Much to catch up on
The past two weekends have been eventful, in particular with sailing; first, we had the Sailing Association of Intermountain Lakes elimination for the Mallory Cup – the US men’s championship – and the following weekend, we had two “fun” races for the Rio Grande Sailing Club: the Joshua Slocomb single-hand race and the Jack-and-Jill his-and-hers race.
The Mallory elimination was an immense success. Despite a few miscues, and weather that didn’t always cooperate, Pat and I, with the help of a whole heck of a lot of other people, ran a high-quality event that the club can be genuinely proud of. Pat should soon have all of the details on Desert Sea. We had three teams competing, and the format of the event was a round-robin, with the three teams rotating among three boats (J/24s, as evenly matched as Dumbledore and Weatherman could make them), to make the competition more even.
Except for the first race, which ended in nearly dead air, the races were in relatively stiff conditions. Steady winds were 15 to 25 knots, but there were higher gusts – at one point, a gust of 39 was recorded. There was discussion of calling off the races, but we didn’t. Had this been a regular club race, with sailors of mixed abilities and boats of mixed condition, we might well have called it off. But these were three hot-shot teams, on reliable boats. And, while the semifinals might be in Austin, Texas, on relatively calm waters, if one of these teams makes it to the finals in San Francisco, they’re going to have to deal with these sorts of conditions.
Pat, as Principal Race Officer, was on the start/signal boat, and I was on the finish boat, which also was in position to monitor the windward mark roundings. The action was awesome. The three teams were really good – Zorro, with Twinkle Toes, Penzance, and Space Invader on his crew; the New Mexico Tech sailing team, led by Seattle; and a team from the New Mexico Sailing Club led by Wild Man and including Dumbledore. I had a vantage point where I could see some absolutely fantastic sailing. The mark roundings were exciting, sometimes with just inches between boats.
What I saw was a whole lot of really good boat-handling, and a whole lot of strength and agility on the part of the crews. Space Invader, in particular, executed some major high-strength ballet moves on the foredeck for Zorro’s crew, getting the spinnaker pole up and getting the chute launched in really rough conditions. The final race featured a really tight competition between Tech and Wild Man’s team for second place, with both boats closely together for the whole race, coming in for a photo finish. Overall, Zorro took first place and Wild Man second; both teams are now qualified for the semifinals.
Then this past weekend, we had the Slocomb on Saturday and the Jack-and-Jill on Sunday. Saturday, Pat and I were on the committee boat for the Slocomb, and I turned Black Magic over to Penzance. We waited for wind to come in, and when it did, we called for a long race – it looked like it was going to keep coming up.
It did for a while, but then it got lighter. Zorro and Penzance quickly took the lead in an exciting duel for the first three and a half legs of the race, before Zorro finally broke away. About then, the wind started to fade, leaving the entire fleet drifting around the lake. As the wind got lighter and lighter, we eventually decided to shorten the course, at the end of the leg that Zorro was on (Penzance was a few minutes behind Zorro, and the rest of the fleet by this time was a nearly a whole leg behind). That turned out to be a good call, as the wind continued to vanish. Four boats finished; one quit; and the other two didn’t make it to the finish line before the time limit, as the wind went to zero.
Sunday, I joined Zorro on Constellation for the Jack-and-Jill race, and Gerald took his girlfriend on Black Magic. The girlfriend’s first experience with sailing had been Friday evening, when we launched Black Magic and she sailed with Pat and Gerald to move it from the boat ramp to the marina near the race area. But it looked like conditions were going to be fairly light, and she was game for the experience, so I let them have the boat. Pat was solo on the race committee boat.
As on Saturday, we had to wait a while for some wind to arrive. Unlike on Saturday, when the wind came, it continued to increase throughout the day. We started in light conditions, and the wind gradually built. Pat called a fairly long course, and we got started. On the upwind legs, Zorro had the helm while I ran jib trim; downwind I took the helm and Zorro ran the spinnaker. As the wind built, so did our speed; on the final, upwind, leg of the race, we really pulled out ahead of the rest of the fleet. Mother and Dumbledore on Kachina were a few minutes behind us, and not too far behind them were Gerald and Girlfriend.
Just as Kachina was finishing, we saw the mainsail drop on Black Magic. The outhaul had broken, and the resultant flapping of the sail was causing it to begin to tear at the tack, so Gerald had decided to take it down. They didn’t realize they were close to the finish, so instead of finishing under jib alone, they turned around and went back to the marina. Since the next boat behind them was pretty far back, they could still have finished in third, if they had only known. Still, upon returning to the marina, Girlfriend declared that she had had a fantastic time and wants to continue sailing – even if the immersion in all of the sailing, especially racing, was fairly intense.
It was good sailing with Zorro – I hadn’t been out with him in a long time. Of course, it was also good to win, especially on Mother’s Day. It occurred to me that he still needs an alternate crew member for his Mallory Cup team – but then, I realized I don’t have the physical size or strength for that, especially on a J/24. There was a lot of major athleticism going on out on the water during the qualifiers. I’ll have to content myself with just being Zorro’s number-one fan.