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, July 22, 2007

The “third” summer series regatta

Yeah, this one actually happened

The New Mexico Sailing Club is still trying hard to revive a racing schedule following a drought that closed the marina for two years and cancelled racing for three. Turnout, however, has been dismal. We had a few boats show up for the special-event long races; however, for the regular summer series regattas, each of the first two regattas had only one boat show up, and so each was cancelled.

Saturday was officially the third regatta in the series, but it was the first that actually happened, since three boats showed up – in the A fleet, Black Magic and the Santana 20 Cougar of the Lake; in the B fleet, the Catalina 27 Cheers. We didn’t have a volunteer to run a committee boat, so we couldn’t run standard Olympic circle courses starting and finishing in the middle of the lake, so we started the races the same way as the Fourth of July distance races – the start-finish line was from the southwest corner of A dock to a prominent rock on the opposite shore. The course was out the Narrows, around Mark 4 at the north of the Olympic circle, around Mark 8 at the south, back through the Narrows to the line.

Winds were for the most part light, but there were looming thunderstorms all around. I didn’t have any crew other than Pat, and I knew that if a squall came up we could be in very big trouble unless we had some additional crew to put on the rail to balance the boat while keeping the sails powered up enough to keep the boat going fast.

Serendipity struck. There was a couple with a Catalina 22 who wanted to get out, but they couldn’t get their motor started. We gave them an option: instead of sitting around the marina all afternoon cursing the motor, they could sail with us. We don’t worry about whether our motor will start, because we hardly ever even have it on the boat. I haven’t come up with good blog names for them yet, so I’ll call them D and J. D has been sailing for a gajillion years, although more cruising than racing. J has less experience sailing, but she has had experience watching sailing – she used to watch an Etchells fleet in Maine on a regular basis.

The first race was pretty miserable for Black Magic. The wind was very light, and it was switchy. As in the Fourth of July race, the wind switched every time we rounded a mark, so we were going upwind all of the time. Behind us, Cougar was going downwind most of the time and could keep a spinnaker flying. At the end of the race, the wind died, and while we did beat Cougar across the line, she beat us on corrected time.

The second race was a lot more fun. It started with light, shifty air. But shortly after we got out into the main body of the lake, the wind stiffened. Cougar is an excellent light-air boat, but when things get tougher, she has problems. There were thunderstorms all around, although none of them ever actually rained on the lake. However, those storms made for winds that were stiff, gusty, and directionally variable. Advantage: Black Magic. D had a couple of miscues on the jib sheets during a couple of the tacks, but those weren’t big problems. And having both D and J on the rail when the wind came up allowed Pat and me to keep the sails more fully powered – a couple of times, we pulled on more backstay or dropped the traveler, but mostly, we could keep that boat steady without depowering.

Then, after rounding the final mark, joy of joys, we were actually going downwind, so we could launch the spinnaker. We had some difficulty getting it up and going, because, as we were launching it, the wind shifted to the other side of the boat. Pat had to jibe the pole before we could get it to fill.

But once it did fill, we were on an awesome run. The wind took us to the Narrows and through the Narrows, and I’m told someone at the marina got some good photographs of Black Magic under spinnaker. The second race, we finished well ahead of Cougar, so even on corrected time, we were first.

At the end of the day, D and J told us that we had rescued their weekend. Instead of spending the day in frustration about their non-functioning motor, they had a fun afternoon sailing. J was especially impressed with the Etchells’ stability and handling, and she was interested when she heard about how Pat got me Black Magic as a Valentine’s gift. She and D both told us that if we ever want crew, they’re available. They had a blast, and they want to sail with us again.

Oh, and on the official scoring for this weekend’s regatta: In the first race, Cougar came in first and Black Magic came in second. But in the second race, Black Magic was first and Cougar was second. The first tie-breaker is comparing finishes going back in time, with the most recent more important. On that tie-breaker, Black Magic wins the regatta. But the folks on Cougar did a really good job.


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