Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

My First Race

Gee, maybe Larry was right after all

When we gathered at the skippers’ meeting for the Frostbite Race, a distance-racing event, there were six women Adams Cup trainees, so we had enough to run two boats, each with three women and one coach. I signed the registration sheet as skipper of the J/24 Kachina, working hard to dispel feelings that I had no business taking on that sort of responsibility. For crew, I had Kari trimming, Margaret on foredeck, and Dan as middle and coach. Kari had never run a spinnaker before, and Margaret hadn’t done foredeck in years, so it looked like we were going to be on a steep learning curve once again, except this time it would be in a real race.

“Let’s just concentrate on learning things and being conservative, rather than on winning the race,” Dan said. “Let’s just think of this as a practice session with other boats around.”

We were late getting into the starting area, so we didn’t have much of a chance to plan our start. We had, however, discussed tactics before the race and came up with a plan based on the weather forecasts and on Dan’s experience as both a sailor and meteorologist, so we knew we wanted to take the left of the course on the first windward leg. The rest of the fleet didn’t, or at least they didn’t go as far left as we did. However, when we got to the windward mark, in spite of having a less than stellar start, we were right in the middle of the fleet, and I managed to establish a leeward overlap that let me cut under a couple of the other boats as we rounded.

We rounded the mark and worked on setting the spinnaker, although we had difficulty because the air was light and dodgy, and we were in dirty air from a couple of the larger boats behind us. Several other boats also tried to set a spinnaker, but all but one, the Ranger 32 Shonto, gave up. Finally, we got into clear air and got our chute flying; the wind shifted so that we were on a reach, and Kari found the sweet spot to fly the sail. We were to the right of the rest of the fleet, but only we and Shonto used a spinnaker on that reach, and we were holding our own.

As we approached the leeward mark, the wind died down to nearly nothing. We kept the spinnaker up as long as we could, but we had to avoid some rocks, so we had to head up higher than the spinnaker would let us, so we went back to the regular jib.

There was somewhat of a traffic jam around the leeward mark, with the C&C 30 (whose name I can’t remember at the moment) closest to the mark, then Kachina, then Shonto. The C&C kept pushing us, so none of us could round, which allowed the S2 34 Cultural infidel to duck in behind us and round the mark first.

For the final leg to the finish, the wind was variable, but very, very light. It had shifted, so we weren’t going upwind any more. Much of the time we were on a beam reach, and sometimes we were on a run. We got a lot of practice in watching the surface of the water to see when a puff of wind would head our way, and gauging the direction of the puff. When the wind clocked around to the rear, some of the other boats attempted to set spinnakers, but that looked pretty pointless, since most of the patches of wind were too small to really take advantage of.

In the end, we were third across the line. Larry in the Etchells 22 Constellation was across way the heck ahead of everybody else, and second across was Cultural Infidel, with Kachina not too far behind. Behind us was another Etchells, another J/24, a C&C 30, a Ranger 32, and a few other boats.

It was interesting to find out later that several of our opponents had thought they were racing against Sue – I was on Sue’s boat, wearing Sue’s PFD and gloves (I had forgotten mine, and she’s the same size I am), and sailing as aggressively as Sue does. (But Sue doesn’t wear MY lucky Aussie hat!)

At the awards ceremony this evening, I learned that I had finished second on adjusted time – I beat everybody but Larry. And, really, nobody beats Larry. The Etchells skipper that I beat even said he knew of an Etchells for sale cheap that I could get – not his, but he and Larry want to get an Etchells fleet going in New Mexico. Hmmm ….


Blogger Tillerman said...

Congratulations. Seems like you're getting the hang of this racing stuff pretty fast. Looking forward to reading about the day you finally beat this Larry character.

Sun Jan 29, 08:19:00 AM MST  
Anonymous Adrift at Sea said...

Congrats on placing... :D Keep us posted and keep up the good work.

Sun Jan 29, 10:19:00 AM MST  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

Now, if you really want a description of fanatical ... I told Larry that one of the people in my regular blog rounds is a female Etchells sailor. His first question: "What's her hull number?"

Not anything about her physical appearance or age or anything like that.

Well, actually, Larry can claim some bragging rights about his hull. This is a conversation that has been confirmed by witnesses:

"Hey, Dennis, you ever seen an Etchells as old as mine?"

"Um, yeah ..."

"From the REAR?"

And yes, the Dennis in that conversation is indeed the great Dennis Connor.

You just have to love a guy who has that sort of self-confidence.

Sherry, if you want a date with Larry, I'll gladly arrange it.

Wed Feb 01, 01:58:00 AM MST  

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