Last night Skipper Dave pulled alongside the harbour pier city-side and trolled slow enough for Jonathan and I (his crew for last-night's race) to toss over our gear and then jump onto the boat. The wind was steady at around 12 knots and we knew we were in for a good race. We changed into our racing clothes and rigged the boat. I took the fore deck as usual while Jon worked the winches mid-ship. With about five minutes before our start (there are three start times to the races, our class starts second), we Jibed onto a starboard beam reach toward the start line. The key to "winning the start" is to be the first boat in your start to cross the line between the committee boat and the marker (i.e. "the line") after the horn blows to signal the start. If you cross early, the horn will blow and second time and the committee will announce over the radio who was over early. Violators must do a penalty turn.
So we were charging on a beam reach toward the line, and we reached the line with about 45 seconds to start. At this point we turned and started running down the line, parallel and about a boat length away. We dodged one boat by "dumping" wind from our Jib (letting it loose to flap around on purpose to slow down), but were windward of another boat. Now, in this situation the boat to leeward (away from the wind) has right of way over a boat to windward, so the guy could have turned up into into the wind (toward the start line) and forced us over early. But instead he started dumping wind from his Jib as well. In retrospect, we think he was afraid of going over the line early, too.
As it was, when the final 5 second countdown commenced Dave steered us into the wind so that we were close-hauled (i.e., wind coming at an angle of about 45 degrees to the front of the boat) and charging aggressively toward the start line. We were heeling heavily to port-side so that the rail of the deck was just inches above the water. I was on the bow trying to judge where the imaginary line was, and as the horn blew I was almost certain it would blow again to say we were over early, but it didn't. That means we were first over the start line. Pretty soon we were in the middle of the back, ducking and tacking the boats around us. As the race progressed we began to lag behind a bit. The fact is that the Peregrine was designed to be more of a cruiser than a racer, but there was still a lot of sailing to be done as we went around the triangle-shaped course four times.
Shortly after we rounded one of the marks we witnessed one of the larger boats (maybe 32 feet) collide with a smaller Star boat (about 20 feet) as they went around the mark behind us. No one was injured, but the skipper of the Star was rightfully furious. She had the right of way, and we suspect the larger boat simply didn't see her as we was dealing with two other boats in close proximity. After the collision he also hit the mark (an inflatable buoy in the water) which requires a penalty turn. He didn't do the turn, but perhaps he realized that he would be disqualified from the race for hitting another vessel, anyway.
The wind had been gradually tapering off as the race went on, so that by the time we rounded the last mark and headed to the finish line we were concerned that the race might end before we were able to cross the line. These races end at sunset, which was just minutes away. But when the time of official sunset came, there were no signals from the race committee boat. Indeed, as we crossed the line I could hear the committee call our time and saw one of the members write it down on a clipboard. Only after we had crossed did they blow the horn to indicate the end of the race, make an announcement over the radio, and hoist the end-of-race flag on the committee boat.
Yet when we arrived at the clubhouse were told that we had been given a "Did Not Finish" for the race! Naturally, we are protesting this as the race was not declared over until after we had finished. We'll see what happens. There was a another boat about five minutes after us and we would like to be scored ahead of them.
Still, because we were first over the start line we won the coveted "jug" of beer. We went for Wellington's Ale and drank it with glee!
There are two more races left in the season. I'll be out of town for one them, but am very much looking forward to the other.