2021 Albacore North Americans took place at PRSA on Potomac River with a view of Washington D.C. landmarks and next to an airport. Contrary to legends, planes at the airport did not appear to affect wind pattern. Still, sailing on Potomac measured up to its reputation of shifty, gusty, and unpredictable winds with uneven current added to the mix. Even local sailors said that “it never blows like this here.” As a result, sailing strategy proved to be more than an adequate challenge for a championship regatta.
On the first two days of the regatta, North easterly winds prevailed with some significant shifts which caused the race committee to unsuccessfully attempt to change the location of the windward mark, just to see the wind return to its original direction after a few minutes.
The course was set between the airport and the mouth of Anacostia River. The starts tended to be pin favoured and very competitive as the fleet was good and quite evenly matched. Still, because of shifty, difficult to predict winds, starts themselves counted much less than finding good shifts and not ending
up in significant wind holes. The winds ranged between four and fifteen knots (mostly above ten knots), with an occasional drop to a dead calm.
On the last day of the regatta, the wind shifted to a more northerly direction, but became lighter, with few gusts over ten knots and long periods of no more than five knot wind speed. The course was set along the western, airport shore with the windward mark up the Potomac. That day was particularly challenging for me, as I could not devise a successful upwind strategy. Wherever I went, boats on the other side of the course got to the windward mark before me.
In three days we had thirteen races with most boats having mixed results, a sign of an evenly matched fleet. The race committee did a very good job with little delay between races despite challenging conditions. Despite these challenging conditions, the fleet often converged on the marks and a small mistake could cost several boat, as I found out the hard way. Altogether it was a very well organized, challenging event with a good wind range to test a variety of sailing skills. Heavier conditions which are apparently unusual on Potomac, were particularly welcome.