Thursday, March 8, 2012

Eckard Intersectional

By: Tony Collins

Congratulations to the Coast Guard Academy for their 1st place finish at the Eckerd Intersectional, hosted by Eckerd College. Fifteen schools raced it out in sunny St. Petersburg, Fla. The venue's reputation was withheld, teams saw lots of breeze, lots of chop, and countless reasons to remember why they compete in the sport. Saturday morning, sailors arrived to a humid, 80-degree waterfront facility. Upon shuttling the competitors and coaches to Eckerd’s floating houseboat, competitors faced a growing southerly breeze direction and a tide motion which made the racecourse extremely choppy. Throughout the day, the wavelength of the chop grew wider and wider, making for some surfable swell. In addition to the 20 knot winds, this choppy water tested the sailors skill and ability to keep their boats moving fast upwind as well as downwind.

For the most part, everyone handled the conditions quite well. As can expected, the breeze was a bit too much for some; capsizes were plentiful. There were a few breakdowns, resulting in redress, but no major injuries or damage.

The first four races in each division were a regular two-lap windward-leeward course, with a gate at the bottom mark. The top of the fleet was as competitive as ever; each boat in the top 10 finished within 30 seconds, give or take, of each other. For the final set on Saturday, the course was changed to a Gold Cup, otherwise known as a triangle-windward-leeward. The reach legs on the Gold Cup course provided some nerve wracking downwinds and some hairy jibes. Many boats didn't have enough vang as they should have downwind, making for some spectator-friendly wipeouts at the reach marks.

Saturday night a cold front rolled through, making the air temperature much cooler for Sunday’s racing. The temperature was around 65 degrees, but with the wind chill it felt more like 55. The breeze was up from Saturday as well, all day it was a 25 knot northerly. The way the racecourse was situated, the windward mark was very close to a cluster of buildings, making races shifty and a challenge for teams to stay in phase. The top teams won by out-hiking their opponents and keeping a clear lane. The ability to tack at will won the race for many boats.
Winning team: Coast Guard Academy.

Sunday afternoon sailors arrived back at the dock salty, wet, and exhausted. It was apparent which teams had rigorous training regimens; two solid days of hiking separated those with the strength and endurance from the less athletic competitors.

Thank you to the Eckerd College Tritons for hosting and managing this event!

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