Posts tagged regatta
Day 1 of the Farr 40 Midwinter Championships was a tough one for Huckleberry 3, the boat I’m crewing on. One of the few amateur boats against a field of seasoned professionals, a charter boat that we’ve only had in our hands for a couple weeks of practice, and a crew that was only fully together for the first time as we left the dock for the first race. In retrospect, it’s no surprise that we’re tied for last place. But we managed to finish ahead of a few boats in each race, and were in the leading pack in the last one before we lost our spinnaker and retired, so there’s hope in the remaining three days of racing.
It’s quite a change being part of a competitive one-design program in a class with lots of professionals. Every move on the boat is choreographed to the smallest detail, and the racing is intensely close. I have no doubt that I’m learning a lot by sailing with Jim and his crew, and it’s tremendous fun to be part of the Huckleberry 3 program.
My arms, back, shoulders and legs are all aching with the dull pain of a good day of sailing in a solid breeze. I have no doubt that by the end of the week they’ll be in agony, but it’s all for good fun.
The start of Chicago Yacht Club’s 105th Race to Mackinac was a pretty impressive sight, with over 300 boats milling around waiting for their start sequence. Spar Wars III got off to a decent start in Section 7 and chose to take the left side of her fleet, hoping for a bit of a thermal effect along the Wisconsin shore. After an uneventful night we were still within sight of most of our competitors when the wind started to die. This began about two and a half days of bobbing around in zero to three knots of wind, blazing sun, and clouds of vicious horseflies and mosquitoes, with intervening periods of light breeze, barely long enough to put up an adequate sail and get a few precious boat lengths ahead. On Monday evening, exhausted, short on potable water, and seeing we were far from being able to put enough of a lead on our competitors to score a respectable place (we were the second scratch boat – and the smallest in the race), we turned into Boyne City, the boat’s home port.
I was a little bummed to miss out on the Mac’s finish, which is arguably the coolest part of the race: reaching through the tight notch of Grays Reef with boats all around, then running down the Strait of Mackinac and under the gigantic bridge to the little island still resolutely stuck in Victorian times. But I did enjoy the great hospitality of Spar Wars’ skipper Bruce in Boyne City, then caught a ferry to the island to deliver the J/33 Retriever back to Chicago. Inevitably, the wind blew right on the nose for a couple days, but after a couple relaxing stops in scenic Northern Michigan, we had an uneventful trip home. Some of the boats that left a little behind us got hit by some big thunderstorms, but we only saw a few showers with no real wind.
Despite the annoying weather, this Chicago-Mac was an enjoyable and valuable experience. I got to crew with some talented sailors, meet some very interesting and friendly people, and see a part of the country I didn’t know at all. And I spent a fair bit of time observing the formation of thunderstorms and tracking them on radar. Although we avoided almost all of them, the sailors on both Spar Wars III and Retriever told me stories of 100-knot wind bursts in past Macs. I consider 35 to be about as much as I ever want to see on an Olson 30, so 100 sounds absurd.
I’m now on a plane to California to look into work opportunities, and the sailing continues next week with a Portland-Seattle delivery.
After six weeks on the market, Idefix has been sold. Her new owners Ken and Jess are pretty excited to have the only Olson 30 in Australia, and it looks like she’ll get a workout in all the Newcastle races. On Friday night Ken and I went for a sail across Sydney harbour and I had the pleasure of steering her in a steady breeze for what may be the last time, before hopping off at the Manly wharf and watching her sail into the night. Ken was so keen to get her racing that he sailed her throughout the night so he could make the start of a race in Newcastle the next day! It was a bittersweet moment for me, as the boat and I have shared 16000 miles of adventures over the last four years.
I’ve been getting a lot of questions about what I am going to do next. First of all, Ken has managed to get me a spot on the TP52 he races on for the Lord Howe Island race. At the end of March I will fly down to Melbourne to deliver Frantic up to Newcastle, then we will race to LHI, stay on the island a few days, and sail the boat back to Melbourne. I’m really stoked about 2000 miles on the Tasman Sea on an Aussie racing yacht.
And to stay busy in the meantime, I’m still racing on weeknights and weekends, on Secret Men’s Business in Pittwater and a variety of boats in Sydney Harbour. The crew of Secret Men’s Business is one of the coolest I’ve ever seen. Racing yachts are often a chaos of people stumbling around, crawling all over each other, and lots of shouting and swearing, but SMB is like a well-oiled machine that silently goes about its business. I’ve been on the boat for 5 or 6 races now, and yesterday was the first time I heard an expletive come out of somebody’s mouth, as the spinnaker twisted itself furiously around the forestay. The relaxed attitude with which everybody goes about their business belies many, many years of sailing together.
I met up with my Seattle friend Goran, who’s in town visiting his family, and he took me down to CYCA to try to get on a boat for twilight racing. Wednesday night races are NFS (no spinnakers), so I figured it would be a handful of cruising boats floating around the bay watching the scenery, but boy was I wrong. CYCA is the big club in town, the one that puts on the Sydney-Hobart, and it was packed when came in. We put our names up on the whiteboard and sat down at the table in the corner with the other boatless crew, and within about 5 minutes the whole table was snatched up by a Sydney 38 skipper with no crew. Once on the water, and after a couple practice tacks, I realized this was pretty serious business, as there were a LOT of boats in the starting area, including an ACC, a VO60, some fancy one-offs, and of course a handful of Farr 40s and other Sydney 38s. The start was incredibly tight, and we had no idea how far off the line we were, because we were sandwiched in a cluster of boats, a handful of which ended up OCS. Also, did I mention there was plenty of wind? And sun too! I quickly realized how weak I am when I was barely capable of grinding in a 100% jib on this 38-footer. Sydney harbour is quite narrow, so there were plenty of tacks, and I felt my strength leaving me when we finally made it to the windward mark, at which point the beer started flowing at an alarming rate. Pole out the jib, a couple jibes and we’re back to leeward and time for lots of grinding again. By now I’m soaked from hanging on the wet lifelines, but who cares, it’s February and a nice warm day. We’re second of the four ’38s, not bad for a crew put together 15 minutes before the start. At the windward mark my throat is parched from all the grinding, thankfully the cold beers are back on deck. After the finish it’s time for socializing at the clubhouse (anybody want an Olson 30?), and I get off the bus in Newport at about midnight, a little tipsy and still soaked with seawater.
The next day it was the same thing all over again, but this time on a 42-footer racing out of the Royal Prince Alfred on Pittwater. This time the ride was arranged ahead of time by my friend Linda (on the commodore’s boat, no less!). The crew were all incredibly relaxed, and the conditions were great: 15-20kts, sunny and warm. Pittwater is even narrower than Sydney harbour, so I was grunting over the winches again, but the ergonomics of the boat must’ve been a little better, because I had no problem bringing in the bigger sails on a bigger boat.
After two days of racing on big boats, my sides, back and shoulders are quite sore (that good kind of sore that lets you know your muscles are growing), but I’ve had a lot of fun and am looking forward to next week!
After the great fun Peter and I had on Northern Century in August, I was pretty excited to return to the San Juans in November for Round the County. This race is a little shorter, with an overnight stop in Roche Harbor, and a full crew. Alexia, Jay and Adam volunteered to deliver the boat, and Jay’s wife Jennie was kind enough to drive the chase car, prepare food, and arrange for accommodations on the islands, since we couldn’t sleep the whole crew on the boat.
Of course, the experience was completely different. A big weather system was passing through and the winds were ripping all weekend, with plenty of cold and rain to boot. Both days involved getting up ridiculously early to get to the start line, and a glimpse of orange sunrise on the first day was all we saw of the sun. The race started out with a tight reach up Rosario Strait, which quickly opened up and left us wishing we’d hoisted a bigger chute, and earlier. A couple minutes later we attempted our first jibe in 25 knots and managed to lay the boat down twice, first to windward, then to leeward, which ended with Matt and I going in the water, Matt being almost completely over the lifelines. We managed to get back in the cockpit before she righted, but were pretty cold and wet for the rest of the race, and my PFD inflated. Once the boat was back up she was off like a rocket, and we sailed decently for the rest of the race, and finished in the middle of the fleet. Owing to our cold & wet disposition, we opted to skip the party at Roche Harbor and warmed up by the wood stoves in the neatest little cabin in the woods, which Jennie had found for us.
Day 2 started off pretty poorly with us making extra miles to get away from shore looking for current that wasn’t there, and we were out of the running pretty quick. We reached around San Juan under genoa until the wind eased up in the Strait, and hoisted the big chute. This was all fine until we got close to the South end of Lopez and saw all the boats ahead of us broaching, and some spinnakers exploding. It looked like the wind was picking up around the point, and the strong currents coming out of Rosario were causing the waves to pick up significantly, right where all the boats were jibing. We had visions of our epic jibe the day before still fresh in our heads, and this one was looking way nastier, and we had a bigger chute up. The boat was planing continuously now, and would have to keep planing through the jibe. I had a death grip on the tiller and told the crew to prepare to jibe. Without one word, everybody clipped their harness tethers in. The tension was palpable. When the command was given to trip the pole, my focus went 100% on steering the boat through the boiling waves ahead while keeping her as level as possible under the spinnaker. Not a word was said among the crew as they executed a perfect jibe. When it was done, they all hiked out as far aft as they could and we headed up for the ride of our lives. The waves were steep and a couple times we ran off the top of a wave into the trough, and I expected us to stuff the bow of the boat into the next wave and round up, but with the incredible lift generated by the spinnaker, and the weight of a full crew in the back of the boat, we rode right over the top of them in perfect control. On a particularly nice surf we hit an outright speed record for the boat of 19 knots. Eventually the wind abated and became more westerly, and we were on a tight reach up Rosario Strait. We carried the chute as long as could, making great speed, and rounding up occasionally, and we eventually had to drop the chute, before soon putting up another only a mile from the finish. We corrected to a not-particularly-brilliant 12th out of 15, owing to our big strategic blunder, but the terrific rides we had made for a fun weekend, and I felt that we sailed pretty well overall. After finishing we repaired to the Brown Lantern in Anacortes for hot food and cold beers, then Alexia, Matt, Adam and I had an uneventful delivery home through Saratoga Passage, which was a first for me.
It’s been a while since my last update. This writeup of the Northern Century is a little old, but I’ll post it anyway… After five days of chilling in the islands solo, I was ready for some doublehanded distance racing. There was a pretty fantastic turnout for the race, with over 40 boats registered (about half doublehanded and half fully crewed), which meant quite a crowd at the dinner and skipper’s meeting at Anacortes Yacht Club. The competition in our division would be pretty tough, among others: the Perry 66 Icon, fast enough to make it into completely different wind conditions, and stay out of trouble with the currents; the custom 40-footer Madrona, helmed by olympic gold-medalist Carl Buchan and his son; multiple SHTP winner Dan Newland on his Pegasus XIV; SHTP vet John Guzzwell on his beautiful wooden Open 30 Endangered Species; a Soverel 33 and Express 37; and our closest competition, the Ross 930 Emma, crewed by olympic medalist Eric Jespersen and his son Ross, both freshly back from the international 6-meter worlds.
The start was at 19:30, which I really liked, since it allowed us to sail into the first night relatively well rested. We got off to a decent start, only a couple boatlengths behind Emma, leading the pack. Of course it was only a matter of minutes before Icon and Madrona rolled everyone and took the lead… then promptly stopped in the wind shadow to the lee of Guemes Island. All the slow boats caught up, then found wind just below the bluff of the island, the last spot I would’ve thought to go. After way too much hemming and hawing, and waiting til we were the last boat in the pack, we bit the bullet and bore off to the bluff and caught the wind, before stopping in another pile-up half a mile down the course. The stop-and-go continued as the sun set and well into the night, with winds oscillating between zero and 10 knots, and shifting from the northwest to southwest. We tried to keep the boat moving and felt we were doing pretty well (it’s hard to tell when you can’t tell what boats are around you), until we parked in a hole off Lummi Island and got passed by a continuous train of running lights for the next 15 minutes. Being stopped while others are moving is really frustrating, doubly so at night when you can’t see the wind effects on the water. All we could do was sit and wait, watching running lights and counting shooting stars. Eventually the wind hit us, the spinnaker filled, and I was happy again. I forgot about all the boats that had sailed out of sight and concentrated on the ones next to us, especially ReignMaker, which I could see on the AIS display. Having an AIS transponder on board is great for safety, but probably not the best tactical move, as I could see exactly where they were, how fast they were going, and their course! We traded jibes through the early morning hours, as the wind built up to 13 or so, racing towards our mark at Point Roberts. Peter and I each took a couple 20 minute breathers down below, while the other sipped yerba maté and listened to music to stay awake. Eventually the colors of dawn tint the sky, and the moon and
sun rise in sequence over Mt. Baker. By the time the sun has risen we have rounded Pt. Roberts and are heading down Haro Strait towards our next turnpoint at Hein Bank, close hauled, port tack, rail in the water in about 8 kts southerly. It is a beautiful morning for sailing. We count 5 or 6 boats within sight behind us, and another handful ahead, but we really have no idea where we are in the fleet, and I estimate we are in the bottom third.
The wind lightens up as we get close to Saturna Island, and I see we are catching up to the Soverel 33, Grafix. Eventually I realize they are in a nasty current eddy close to the island, and give it a wide berth. We shoot past them, riding a 4-knot river of current, while they are moving backwards. I spend the next couple hours with my eyeballs riveted to the water, trying to stay in the strongest current, and following the next boat ahead, the MacGregor 65 JOSS. Coming up to Turn Point, I realize they are stuck in a wind hole right next to the point, and I can see 3 other boats stuck out in Canadian waters. I maneuver Idefix to split the difference between the two groups of parked boats, and we miraculously flow past all of them, carried by our little river of current. Eventually the wind starts to fill out of the Strait, and as we make our way South, so does the swell. As we beat down the shore of San Juan, the building wind forces us to trade the genoa for the #3. We are trading tacks with Blackfoot and ReignMaker, both in the fully crewed division, but there are no doublehanded boats around, so we are kind of clueless as to our position in that fleet. As we work our way out into the Strait towards Hein Bank, the wind starts to abate and we have to switch back to the #1, which isn’t a quick affair with only two aboard. The dying wind makes the motion of the boat in the big swells more and more uncomfortable, and suddenly Peter succumbs to seasickness. He goes down below to rest in his berth, and I’m left to deal with getting the boat around Hein Bank in adverse current, nasty chop and only 3 or 4 knots of breeze. After about an hour of this the wind creeps back up, the chop abates some, and I ready the chute as we make our final approach to the mark. Peter comes on deck to help me hoist as we round the mark, and we are soon on a solid 9-knot broad reach towards Rosario Strait and the finish line, alongside JOSS. Some more nasty currents await us at Rosario Strait, and for a while I’m worried were going to be swept onto the rocks on the South end of Lopez, but we manage to make our way around the rocks, find the finish line and cross it a little before 5 o’clock, putting an end to 21 hours of excellent racing. We’ll correct into 3rd place in our division, behind Emma and Madrona, both skippered by Olympic medalists. After a burger and a couple beers at the Brown Lantern, Peter and I crash into our berths. In the morning a thick fog covers the marina. Many boats have arrived in the early morning hours after spending a night out on the race course, in the fog, and quite a few have retired, with only 5 out of 11 in our division finishing.
Peter and I sailed Idefix in the Sloop Tavern YC‘s Race to the Straits this weekend. This is a fun shorthanded race from Shilshole to Port Townsend, and back the next day. It’s also a pursuit race, which means each boat has an assigned start time according to its rating, with the slow boats going first. Since the time handicap is accounted for at the start, the first boat to cross the finish line wins. In usual handicap racing, the handicap is tacked on at the end, so passing a boat doesn’t necessarily mean you beat them…
Day 1: Shilshole to Port Townsend
The race started out in a light southerly, so we hoisted the chute and reached across the sound, carried out by the ebb. We decided to stick to the middle of the Sound for the best current and wind. This worked out for us for a while, and we passed a handful of boats and put a decent lead on our usual rival Lunch Box. The other Olson 3o Wild Turkey ran for the beach and inexplicably made much better speed until they were out of sight. Eventually the wind died to just a couple knots, and the boats skimming the western shore started making big gains on us. After a couple hours of watching this, we decided it was time to fold and head for the shore, jibing when we could see the rocks on the bottom.
More reading and a couple videos after the jump…