The Sunset Series got underway on a beautiful Wednesday evening, with a small group of enthusiastic sailors who had been anxiously awaiting the end of the winter. Blackstrap dished out a classic night of ever shifting breeze that kept the fleet scratching their heads and had RC Ben Pickford moving the windward mark all over the lake in a valiant attempt to offer fair racing to all. With the breeze clearly on the decline, Ben wisely chose a simple windward leeward course to get in as many races as possible.
Race 1 started in 10 knots of warm south west breeze with LP, Randy and Steve all fighting hard to win the favored pin end. LP snuck in below the fleet as the whistle sounded and sped off to the left side of the course with great speed and his classic good form. Randy tacked early to clear his air and benefited from more pressure and a persistent shift to the right, rounding the windward mark a few lengths ahead of LP. LP challenged hard, sailing fast by the lee on the downwind leg to the finish, but Randy was able hold him off and stay between him and the line to take the win. Steve finished third right behind LP showing great form.
Ben wisely chose to move the windward mark some 30 degrees to the right for the second race. Elia joined the fleet , along with John Berry in his Coronado 15 with full crew. Everyone could see the breeze was shutting down quickly, and the key to success was to stay in as much pressure as possible. With all the cobwebs cleared after the first race, the fleet again converged aggressively at the favored pin end of line. Randy and Steve arrived early and hovered, but could not hold position and both had bail out with 10 seconds to go, leaving Ilia and LP to start well on the line with good speed. All tacked and headed hard right, except Randy who was well behind after his disastrous start and took off on a flyer to the left side of the course. The Blackstrap wind Gods decided to reward Randy with a private band of pressure and he was able to climb back into the race, rounding the windward mark in second behind Ilyia, who was, as normal, sailing a flawless race. LP, John and Steve rounded in a tight bunch shortly thereafter. Ilia cruised to an easy win, however the wind clocked and filled 40 degrees further to the right to allow LP and Steve to climb over Randy within a few lengths of the finish. Second to fifth in the blink of an eye – sorry Randy, the wind Gods giveth, and the wind Gods taketh away!
Once again, Ben found himself hauling anchor to move the windward mark for the third race, this time to the north west side of the lake. However, soon after the start, the wind shifted almost 180 degrees,, turning the windward leg into a reach, and a beat to the finish. Randy, furthest to the left side of the course after the start , benefited the most from the large shift and was first to the windward mark. On the beat to the finish he was somehow able to able to hold off Ilia, who was sailing higher and faster, to take the win. LP finished third followed by Steve and John, now single handing the Coronado.
Ben again retrieved the windward mark, and tried to decide where to place it in the fickle breeze, which had all but shut down. Lewis showed up to join the fleet for the fourth race, but sailors were soon able to see their reflections in the water as they drifted with limp sails. Ben wisely called it a night and fleet slowly made their way back to the club.
All in all, a great start to the 2012 sailing season. Thanks again to Ben for getting three races off in clearly challenging conditions. The Sunset series runs through to the end of June, with 5 races planned every Wednesday. All sailors are welcome and encouraged to join the fun.

Randy McMeekin