Thursday, September 29, 2005

Race back from Oxford 2005
(The Hammond Memorial Regatta)

Crew: Glen, Brian P., Tim
Competitors: 247, 57, 484

After a good night's rest in a borrowed slip, we grabbed some food and coffee and headed to the start. Thankfully there was more wind than Saturday--but not much.

The start was downwind, and without Scott, we did our best. (No offense, Brian!) We ran the line on starboard and bore off to set the chute. C.B. decided to port tact the fleet, and set his chute early. With speed, a wide line, and few boats to contend with, C.B. had a nice start in first place. We started in front of T.C., but he soon caught up and passed us by gybing out from under us.

At this point C.B. and T.C. continued tp head to the left on port and we stayed pretty much on the rhumb line since we had enough breeze to make 2 kts. T.C. motored to the first mark beating C.B. in the process. No one is sure why that happened.

We were probably 30 boat lengths behind C.B. at this point and feeling pretty bad. However, the wind was on and off again, and shifty at that. We did our best to pay attention to the shifts (some of them 30°), and by keeping track of them, we were able to make some good tacking decisions.

By the next mark, the standings had reversed, and we were in the lead. Fortunately we had lead enough to cover C.B. to the end while barely making the finish by the time limit.

While not a lot of wind, there was enough. The crew did a great job and it was nice to get the gun!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Race to Oxford 2005

Crew: Glen, Brian P., Tim
Competitors: 247, 57, 484

Oxford last year (2004) was a story that will be told for the rest of our lives. 55MPH winds, 6+ ft. waves, and watching the GPS show LinGin moving 14MPH. And that doesn't even touch on snapping the tiller in the middle of the race.

This year, however, things could not be more different. The race committee announced shortly before the start that while there was almost no wind, they would start us anyway because the current would be pushing us toward Oxford.

We sited the line, and quickly found ourselves on course side, running out of time to get behind the line for the start. With some scrambling, and a little more breeze, we made it behind the line and actually started in the lead.

C.B. and T.C. headed for the eastern shore, while we opted for the rhumb line along with Harry. It was very sunny out all day, and shortly after the start at 0900, the wind began to pick up out of the north. We set a chute and saw 8kts of breeze. We were feeling good and looked to be leading the fleet.

As we approached the first mark, C.B. came back from the eastern shore and began to converge with us. The wind was now down to 2-3 kts, and it was clear we were ahead only by a couple boat lengths.

We were soon in a downwind duel with C.B. and considering we were missing our foredeckman, had only 3 people sailing the boat and there was almost no wind, I felt we did really well holding him off. After about fifteen minutes of duking it out, C.B. was able to gybe out from us and we decided to part ways.

The wind proceeded to drop to <1 kt, and Glen went below to get "Trim" by Bill Gladstone. Based on Gladstone's instructions, we set the boat for exteremely light air speed. Interestingly, Gladstone suggests that at some point, you move from boat set up to "go play golf". We wondered many times over the next four or five hours if we had hit "go play golf" windspeeds.

Persisting in very light air, we basically trimmed for speed, and tried to tack on the headers. The current was not much of a factor during this time as it was with us.

We were sure that the Race Committee (RC) would shorten the course and end our misery, but with each mark we passed, it became more apparently the would not.

Finally around 1800, with roughly 5 miles to go and in literally 0 kts of wind, we abandoned the helm and started working on boat projects. We installed the newly created spinnaker pole holders. Glen whipped the ends of our new light air jib sheet. We listened on the radio to hear the Catalinas argue as to what dropping out would do to their hight point standings.

We were committed not to quit before C.B., who by now we had managed to get ahead of again. About the time the Catalinas agreed to all quit, C.B. started his engine and motored in. We did the same.

I cannot tell you how angry everyone was at the RC. We had started at 0900 and 9 hours later all dropped out after baking in the sun and wrestling with light air all day. We could have had a race count if the RC had just gotten off their lazy butts and finished us.

Brian and Glen did an outstanding job, working tirelessly to keep the boat moving even in extreme heat and little air. It was a pleasure to be part of the team.

There's always next year.


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

WNR - Series III - Race 5

Crew: Glen, Brian P., Scott, Pat
Competitors: 247, 550, 484

Heading over to the race, there were low clouds and a stiff breeze out of the southwest. In a bit of a rush, we took a bit of a short cut and shot straight from the red marker at the entrance to Whitehall Bay over to the yellow channel marker next to the spider buoy. Note to crew: it worked well and didn't look too shallow not to do all the time.

Soon after rounding the spider, we had a great time watching the Etchells scream off the starting line under spinnaker. Within 5 minutes, there were at least 3 chutes ripped--including the boat leading the fleet. Scott was excited to get ready for what looked like it would be an adrenaline-pumping start.

We started well at the boat end, and wanted to stay high to keep clear air, and based on the angle of the wind, we wanted to go high for a bit to be able to bear off and set the chute. (It was a close call as to whether we would be able to hold the chute right off the line.) Our course was out to a mark nearly in line with the channel markers. Towney started at the pin end in clear air, but with an angle that didn't let him immediately set his chute.

After about 5-10 minutes under jib, we set the chute leading a pack of Catalina 25s. We successfully fended off a couple of them trying to go high of us by luffing one of them up, and then came back down to course. Towney set his chute and we were both cooking, but the wind had died down from what it was at the Etchells start.

Shortly before the mark, the wind picked up again. The C25s started to lose control, and since we were about 15 boat-lengths to the mark, we decided to douse as well. We were neck and neck with Towney at this point, and he took down his chute at the same time. Now it was time to see who could do a controlled gybe, not get hit by an out of control C25, and beat the other around the mark!

Our gybe was good, but the boom rose and caught the backstay. A potentially dangerous situation: 1. we could have damaged the backstay, and 2. we were immediately rounded up, and while the Alberg rudder is big, it's not big enough to overpower the main in 20+ kts of wind. Thankfully I was able to keep from ramming the C25s, and the crew was able to get the boom off the backstay. However, Towney took advantage of the situation and rounded inside of us. We gave two C25s room and took off after Towney.

With the dramatic increase in wind speed, we knew we would be overpowered with the No. 1 and even a reefed main. I figured Towney would not be in a mood to do a headsail change, so I took a chance and ordered the change to the No. 2. It was a risky move since it meant sailing without a headsail for roughly a minute while the new one was brought up. Would we have enough distance in the WNR to not only catch up to Towney, but make up the ground lost during the change?

I was reminded of the Hammond Memorial race from last year during this exercise. We had ripped our No. 2 and were forced to use the No. 1 most of the race, overpowered the whole way. In the end, the decision bore out my guess: we caught up to Towney by the red nun.

At this point, we started sailing very conservatively, covering his every move. After watching him for awhile, we started to suspect that he had a mechanical problem with the boat, too. At one point he did a gybe going up wind rather than a tack. Very strange. I plan to ask him about it next time I see him.

We hustled all the way in and took the gun! A GREAT race, and lots of fun.

Seeing as it was a beautiful night: cool, 15+ kts of breeze and a sunset that was incredible, we decided to kill the noisy, stinky engine and sail home. It was fantastic there were low, local clouds that darkened the sky, but since the clouds did not cover the horizon, the sunset lit up the underside of the clouds in a way that was incredibly beautiful. Both Brian and I were kicking ourselves for not bringing our cameras. I did my very best to soak in this incredible view and feeling. I could not think of a better place to be in the world than right there at that moment. It was wonderful.

Coming into Whitehall Creek, it had become dark and we continued sailing. At the first red unlit mark, we tacked and *BAM* ran aground before we could make a move. We all hopped to one side, but I'm pretty sure that between the wind blowing us and a swift ebb tide, we became rapidly and hopelessly hard aground.

First we tried kedging. (Throwing an anchor out and trying to pull the boat off.) Then Glen jumped into a sea of jellyfish and tried pushing. Then Glen swam the anchor as far out as possible to get a better pulling angle. Then Scott jumped in and while being stung, helped Glen push while we kedged. Finally we tried taking the spin halyard, tying it to the anchor line and kedging. All this to no avail.

I jumped in to help (got stung), and while I was pushing we saw a sailboat coming. We had now been aground for about 2 1/2 hours and this was the first vessel to come by. They were willing to help, but were afraid to get close, so Glen swam them over a line. (He was stung in the ear while doing this.) They pulled us once, and then threw Glen back in, changed position, grabbed Glen, and finally pulled us off.

Hats off to Glen for all his hard work. He said he had never been stung before. Talk about being into new experiences...

And after all this, I had to drive to Philly that night for work. Needless to say, I arrived at 0200. But even with all that, it was one of the most beautiful sailing nights I can remember. And I loved it.