The wind shifted all over the compass rose and adaptability was the watchword of the day.
While the shore crews and race officials set up camp at the Blockade Runner Resort in Wrightsville Beach the wind went from West to Northwest to North and eventually to Northeast.
Race Director Mike Worrell modified his ETA for the fleet from 3:30 to 5:30 to 4:30. His last guess was pretty good. Team Tybee hit the beach at 4:42 PM to earn their first leg victory in 3 years of trying. Steve Lohmayer and Kenny Pierce were ecstatic as they surfed gently onto the steep beach. Alexander's on the Bay Finished 2nd for the leg, extending their overall lead over today's 4th place finisher, Team Guidant, by 2 minutes. Californians Brendan Busch and Jim Korkosz of Lexis Nexis rallied for a solid 3rd today while Team Castrol sailors Jay Sonnenklar and John Casey continued their resurgence with a 5th place finish. Rounding out the top ten were Key Sailing in 6th, Sail for Sight in 7th, Earn your potential.com in 8th, Tommy Bahama in 9th and PI Sailing in 10th.
Early in the leg the top 10 boats split into two groups. Alexander's on the Bay was determined to shadow Guidant to protect their lead, so when Guidant sailed away from the beach, Alexander's and several other's were close behind. The group stayed on or near the rhumb line to Cape Fear, while Tybee, Lexis Nexis, Sail for Sight and Castrol all sailed along the crescent shaped beach towards the cape, doing a little more distance.
About half way between the start and the cape the wind shifted abruptly from West to Southwest and filled in at close to 12 knots. The fleet was able to hoist their spinnakers and run towards Cape Fear. Guidant and Alexanders were off shore when the wind filled, so they gybed in closer to reconnect with the fleet and found that the group along the shore had gained in the windshift.
The fleet sailed along the half-moon shaped beach until the crucial decision moment. Tybee called it best. Allowing the rest of the fleet to gybe back in towards shore one more time, Team Tybee kept sailing on Starboard gybe towards Cape Fear. They nailed the layline perfectly on a double trapeze run. The remainder of the leader pack had to douse the chutes and jib reach up to the Cape, losing valuable time. Just 5 miles after Cape Fear the wind had another change of heart and swung to the Northwest, turning the leg into a beat to the finish. Tybee handled the switch gracefully and held their lead. Some places changed, but mostly as a result of boat-speed differences.
Todd Hart and Randy Williamson had an adventure as they ran up onto a sand shoal just off Cape Fear. Remarkably, Hart was able to keep his footing on the trapeze as the boat stopped. "We saw it coming, we had about 10 inches of board down and we should have had none," relayed Hart, "we pulled the boards up and skated right off with no damage." The wind was fairly light at 7 knots when the incident occurred, and Hart is hoping he was able to capture the action on his on-board video camera.
This section of the Atlantic coast has some interesting characteristics. For several of the legs of the race we've described the beach as crescent shaped. That's because the long barrier beach that makes up the coastline is subtly scalloped in many places. Capes jut out into the ocean and the beach recedes around them on both sides. Many of the legs of this race run from a point in the middle of one of the scallops, around a cape, and then on to another point in the middle of a scallop. The result is a race in which rhumb line takes the boats away from the curved beach, causing difficult decisions. In sea-breezes coming from the East quadrant it seems to be a safer bet to stay as close to the beach as possible. The last several legs have featured unusual wind directions, but we may get back into a sea-breeze pattern before the finish.