack.
You can see the result above; Carmen and Astro arrived together at the first mark, but Carmen had Starboard ROW.
She used it to full advantage, zipping inside past Astro and taking the lead as both boats circled Fastnet.
Although Astro stayed glued to Carmen’s stern during the long downwind run back to Atlantic, Carmen was able to successfully blocked each of his passing attempts. The image sequence below shows what then happened as the two boats rounded the Blue/White ‘bottom mark” at the end of the Run.
The first picture shows that Carmen was clearly in the lead going into the turn, and both boats were on Starboard tack. As shown in the middle image below, Carmen gybed immediately after passing the bouy; she presumably planned to cross the race line ‘gate’ using her Port tack strategy again. Astro was right on her heels however and took the turn a moment later, but he elected to remain on Starboard to cross the line. That meant Carmen effectively gybed right across Astro’s bow! The boats were so close that neither boat had any time to avoid a collision; as the crowd of watchful sailors gasped in unison, Astro tumbled highspeed and headlong into Carmen’s aft quarter!
Keeping her head, Carmen immediately gybed back to Starboard, disengaging the two boats. Both sailors then crossed the ‘Atlantic gate’ on close haul, as shown below.
Carmen accepted Astro’s protest over the above event, and did a 360° penalty turn as soon as she crossed the line and was in free water (Woots Carmen!! What a ‘pro’ you are). That of course gave Astro the opening he needed, and he was able to sprint ahead into clean air, unobstructed. Carmen remained game to the end and fought back hard, but Race One went to Astro; he deserved it.
In fact they both deserved a standing ovation. Race One was easily the most exciting, intelligent, and “technically proficient” ACA match race I’ve ever seen in SL. Judging from the comments of the spectators and Race Staff, I’m pretty sure everyone else agreed with that assessment. Nice job, Astro and Carmen!!
Astro Marksman — Start: 00:00:01 — Lap 1: 00:04:51 — Lap 2: 00:03:18
Carmen Foden — Start: 00:00:07 — Lap 1: 00:04:29 — Lap 2: 00:03:49
Race Two: Gemma Vuckovic — Glorfindel Arrow
The second race matched up Gemma Vuckovic and Glorfindel Arrow, two seasoned sailors with an impressive, storybook lineage of regatta victories in multiple boat classes. They avoided a pre-start duel for this match, both approaching the Windward end of the startine on starboard closehaul as the clock ticked down.
As shown below, Glorfindel was in the lead coming up to the line. He arrived a few seconds early however, and had to fall off to leeward and run the line, waiting for “00:00.”
When the gun went off Glorf crossed the Start first. Although Gemma was a heartbeat behind him, she actually owned the momentum and held the windward position as the two boats headed for the first mark.
As shown below, Gemma played those factors to advantage; she won the first mark and grabbed a slight lead as the two boats came around Fastnet Rock.
However, Glorf was actually in a good spot as the boats head into the next leg, the downwind run to the bottom mark.
Glorf was able to smother Gemma in his windshadow and repeatedly tried to pass her leeward to grab away the lead. Gemma never gave an inch however, and successfully fended off his attempts.
Frankly, as the two boats began the turn at the bottom mark, they were so close and so tightly overlapped in this squabble, it looked like Glorf and Gemma were exchanging genetic material. (Forget that image 🙂 ; let’s focus on racing!)
As you can see from the image above, as the two boats took the bottom turn, Glof was outside and leeward. both boats then fell on a Starboard close haul, aiming for the far, leeward corner of the Atlantic raceline ‘gate.’ The competition was dead-even at that point; both sailors had the skill and experience to win this race. But look what happened next!
Gemma and Glorfindel both aimed for the leeward edge of the raceline, planning to cross adjacent to the red buoy (please note: all my pictures were taken from high overhead in a different sim, and the green-red raceline buoys never rezzed; they are not shown in the pictures). The above image shows both race boats as they crossed the line at the extreme lee end; Gemma was in front, overlapped, and windward of Glorf. Gemma cut the buoy pretty close, leaving Glorf no room. To avoid a collision, Glorf slammed into the buoy and came to a near dead stop.
As shown above, this gave Gemma the clear opening she needed; She took off and was unstoppable, finishing the race far ahead of her opponent.
Gemma Vuckovic — Start: 00:00:03 — Lap 1: 00:04:18 — Lap 2: 00:03:18
Glorfindel Arrow — Start: 00:00:02 — Lap 1: 00:04:21 — Lap 2: 00:03:58
At the conclusion of the race, Glorfindel Arrow requested a Rules Clarification:
[2010/07/11 9:03] Quirky Torok: for those interested in such things….
[2010/07/11 8:58] ::: Glorfindel Arrow: ok, I have a question
[2010/07/11 8:59] ::: Glorfindel Arrow: what the rule about that line, is it a gate?
[8:59] Gemma Vuckovic: I think Glor is querying my closure at the line
[8:59] Soro Dagostino: Yes
[9:00] Glorfindel Arrow: yeah, dose she have to give lee row at the ‘gate’? I think there is some rule about it
[9:00] Glorfindel Arrow: just asking
[9:00] Soro Dagostino: If it is an obtsruction
[9:00] Soro Dagostino: Mark of the course.
[9:01] Glorfindel Arrow: well i sort of hit the mark if it is considered a mark
[9:01] Soro Dagostino: I saw that.
[9:01] Gemma Vuckovic: I was sailing proper course, my sails close to wind
[9:01] LDeWell Hawker: I don’t belive room…is required at a gate…
[9:01] LDeWell Hawker: and..
[9:02] Soro Dagostino: Agreed
Glorfindel actually never protested during the race and did not request “mark room,” so there was no official complaint for the protest committee to consider. In fact, Glorfindel took pains above to emphasize he was was not actually protesting, just asking for rules clarification. The judge’s public comments above left the answer ambiguous. Since it’s an important point that deserves more discussion, let me offer my RL/ SL understanding here.
A gate is defined by two race marks; a racing boat needs to travel between them and ‘go through the gate.’ Gates are often used at the top or bottom mark where racing boats are expected to gybe and reverse direction. Since the gate has two marks, race boats have the option to go around one or the other mark to make their turn. This configuration reduces traffic congestion and enhances strategy. Don Berithos’ GGYC Round 3 course was a good example of such a “Windward-Leeward Course with a Gate.”
In Round Two and Five, the Start lines were used as gates, although the racing boats passed though them without gybing. Nonetheless, the buoys on either side that define the gates are considered ‘Race Marks’ and fall under Rule 18 (Room at a Mark).
Glorfindel was the leeward boat overlapped with Gemma. He was on a fixed course that would cross the line exactly where Gemma was headed. Glorf had ROW.
As I understand it, he never protested, so there was no judging issue. From his leeward advantage, however, he could have shouted “Up, Up!!”, luffed Gemma windward, and most likely grabbed a controlling lead position as they passed the gate. Anyone disagree?
Woots; thats enough for today; tomorrow I’ll post the other four races!