STORM's speed was fine upwind. Photo courtesy PhotoBoat
It's the perfect regatta anxiety dream: what if just before the last day of a major event, you realized that all week long you'd been carrying an extra 418 pounds of non-moveable ballast?
That's just what happened to Class President Rick Lyall at Block Island Race Week this year. And in spite of the bitter taste left over from it all, he agreed to tell us how it all happened.
"The week started out great," he explained on the phone recently. "We had a new set of Quantum sails and some fine speed on the practice day. And on the first race day, STORM was second to the weather mark, so we were happy with our upwind speed at that point."
But downwind, they lost three boats. Disappointed, the team chalked it up to tactical mistakes and figured that would be their drop race.
And then the next day, it happened again. They rounded the first mark in 2nd, and finished 5th.
"I had all sorts of things to blame," Rick explained. "Tactics, current, the wrong side of the shift. And we were using different sails, so maybe we weren't tuned right. It never occurred to me to blame the boat."
After no wind or racing on day three, Thursday was the Round the Island race. Team STORM was called over the line, went back, and then rounded the first mark in 5th. "We passed a boat and ended up fourth, so we figured we were back in the game."
It wasn't until they were back at the dock, enjoying a post-race libation or two, that the watery facts were established. Glancing below, Rick saw one of his team rinsing his sunglasses using the sink faucet.
"I looked and him and asked, 'Why is there water coming out of the faucet?' I'd thought the tanks were empty."
They turned on the tap and let it run. Then they turned on the head sink tap, and that ran too. Twenty minutes later, the first tank was empty. Then they looked under the port settee and found that water tank was also full.
"It took forty minutes to get all the water out of the tanks. I looked up the capacity, and it's 50 gallons. 418 pounds."
A few targeted questions and the mystery was solved: the boat yard had filled the tanks when the boat was commissioned. Rick wonders now how many previous seasons he's unknowingly raced with full tanks.
"Friday we went out and won the first race, wire to wire," he said. "We had a second in the last race, and moved up to third overall. The boat felt totally different. All I can say is that we will be lighter and faster in Annapolis for the J109 North Americans!"