Before: frustration. After: pain. During: not too bad.
Adventures involving nearly dead air, then lots of air, multiple spilled soft drinks, a stolen sandwich, and more …
This weekend is the Rio Grande Sailing Club’s signature sailing event, the Sunrise Regatta distance event. Sailors may choose to enter a 10-, 25-, or 50-mile race, although low lake levels in the recent past have meant that this is the first time we have held a 50-mile event in many years – with low lake levels, there’s less lake to race upon, and there’s more danger of boats hitting submerged hazards in the darkness. This year, we have more water in the lake than we have had in a long time.
I am using the present tense “is” because the event is still going on. The 10- and 25-mile racers have finished, but the 50-mile racers are still on the water. I have returned to the motel after competing on one of the 25-mile boats, but Pat is still at the marina, monitoring the finish line as the 50-milers come in. As the regatta’s name implies, the 50-mile race typically finishes around sunrise.
Our original plan had been to race Black Magic in the 10-mile race (boats without cabins can’t do the 25- or 50-mile races) with Zorro as either crew or guest skipper. But Pat couldn’t find another boat to do committee boat duty, so we had to bring Syzygy down from Heron, and we didn’t have the time or resources to de-rig and bring both boats down.
So Zorro and I ended up on Twinkle Toes’ Hunter 34, Windependent, in the 25-mile race. Joining us on the boat were the Dutch track star Blondie and Dino’s roommate, who, based on physical resemblance and sense of humor, I will henceforth call Jack Black. It wasn’t the all-star crew we had had on Windependent last spring for the Anniversary Cup, but at least we had enough people that we could run such a big boat.
The first two hours of the race were frustrating. Pat had set the start time for early afternoon because that’s when the winds typically begin to come up. But today they didn’t. They were light but enough to make boats go when he started the race, but then they got lighter and flakier – not enough lighter or flakier to call off and attempt to restart the race, but definitely enough to get really frustrating for people sailing heavy boats like a Hunter 34.
About an hour and 50 minutes into the race, I decided I was hungry enough to eat lunch. One of the great things about sailing with Twinkle Toes is that he always brings sandwiches, really good ones, whether he’s crew or skipper. So I got one of the sandwiches and had taken about four bites of it when, suddenly, the wind showed up. I quickly dropped the sandwich onto one of the cockpit bench seats and got to trimming the jib – by the end of the day, I would be hugely thankful for the super-heavy-duty winches Twinkle Toes had installed when he refurbished the boat last year. The wind hit so suddenly that even Zorro wasn’t completely prepared – the cola that he had been drinking ended up spilled over the compass binnacle and my lap, and for the rest of the day, I had no worries about my shoes slipping on the cockpit floor – there was too much sticky, syrupy soda residue for slipping to be any problem at all.
Once the crisis was over, Zorro picked up my sandwich and ate most of it, sharing a bit with Blondie. I think his own sandwich may have gone overboard.
Finally, we had enough wind to make the big, heavy boat actually move. Twinkle Toes had installed a new, fancy data processing device on the boat, so we could see things like our speed and heading and wind speed and other nifty information. Downwind, we got the boat up to 5.5 knots, in actual winds of about 12 knots. Somewhere along the way, Zorro had another cola, and again, a sudden wind shift threw it off the totally inadequate beverage holder on the wheel pulpit, this time mostly missing my lap but hitting my shoes squarely.
Because of wind shifts, we found ourselves on a broad reach for most of the journey to the mark at the north end of the lake. Once we rounded that mark, the wind had shifted again, so we were on a hard beat for most of the rest of the journey to the finish line.
We had to tack as we made our way back. The way tasks fell, Twinkle Toes was on mainsheet trim, and Jack Black and I were on jib trim. On a boat this size the winches for jib trim are on opposite sides and far enough apart that it works best to have two jib trimmers, one for when the boat is on starboard tack and one for when the boat is on port. It was probably not fair to Jack Black to subject him to having to learn how to tack the boat under competitive conditions – it can sometimes be challenging even under protective lesson conditions. I can give him great credit for doing the best he could, especially when Zorro was getting angry. And his sense of humor really helped him to be part of the crew, even as he was learning.
Upwind, we managed to be even faster than we had been downwind – we got up to 5.8 knots, at least when we were on port tack and I was trimming the jib.
We were in a good position to finish well – we wouldn’t be the first boat across the line, but on corrected time, the big, heavy, clumsy Hunter 34 would finish ahead of the other boats in our race. If we finished less than 12 minutes behind our closest competitor, we would beat him on corrected time. As we approached the finish line, we were only about 5 minutes behind him.
Then the wind died, and the big, heavy boat was nearly dead in the water. The other guy won.
But I don’t really think of it as a failing or shortcoming. We did have a really good day on the water, once the wind came up. We got to show Jack Black how exciting sailing is, and we may have even converted him from stinkpotter to sailing crew – even if he didn’t do perfectly today, he knows he can do better next time around, and he did tell us he had great fun today. He’s promising.
So it isn’t the immense high we got from the Anniversary Cup, but there’s a good feeling.
Of course, there’s the aftermath. Yes, I did put sunscreen on, but still, I have a face that resembles the shell of a boiled lobster. I’ve been rubbing in lots of aloe vera gel. And when the wind went stiff and I was on jib trim, I was doing a heck of a lot of grinding on the winches. I have stinky ointment that can be rubbed on my muscles. I can do the arm and leg muscles. The back and shoulder muscles will have to wait for ointment until Pat gets off committee boat duty.