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.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Sunrise Regatta

The first part was fantastic!

This past weekend was the Sunrise Regatta, the Rio Grande Sailing Club’s premier event. When the lake is full, the regatta has 10-, 25-, and 50-mile races, and boats in the longest event may not come in until dawn of the following day; hence the name. With the lake level down, it’s not safe to run a long-distance race that lasts all night long, and there’s not enough lake to make the race interesting. So for the past few years, the regatta has had only the 10- and 25-milers.

Because even the 25-mile event can last late into the night, boats sailing in it have to have certain safety equipment, such as running lights, full cabins, and motors that can be used in case of emergency. Thus, the Etchells are restricted to the 10-mile race.

At the skippers’ meeting before the race Saturday morning, several students from New Mexico Tech’s fledgling sailing club showed up. (Sailing is now the only officially recognized sport on campus at Tech!) We recruited a burly student from Seattle who has had extensive sailing experience, including taking tourists on sailing charters and being a grinder on a 70-footer, and who also plays rugby. Should we ever encounter rough weather, his weight could stabilize the boat, and his knowledge is extensive.

At the start of the race, the winds were very light. Seattle proved his worth immediately, helping us to plan the approach to the starting line, so that we nailed it. I mean, we really nailed it – crossing the line ahead of everybody else, just a couple of seconds after the starting whistle, at what counts as full speed in 2 knots of wind, on a tack that took us to where what little wind there was existed.

Yesss! We were ahead of the entire fleet – actually three fleets, the 10-mile, the 25-mile spinnaker, and the 25-mile non-spinnaker – including Zorro. We were going upwind, in extremely light air that stalled most of the other boats near the starting line. We heard afterward that even such skilled sailors as Mother and Dumbledore got totally skunked at the line and just couldn’t make progress.

We were on port tack, headed upwind, and there was a headland ahead that we would need to tack around. Zorro tacked behind us to get clear. Then, gradually, we got lifted, and lifted, and lifted. Amazingly, we were able to clear the headland without tacking, and we were then even further ahead of Zorro and the rest of the fleet.

Once we got around the headland, the wind hit us with another surprise – suddenly, it was behind us. Zorro got his spinnaker up, and so did we. Seattle once again proved his worth, trimming that chute with delicate skill while also advising the helm on how to help him to keep it flying, an especially tricky task in the light and switchy air. The boats behind us had difficulty keeping their spinnakers up and sometimes even doused them, but Seattle made sure ours was working all the time. We were pulling out a lead ahead of Zorro, who, in turn, was pulling out a lead on all of the other boats.

Working out the meandering channel past Horse Island and on toward Rattlesnake Island, we continued to be golden. We had to gybe around some shallows, but the wind shifted to make that course change work for us.

Just north of Rattlesnake, we had a problem. I knew there was often a hole in the wind north of the island, but its exact location changes. Alas, this time, the hole happened to be where we went. Once we realized it was there, we gybed out of it, but that took an eternity, and in the meantime, Zorro had avoided the hole and passed us.

On the way to the turning mark, we gained on Zorro, and Seattle helped us to steer the boat to blanket his wind. Even though we were no longer in the lead, we were competitive.

Our second big mistake was that mark rounding. As we approached the mark, I explained that I wanted to get the jib up before dousing the spinnaker, so we would always have a working headsail. But Seattle was unfamiliar with the lake, and so he was taken by surprise when we got to the mark a lot sooner than he had expected – I should have given more advance warning. In a panic, Seattle and Tadpole tried to douse the spinnaker when I gave the command to raise the jib. The spinnaker jammed halfway down. Once they got the spinnaker cleared and down, they tried to raise the jib, only to have it foul on the spinnaker sheet on the way up, taking more time to clear. By the time we had the jib up and were back up to speed, Zorro was far ahead. Then Zorro’s experience of the lake’s conditions came into play – he was much better able to anticipate and take advantage of the wind shifts. He just continued to pull out his lead.

Still, I think I did all right. I led Zorro for a third of the race (if you consider distance) or half of the race (if you consider time). In the end, I finished 11 minutes behind him, in a race that was more than three hours. If I can hang onto Seattle as crew, it shouldn’t be too long before I actually do beat Zorro in a race.

Sunday morning was the awards ceremony. We had bought a breakfast ticket for Seattle, but he didn’t show up -- what we heard was that the Tech students had some other commitments. After the awards, the commodore had some announcements, including one about next year’s Adams Cup women’s sailing championship, which he then requested me to speak about – a request that I was totally unprepared for.

Me? Why me? Well, it turns out that the word is that the next Adams Cup will be on Etchells. And I’m a woman, and I was a part of last year’s Adams Cup program, and I now sail an Etchells – never mind that I’ve only had the boat for a few months. Apparently, the commodore and Mother had decided that I should be in charge of the next Adams Cup effort. I managed to stammer out some description of the Etchells as a very special boat, which requires some special knowledge to sail well, but that if we could train women to sail it, we would be ahead of other Adams Cup teams that don’t even touch an Etchells until the finals.


Anonymous AdriftAtSea said...

Don't you love when they volunteer you for things but forget to tell you that they have done so. :) Congrats CA.

Mon Sep 11, 06:05:00 AM MDT  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

Actually, I believe Tech also officially has rugby on campus; Seattle participates in that, too.

Tue Sep 12, 12:26:00 AM MDT  

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