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.


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