“We’re fighting for inches.”
Going into Race 12, the last race of the season, Unwind was tied for first place with Idefix. Although the Mumm/Farr 30 is faster than the Pacer27 in Abu Dhabi conditions and the courses we sail, which favor upwind beats and downwind runs in light to moderate air, we had managed to hold our own thanks to a couple of heavy air races and a few lucky breaks. We had also spent a considerable amount of time and effort tuning and re-tuning the rig.
We had won Race 11, thanks to the right combination of breeze and waves to push us along – and a mistake or two on Idefix’s part. It go a little dicey at the end, though, when the dhow fleet suddenly appeared on the horizon, as they sometimes do. You see one huge white sail appear, and you know that there will be more.
As the dhows approach, their race committee sets the finish line – which they did, right between our next mark and our finish line! Obviously, there is absolutely ZERO communication or coordination.
The dhows don’t have motors, and they are not very maneuverable. After they finish, they have to take down their sails and their masts, and they are towed into port. We just needed to avoid them.
The last race, Saturday June 1st, was breezier than expected, and we were hopeful but not overly optimistic. Our dolphin friends weren’t there to cheer us on, probably having escaped to cooler waters. The course was simple – sail upwind, round a channel buoy to port, and finish downwind at the entrance to the Emirates Palace Marina. There were six boats racing that day.
We were able to stay reasonably close to Idefix all the way upwind, and after they rounded the mark it took a while for them to set the spinnaker. They were still within striking distance. Meanwhile, on our approach to the mark, we had a bad tack when Mark’s foot somehow got caught in the mainsheet as he crossed over, causing him to drop the helm. It happens.
The previous day had seen breezes in the high teens, and there was still a rideable swell, if there had been enough breeze to take off. But alas, we had just … NOT enough wind. We scooted along, almost but not quite keeping pace with Idefix.
They finished, and we finished 9 minutes and 3 seconds later. With no race committee, everyone reports their own finish time. Correcting out, Idefix beat us not just in this race, but for the overall season championship, by 48 seconds!
I have to admit that Mark and I were a little disappointed, but hey, we had our dignity. I saw it as a victory that we were even that close. But, we lost by inches … what if? … Ah, never mind.
The next weekend was the annual ADCA Prize Giving cruise out and barbecue on Lulu Island, and just like last year, it was a great party. We piled a record-breaking 10 people onto Unwind for the sail over to the island. Mark and I had invited Pete and Terry Mercer, and Terry and I brought our stand-up paddle boards, which we tied up and dragged off the stern. The wind was great – if only we’d had that wind the week before! My board kept submerging under the stern waves as they overtook us. Fortunately, we made Lulu Island without having to tack!
The Abu Dhabi Cruiser Association is a keelboat club with a racing season that runs from September to June, with racing every three weeks, plus the occasional special event or regatta. It’s a great bunch of people, and you can learn a lot from them, not the least of which is the difference between the English, the Irish, the Scots, the Aussies, and the Kiwis. Oh, and why the French prefer to sail alone.
Mark and I have had a great season sailing with Emiliano and his crew, Paolo, Marco, and Mateo although, come to think of it, Emiliano was hardly ever on the boat – he was always on travel! Nevertheless, he is devoted to ADCA, and this year he is performing the duties of Commodore. The following prizes were awarded at the Lulu Island party.
1st Place – Idefix, Farr 30
2nd Place – Unwind, Pacer 27
3rd Place – Saeeda, 1720 Sportboat
There were two other prizes
Malcolm of Idefix was awarded the "Biggest Balls Up" prize (official name) for miscalculating a flex buoy rounding
Karen of the Lugger received first prize in the "Boats Below 900" (0.009 IRC TCC) class
Emiliano said it best: “No matter how it came out, this was the best season of ADCA racing.”
If you are interested in learning more about ADCA, we are on Facebook, or you can access the web page at this link. If you would like to receive emails about ADCA races and events, email Liz at firstname.lastname@example.org
Update: When I originally posted this story, I forgot to mention our sail from Lulu Island back to Emirates Palace Marina. It was dark when we boarded Unwind for the trip home, ferrying people and gear on the two paddle boards. We were the only boat to sail over -- the others had motored -- and we just needed to hoist the sails and go. The wind had held, and we had an absolutely glorious night sail, reaching along the shore in a lively sea with the lights of Abu Dhabi illuminating our way. It was a big thrill for Pete and Terry, but the truth is that not matter how much sailing you've done, a perfect night sail like that is a treat. As I said to Terry, it's something that most other people never get a chance to do, being out there in the dark with the rushing wind and sea, scooting along toward your destination. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.