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.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Two donuts and two rolls

No, it’s not a high-carb breakfast, but something scarier.

The first race weekend of the Rio Grande Sailing Club’s spring series regattas saw some pretty stiff winds and the destruction of a lot of equipment, including some sail batten pockets, a spinnaker sheet, a spinnaker or two, a main halyard, and a 1983 Mercedes 240D.

Saturday’s winds were predicted to be (depending on which weather service one looked at) 10 to 15 mph, gusting around 20. As we headed out to the race course, the winds were much less than that, and the Etchells, having no motors, needed a tow to the race area. Shortly after we got there, however, the winds did come up to the predicted levels, and we had three exciting races.

This year, the racing is divided among three fleets: the Etchells in their own separate class, the A fleet of higher-performance boats, such as J/22s and J/24s, and the B fleet of slower, cruising type boats. Black Magic came in second in the Etchells fleet in all three of Saturday’s races, losing to Zorro in the first and second races, and to Sutherland in the third. We broke a spinnaker sheet during the second race, but even without a spinnaker, we did all right.

After the racing, Zorro came to spend the night with us in the place we’re renting in T or C; we headed back to the boat later to work on replacing the broken spinnaker sheet and re-running the traveler controls. Then we came back to the doublewide, where Zorro and Tadpole looked up weather reports online, and we remembered to set our watches and clocks for Daylight Savings time. We had had a long day, and we were tired, but with morning coming an hour earlier and us being up late, we didn’t end up getting much sleep.

Sunday’s weather was predicted to be much fiercer, with steady winds between 15 and 20, and gusts possibly as high as 30. The committee called an unusual course – instead of the usual straight upwind-downwind course, it was a Harry Morgan-type course, with a triangle followed by an upwind-downwind. Several of the boats, especially in the B fleet, decided not to race, although one of those suffered damage when his main halyard went astray, tangled itself up in his prop, and had to be cut off – and then his engine cooling system got clogged up, too.

During that race, Black Magic suffered some damage to the heavy-air jib, in particular, some torn batten pockets, and we had a spinnaker pole end let go of the sail, and we had a jib wrap itself around the forestay as we rounded a leeward mark, costing us some major distance. One of the other boats suffered spinnaker damage. We finished second, way after Zorro; Sutherland didn’t start.

After that race, Zorro’s crew, Twinkle Toes, had to leave for Albuquerque, so that was the only race the Etchells sailed Sunday. The other boats stuck around for another race in increasingly screaming conditions. We heard later of at least one spinnaker being blown apart, and other boats, lines, and hardware suffering damage.

We and Zorro put our boats away and patched up a couple of things, as well as adding to our shopping list of boat stuff we now need to buy. The day’s racing was immensely satisfying – up until this weekend, I hadn’t flown the spinnaker in anything more than 8 mph, so being able to run it – albeit with a few mishaps – in heavier conditions was rewarding. Zorro was especially pleased with how well we had done. But it was also exhausting, leaving me with aching muscles and all of us tired.

We had a late lunch, and then Zorro had to leave in order to get to El Paso, because his son was coming in from out of town to visit him. We stopped by the doublewide and gave him a couple of cans of his favorite diet cola for some extra caffeine to keep from falling asleep at the wheel. As he was preparing to set off, he did something he doesn’t usually do – he fastened his seat belt. That turned out to be one very smart move.

A half-hour later, I got a call on my cell phone from an unknown number. It was Zorro: “I just rolled my car; can you come rescue me?” Despite the extra caffeine, he had fallen asleep at the wheel, drifted into the median, which woke him up; he then overcorrected, spun around twice and off the side of the freeway, rolling twice on the way down a 10-foot embankment. Thanks to the seat belt, and the fact that 1980s Mercedes were built like tanks, he was not hurt. Some young people saw the accident and helped him out, including lending him their cell phone, which he had used to call me.

As it turns out, Sutherland and his crew, Teddy Bear and Dixie, were returning to El Paso when they passed by the scene and stopped to help Zorro and give him a ride home, so we didn’t have to take an extra trip south.

Because we often had sails piled up in the back seat of the Cavalier this weekend, I had been riding with Zorro a lot, and I always fasten my seat belt, especially since I was once in a car accident that would have killed me if I hadn’t been wearing one. As the weekend went on, Zorro was putting his on more and more, a habit I was glad to see him picking up. And Sunday afternoon, that habit paid off big time.

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Blogger Carol Anne said...

Reflecting further, I'm hugely glad I was able to write a relatively light-hearted blog post rather than an obituary.

If things had gone differently, the world would have been out one terrific coach, and I would have been out one terrific friend.

Adding to the irony, I was in the process of composing a future blog post about cars that might be appropriate for Tadpole. This was one paragraph:

"1983 Mercedes 240D: Built like a Panzer tank, virtually indestructible, good for safety. The only problem will be prying it out of Zorro's hands."

Sun Mar 11, 11:45:00 PM MDT  
Blogger Pat said...

One of the boat crews that continued racing on Sunday got a two-foot tear in their spinnaker and had a big problem with their take-down. Another of the boats had a frightening spinnaker broach. And then, getting a big cruising boat, which had wrapped its halyard around its propeller and suffered resulting damage, out of the water turned out to be a big, hairy production.

When we drove south to try to rescue Zorro from his crash, we passed by Caballo Lake, which even though smaller and more sheltered than the Butte, still had lots of whitecaps.

Although we consistently crossed the line 2nd in each race this weekend, a few of the other boats corrected ahead of us, typically by one to three minute margins in races of about an hour.

Some of our time was lost due to unpredicable accidents or equipment problems, but we can also improve our skills and learn to sail better and fix problems faster.

Sunday, with winds ranging from 15 to 30 mph, we also were reminded of how physically demanding the Etchells can be. Even the relatively small Etchells jib had so much pressure on it that Tadpole couldn't trim it in for close-hauled sailing and had to get help. The spinnaker sheet sometimes had me feeling like I holding onto the tail of a charging bull. And, we all felt good and sore with lots of aching muscles come Monday morning.

Mon Mar 12, 04:43:00 PM MDT  
Anonymous Jerry said...

Glad Zorro is OK. Those seat belts are a good invention.

Mon Mar 12, 10:41:00 PM MDT  
Anonymous Mercedes Parts Blog said...

Great blog, nice posts! Glad nothing bad happend. Thanks that all Mercedes 240D parts particularly the seat belts are in good condition and working. Before going on a long trip it is important to check the car, so that you are assured that it is safe to use the car wherever and whatever driving condition you have. Safety is every important.

Wed Mar 21, 01:12:00 AM MDT  

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