Amazing sailing with the team on the Rambler 90 in the Annapolis to Newport Race

Amazing sailing with the team on the Rambler 90 in the Annapolis to Newport Race

Monday June 10 2013 Author: wouterverbraak Location: United States

Rambler 90 - Annapolis Newport Race



In the hotel lobby, the Weather Channel is pumping out epic headlines, stormy interviews and radar images of the first named tropical storm of the year. Andrea is making her way North from the Gulf of Mexico across Florida and up the North American East Coast. The track of the low is predicted to go right across us on the Annapolis to Newport Race, so the information is quite relevant. 


The race committee shares this view and decides to postpone the start by four hours to make sure we miss the worst of it. In the end the big storm looses it’s punch and we are mostly dealing with the buckets and buckets of rain that it drops on us. The wind is rather weak as we are now in and then behind the centre of the low...


It is great to be back sailing with the Rambler crew. Some of the core team has been doing battle together for six years, so we quickly find our positions and are a well oiled machine. Without a yelling leader at the back of the boat, to the new comer the team might seem a bit loose, but it all runs well, as is quickly proven in the sprint down the wriggly Chesapeake Bay. 


Whilst the start is quite light downwind and quite easy, the exit of the bay is a reach in stronger winds. Reefing and a couple of windy sail changes has the full crew grind their hearts out in the pitch black early hours of the night. The old girl and her crew of 22 are in her element.


What makes these maxi boats so great to race is that unlike the new generation boats with push button electric winches, this boat still has a conventional winch system, which makes any sail change a big team effort. Good communication clearly is key.


Once out of the Chesapeake Bay winds are settling down and we are vmg downwind sailing North. The Rambler is a dream to drive in these conditions, and I thoroughly enjoy an hour on the helm with the Rambler sitting steadily on 13kn-15kn. Quite a difference from sailing a 24 foot IOR boat in the Round the Island Race at 7 knots boatspeed last weekend!


This fantastic sailing continues well into the next afternoon, and all is going according to plan with just a “one-and-in” for strategy left. Unfortunately a cloud line catches up with us, completely disturbs the pattern and leaves us with barely any wind for the next four hours as it slowly moves over us. Winds are doing a full lap of the compass, and with the leftover swell from Andrea, we are being bounced around like being in a big washing machine. Even a 90 feet yacht can feel like a little rubber duck at these moments.


The tropical storm is clearly leaving a vacuum behind in it’s wake, and it takes a long time for the breeze to build back. These 90ft maxi’s are very good at generating their apparent wind, and so under our the Code Zero light wind reacher we are still making progress at eight to nine knots towards the mark. 


Such light winds always make me feel nervous, as your competitors only need a little puff to get the better of you. We are monitoring the race tracker intensely to see how the competition is doing. The race tracker really has transformed our sport, as now we have regular updates on how the others are doing. At first the other boats are catching up with us, but soon they run out of steam as well.


The next afternoon we finish in perfect conditions; blasting into the Newport bay in sunshine, and 18 knots of wind. Amazing sailing! Two more gibes and we pass the finish line at Castle Hill. Another great race with the Rambler team. Line honours, class win, overall win, very nice indeed.

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