Here is a submission by one of our Astus 20.2 owners.
The Mug race is a very popular sailboat race in North East Florida. It has been organized for well over a half decade by the Rudder Club. It is a distance race on the St Johns river going from Palatka to Jacksonville. This is a perfect fit for the Astus 20.2 and this year myself and a friend of mine Steven decided to give it a go.
After preparing the boat for a few days, ensuring things like having fresh layers of Hullkote and that the centerboard gasket was flat and flush, I trailered the boat to Palatka the night before. There is a hotel with a dock just by the start line. Steven and I had set out tone for the race: “Go as hard as we can, as long as it stays fun”. We had a pre-race strategy meeting at breakfast reviewing forecast, current and start. This was going to be a sunny day, with upwind legs 90% of the way and 2 current shifts.
We got the boat out well ahead of time and enjoyed navigating with the 80 or so other boats crowding the start box. We had a number of spectators on the bridge looking at the fleet in the rising sun from the bridge behind the start line. We got in a good starting position, had to duck a slower boat at the last minute but still got to a running start with good air. We watched the 30 feet race cats pull away quickly. At the first bend in the river we got our only reaching leg of the day, 20 minutes under Gennaker, peaking at 13 knots and making tons of ground on everyone. But that was just a teaser because soon we turned back north for 30 more miles of upwind leg in light air. But the wind was there, and the temperature was just right. We spent the day choosing the most favored side of the river, which changed at times. We had the boat dialed-in and the weight well forward. One of us would be lounging in the foredeck while checking gusts, current and depth charts – As we were skirting all the time with the edge of the river to stay out of the current. The second would be driving and trimming either in the cockpit or lying down on the trampoline. We commented that there were really worse ways to make your boat go fast….
We passed right by Scratch Ankle (yes that is actually a name), then the sandbar South of Green Cove which is a popular swimming and partying destination, then the Shands bridge. A couple of hours upwind of the Shands the tide reversed again and so we shifted to the middle of the river to get flushed toward the finish line. That paid-off and we made tons of ground. The wind was getting shiftier and edging the angle at which we could wear the gennaker upwind. We alternated the front sails with most of the gusts.
Soon we passed Jullington Creek and made the last turn to the finish line. We had a lot of beach cats still in view in front of us and a couple behind. We were really happy about that. The wind turned with us denying us from completely finishing under gennaker, save for the last half mile where a shift allowed us to finish –symbolically- wearing all the cloth!
Right after the finish we discussed how easy and comfortable the day was onboard. We were in good shape after 10 hours on the water. That was very nice.
We sailed back to the Rudder club, and Steven went home to his family. It was a bit crowded to put the boat on the trailer so I picked-up my overnight kit from the truck and left right after dinner to anchor in the little cove north of the Rudder Club. In the morning, it was a lot quieter and I pulled out and came home just in time to make breakfast for the family.
This was a very fun experience. Longer distance coastal day-sailing is definitely a strong point for the 20.2. We actually ended-up doing well in the race, especially in compensated time. I had some feed-back in the tone of “What is this boat and where did you guys come from?” In fairness, we had a bit of help because the really fast boats did not benefit from 3 hours of ebb at the end of the race, which catapulted some 10 boats ahead on corrected time.
All in all that was a great racing experience. Definitely something we’ll try to do again!