Nala joined a formidable, seven-strong offshore multihull class in the Vineyard Race over the weekend. The remnants of Hurricane Harvey provided near perfect conditions for the fleet, who set out midday Friday prepared for a wild and (hopefully) record breaking ride.
HH commissing skipper Chris Bailet joined the Nala crew for the event - his full race report follows:
Winds in the mid-teens out of the N/NW. In the pre-start everyone was on port tack, jockeying for position under main and solent, ready to deploy their largest reaching sail. On Nala we had the R1 up and deployed before the gun, trying to hit the line with speed. Our timing was a bit off and we crossed a few seconds late, to windward of Tribe, and Arethusa above us. There wasn't much separation between the three boats for the first 10 miles, with the larger multis all playing the Connecticut shoreline. Fujin took a quick lead out front, but wasn't quite able to pull away. At one point we were able to roll over Tribe, but then they came up and were nearly able to run back over us. The wind was not as consistent on the high side of the course, but there was a bit more pressure.
Tribe had an issue with their reacher and had to bear away to the center of the course while Nala and Arethusa tried to stay up near Connecticut finding the bigger gusts but also the light spots. Our forecast showed the wind going left; we didn't want to be stuck high and have to try to soak down towards the Buzzard Bay buoy. The plan was to run high with the R1 and peel to the A4 to run down to The Gut, where there would be less current than going through The Race, then round Plum island which would give us a closer angle to the mark. It was a bit more distance, but we wanted boat speed if conditions got lighter and went further left than forecasted.
We had an incredible run down with the A4, ripping at 20+ knots. Coming through The Gut between Long Island and Plum Island, the call was to peel to the A5 and get a tighter angle to the mark. An issue with the bucket meant we needed to drop on the deck. It didn't quite go as planned and we put a hole in the A4 on the drop, leaving us without a running sail.
A5 run to the mark with the wind going slightly left but dwindling, gave us a hot angle as all the other boats went rhum line through the with running sails. Fujin had found another gear and had a 20 mile lead on us, Tribe was 8 miles back and Arethusa was another 4 behind them. We rounded and got the R1 back up with the wind staying left for a tight reach back to Block. The wave state was challenging and we were a bit skeptical about the R1 strop and the shock load while launching off the waves with boat speed still in the med/high teens. We went to get the J1 up rounding Block and settle in for the upwind, but the shiv box fasteners mysteriously sheered when someone (yours truly) went on the wrong tack line (you try sorting a peel in that snake pit at night with a red head lamp!). We quickly deployed the solent and endured a slower upwind leg than we would have liked got us back through The Gut. Tribe started steadily closing the gap until we were back in the LIS and we were able to bear away, get the R1 out and starting pressing to the finish. Conditions were looking good for a strong finish, the wind was holding steady out of the North and we'd just made the flood.
Maybe I spoke to soon... at this point the wind was starting to get lighter and going right. We could hardly soak with the R1 and Tribe was 12 miles back and gaining steadily. We were looking at 4 gybes to the finish while they had a VMG kite up. It was a painful morning, watching Tribe close the gap to just 3 miles as we tried to soak in a dying breeze. I think Fujin made it in before first light, just narrowly missing last call at the Yacht Club but absolutely crushing the course record by over 5 hours. In the end we finished the 238 mile course in 19 hours 28 minutes, beating the previous multihull course record, securing 2nd place in the Offshore Multihull class and finishing 4th overall out of 100+ boats. A fantastic regatta and a great result.