Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Great Success.

Okay, a quick rundown of our victory in the Oakland Yacht Club Sunday Brunch Series.

The OYC Sunday Brunch series is a five race series run on the first and third Sundays of January and February, and the first Sunday of March. Sadly Gonzo was still not ready for the first race as the mast was still down from when I dropped it on my foot in November. This, as discussed previously, had left me with a ruptured Achilles Tendon and so out of action for a while.

So, after doing what I should have done to start with, which was pay Glen Hansen of Hansen Rigging to fix the rig, we did make it out for the last four races. We did have Glen make one major change and that was to put the roller furler back on the boat. The OYC gives us a three second credit for using the furler, which I figure we get back in the ease of use that the furler gives us. That and the old J-24 headsail that we were using was such a piece of junk that I don't think we gained anything from it. We had also gotten an additional 3 second credit from the local PHRF committee over the winter, which meant that we had gone from rating 186 to 192.

The new and improved Gonzo.

I drove the first race, sailing with Jeff, Sid, and RT and it was obvious right out the start that whatever Glen had done to the rig had made a huge difference. The boat felt great and we actually sailed away from most of our fleet upwind. When the wind came up I could actually use the backstay to de-power things, something that had never really happened before. Anyway we kept in touch with the leading 30 footer for most of the race, eventually passing him when he had a bad drop at the final rounding and ended up hitting the day marker. So we won the first race boat for boat as the slowest rated boat.

The second race I drove again as my foot/ankle was still really not up for me doing anything else. This race was on Super Bowl Sunday and I don't remember a lot of the details about this one. It may have just been Jeff, Sid and I and I know that once again we were the first boat to finish and easily won our division.

and this is the good ankle...

The third race Jeff drove, Sid showed up late and very hungover, and RT sailed with a separated shoulder. I did bow and the ankle felt fine and once again we sailed to victory and a four point lead going into the last race of the series. I seem to remember diving the boat before the race and it being very, very cold.

So, going into the last race we had to finish less than four places behind Zeehund and we would win no matter what. Jennifer joined Jeff, RT, Sid, and I and it was Sid's turn to drive. The wind was from the south for the first time in the series but they sent us on the same course direction as usual. This meant a downwind start and a spinnaker run out of the Estuary. Sid, with Jeff on the bow, and with us using a real watch for the first time ever, got us a good start with the kite up and pulling right before the gun went off, sadly what this did was put us directly in front of a fleet of 6 or 7 masthead 30 footers that created a wind shadow across the Estuary behind us. We soon where overhauled by the fleet and where actually in last place with Zeehund sailing away from us at the front of the fleet.

After a few harsh words, and an ill considered gybe that took us even further off the course we made it to the top mark around the corner at Jack London Square. Apparently there was some confusion in our fleet as to whether the course was to be sailed in reverse or not? The course, as I said was pretty much the same course that we usually sail, only the wind direction was backwards. This led to some of the boats approaching the mark the wrong way. This was the break we had been looking for. We managed to get around the mark cleanly, our boat handling always allows us much faster rounding's than our competitors, and sailed off up the course in second place.

Second in the last race gave us three firsts and a second for the series, easily enough for the series win. We were also the lowest scoring boat in any of the divisions giving us the overall trophy (if one existed). Needless to say, there was much rejoicing.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Broken, but getting better...

Sorry about the long time of no posts, couple of reasons for this, but truth be told I just haven't been doing enough to write about. The main reason for this is that I ruptured my Achilles Tendon in November. The how and the why are really not that important. Something about middle age and miscommunication, let's just leave it at that. I was thinking that I could write about the trials and tribulations of recovering from this, but it has already been done by someone else here. The only difference is that I elected not to have surgery and thus spent seven or so weeks in a series of casts before going to the boot and then into Physical Therapy. At this point I am still using a cane to get around, but I am back at the Doyle Loft and starting next week I am down to once a week Therapy sessions.

Still life did go on during my down time, Although I missed about two and half months away from work I did get up to some things. Dina and I did a holiday road trip down the coast with stops in Pismo Beach, Santa Barbara, and San Diego which included a pretty good new years with our friends Todd and Virginia on their boat down in San Diego. We have also made it to a few concerts along the way, including my new favorite band Gogol Bordello, as well as Social Distortion, and just this last Monday Prince at the Oakland Coliseum.

I have even managed to get a little sailing in here and there, although for the most part it has me playing the part of passenger rather than active participant. Having said that the day before I buggered my ankle I did the Regatta PRO mid-winters out on the bay with Jeff Thorpe and a couple of others on the J-105 Roxanne, this was the first J-105 racing I have done since the boats where brand new and I have to say it was a lot of fun. Going out and winning both races didn't hurt, but it was very enjoyable day of light air mid-winter one-design racing.

I also managed to do two of the Golden Gate mid-winters, one on the Ocelot, and one with Steve on the Cal 40 Shaman. On Shaman I was planning on just sitting on the back and shooting some video, but they decided to make me the tactician instead, something I have never really done before. Let's just say that as a tactician I got a few things right, and few things wrong and leave it at that.

The big sailing news is that we have Gonzo back on the water as a racing sailboat again. I had originally ruptured my Achilles when we were dropping the mast to replace the standing rigging. As a result the mast was down for a couple of months before we finally got the boat over to Glen Hansen at Hansen Rigging. Glen got the standing rigging replaced, the rig back up and more importantly got the rig set up in such a way as that Gonzo has never been faster. We have been doing the Oakland Yacht Club Sunday Brunch series and with one race to go we lead our division by four or five points, not bad especially considering that we missed the first race.

I have an appointment with my Physical Therapist so I will add a few pictures later, also I hope to do some changes to the blog layout soon, as well as a full write up of the Sunday Brunch Series...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

2010 Big Boat Series

Last week I hit a couple of big milestones as far as sailing goes, I hit 25 years as a sailmaker, and did my fourteenth Big Boat Series here on the bay.

I always have mixed feelings about the Big Boat Series, it can be a cool event, but it can also be a nightmare if you do it on the wrong boat, or with the wrong crew. I have long passed the point where I "have" to do the Big Boat Series, partly because as a sailmaker the buildup to the Series can be such a shit fight that by the time the racing starts you can be so shattered that you just don't care anymore.

This year I did the series on the J-125 Double Trouble, which interestingly enough was the same J-125 that I did the series on in 2000, only then it was called Javelin. My buddy Patrick had asked me if I wanted to sail and knowing the level that he and the boat usually sail at it was a no brainer to accept.

The J-125 Double Trouble

Having said that a little bit of doubt began to creep in when our first "practice" consisted of just four of us going out on the boat to look at some sails and to check over the new hardware that had just been installed, this was followed by our second practice being canceled, with me then being unable to make the third practice because of my usual Wednesday night Estuary race. Another issue turned out to be the division that we ended up in. The division had been advertised as a "Lightweight IRC Sportboat" division consisting only of lightweight production boats that usually do not do well under the IRC rule. However included in this division was a newer custom built IRC race boat that had been specifically built with the IRC rule in mind. By putting this boat, Wasabi, in our division the race committee basically guaranteed that they would win every race.

As it turned my concerns about the lack of practice turned out to be unfounded. Patrick and Andy, the owner, had put together an awesome team that I have to say came together right from the very start. In fact I have to say it was a fun and cohesive a group that I have sailed with in a long time. I would sail with Andy C, Patrick, Bubba, Simon, Andy G, Mark, Tom, Gilles, Jodi, and Gina anytime. My concerns about Wasabi being in our division however were well founded as they did in fact go on to win every race of the series. That is however something that you can read about here...

Andy C and Bubba

The racing itself was a lot of fun. I ended up doing pit on the boat, which was something new for me. On the 125 the checkstays go to the cabin top winches so in addition to all of the usual halyard raising and lowering stuff we pit people, Gina and I, also had to deal with the runners as well as the pole and tack line stuff. The top mark rounding where a lot of fun as I would come off the rail, ease off the runner, then pull out the pole, when the pole was made Gina would pull out the tack line, then I would tail the spinnaker halyard on the hoist as Gina dropped the jib halyard, then we let off the outhaul and cunningham lines, flake the kite halyard and then I would turn around and grind downwind while Gina would tail the stays'l halyard.

My Chuck Taylors, still the best sailing shoes

At the bottom mark Gina would drop the stays'l halyard and I would try to remember to tighten up the outhaul and cunningham before tailing the jib halyard to the pre-set mark, Gina would then go down below to help gather the spinnaker. On the drop I would let the tack line off, watch Gilles and Tom on the bow gather the foot of the sail, once the foot was under control it was blow the spin halyard, making sure not to drop it too fast or too slow, and while doing this let the pole outhaul off and use the off side tack line to pull the pole in. Once this was done it was find the runner tail and get that on to the winch and grind that on as we rounded the mark. Then once we got going upwind try to find the right time to flake the jib halyard while sitting on the rail.

Patrick with his thinking cap on

We had one other J-125 to race against in our division. A boat called August Ice that had come down from Lake Tahoe. Due to some very minor differences between the boats they actually owed us a little bit of time on handicap, but for all intensive purpose's we were racing them boat for boat. What this led to was situation where August Ice would actually cross the line ahead of us, but sometimes we would beat them on corrected time. In the end I think they beat us boat for boat in five of the seven races, but we corrected out on them just enough to beat them in most of those races. What this did was lead to a last race showdown that had us in second with a two and a half point lead. Unfortunately for us however we hit the last bottom mark of race with a trailing spinnaker sheet and due to some confusion as to our options about taking a penalty we ended up dropping out of the race handing August Ice a very well deserved second place and dropping our selves into third.

Truth be told however August Ice beat us fair and square even before we dropped out of the last race. As I said they beat us boat for boat in more races and that was what really counts. Those guys sailed the boat really well, especially the last two days of the series when the winds got lighter. Their tactician, Seadon, did a nice job of always having them in the right place and I never saw them make a boat handling mistake the whole regatta. They deserved to win our division, and with Wasabi had been in its' correct division instead of ours they would have .

Monday, August 23, 2010

Let's try this again...

It would be crazy to say that this is the first time that I have had to sit down and blog in a while, but it is almost true. In the last month I have been to Santa Barbara twice, once to do the Santa Barbara-King Harbor race, and once to see Billy Idol! And in between those two trips we have been to Chicago for the Lollapalooza concerts and a little site seeing.

Racing City Lights in the Santa Barbara-King Harbor race

We have also this summer moved off the boat, after spending a bunch of time and money cleaning it up and have moved it to Richard Boland Yachts where we hope it sells in some kind of reasonable time frame. You can check out the listing here...

Hey! Where did the Lobster Telephone go?

I also have quit working for Glacier Bay and have gone back to work at the Doyle loft. The move back to the Doyle loft has been kind of bittersweet. While I love making sails, and am pretty good at it at this point, in some ways it is a backwards step, especially financially. If I could figure a way out to make money making sails I would probably do it for the rest of my life, as it is, I really do need to start making some real money one day.

Ajax helping me with some spinnaker graphics

Throw in the usual Wednesday and Friday night races, plus some other random sailing, the second season opener on Twisted, a Richmond yacht club fun race on Raven, where does the time go?

Speaking of the Wednesday and Friday nights it just hasn't come together like it did last year. Losing Cameron really hurt us, both in our level of sailing, but even more so in the fun factor. Jeff of course is great to sail with, but both of us miss having that third person around to push us over the edge. Two years ago it was Steve, last year it was Cameron, this year... Let's just say that we are still looking.

Cameron, we miss you buddy.

Another thing that has been going on lately is death. Within the span of a month I lost both my grandfather (mothers side) and my Grandmother (fathers side). I had seen them both on my last trip back to England in March and while both where in their late eighties/early nineties and had begun to show real signs of slowing down, it was a little shocking to lose them both so suddenly. I will miss them both a great deal. My grandmother for being the great character that she was who did it her way and dammed what you thought about it, and my grandfather who as one of my cousins said, was the best man he knew.

James Ashley R.I.P.

On the plus side we are still living in this magnificent house that Jeff described as a "mini Hearst Castle" and that is working out really well for us. Last night and tonight have been really warm out and I have been taking advantage of it by basically living outside on the back patio the whole time. Even Ajax and Frida just hang out outside the weather has been so nice.

Not a mini Hearst Castle

Anyway, not much of a post, but I promise I will be writing more here soon.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Into the new...

So, this will be the first post from the new digs, we are officially off the boat and into the new place. I am actually sitting in my bathrobe in the back yard overlooking the Bay, big mug of coffee in hand, Ajax frolicking in the garden, and playing around on the laptop. All in all you could say that I am transitioning to the life of a landlubber just fine.

Ajax basking on the hot tub.

We moved up here last weekend, but because of work I really haven't had a chance to sit down and relax much up here yet. We had a lot on last week at the loft with the Spinnaker Cup on Thursday, and the three day weekend after that. It all added up to the probably the most hours I have worked in a single week since my America's Cup days almost a decade ago (holy shit, was it that long ago?)

Still we did manage to squeeze in a Wednesday night race on the Gonzo, which saw us return to form, if not in the standings, we got third, but at least with our on the water attitude and interactions with our competitors. We also had a ring side seat to the very hard grounding of the One-Design 35 Dark n' Stormy inside the restricted zone off of Coast Guard Island. Luckily no one was hurt, but it sure was scary to watch.

Other than that not a lot going on, Ajax is adjusting nicely to the new place and enjoys going to the loft with me a couple of days a week. His schedule with his trainers got changed around a little so now he is walking with a whole new pack of dogs and seems to be doing well with it. Frida is struggling with the move a little, but no doubt she will adjust as cats do.

This weekend we will get the last of our stuff off of the Lobster T, maybe have a couple of folks over for a Bar-B-Q tomorrow, and maybe a short sale on Gonzo on Monday. Should be a nice relaxing three day weekend.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ride down the coast pictorial.

If a picture is worth thousand words, then I am about to save myself a lot of typing. Here are some of the pictures I took of our delivery of the Santa Cruz 52 City lights from Alameda to Santa Barbara last weekend.

Leaving the dock at Marina Village.

Passing under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Bob and Bones keeping the bean bag chairs from blowing away.

Tom on the wheel.

At the dock in Monterey, the barricades are to keep the seal lions off the dock.

The restaurant we spent the night under, note all the Sea Lions on the dock.

There was a lot of blood on the docks in Monterey, fish I assume.

Sailing by the numbers at night.

David bundled up from the early morning chill.

Letting the auto-pilot do it's thing.

Lot's of oil seeping into the water in the Santa Barbara channel

The sun finally comes out, virtually in sight of the harbor.

Bones, Dominic, David, David, Bob, Hawk, and Tom. Joined by Archie on our safe arrival in Santa Barbara.

For the drive back we got an un-marked police car.

The drive back up 101.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Not dead yet...

Well, it's what May 8th and I am able to sit down for practically the first time since February 16th and maybe try to bring this thing back to life. So, where have I been, what's my excuse? How come so long between posts? Simple really, I have a real job (kind of, more on that later) and that is taking up a lot of my time. Plus, as we shall see, there is a lot of other stuff going on these days.

Last night I returned from Deltaville, Virginia. Not was only this the 2nd time I have been out there in the last month, it was the second time I had flown across country in the last week. So far this year I have done about 25 flights. I have flown across country four times, to Europe once, and to Asia once. The near future may involve trips to Wisconsin, Malaysia, and Australia. Also there is definitely a trip to Chicago in the works.

Having said that, not all of these trips have been work related. The trip to Europe was to see family and attend my grandfathers 90th birthday celebration, a trip to Florida was a straight up vacation down the Florida keys, and the trip to Michigan earlier this week was to see Dina's sister in-law graduate from the University of Michigan and to see President Obama do the commencement speech.

As to the important stuff we won the Oakland Yacht Club Sunday brunch series on Gonzo with three firsts, a second, and a third. Also we are now fully into the spring beer can season on the Estuary. We are entered in the Oakland Wednesday night series, and the Encinal and Island yacht club Friday night series'. Actually Dina has been taking Gonzo out with her girlfriends for the Encinal series and has actually had the best results of any of us so far with a second and third.

Sadly though we have lost Cameron from the Gonzo crew as he has moved back east to a new job. It's too bad really as he was a big part of the fun and success that we had last year. No doubt we will survive, but it just isn't quite the same without him.

Good luck Cameron, you will be missed

One big thing that is also happening is that we are moving off of the Lobster Telephone. The fact that I got three plus years out of Dina on this boat is frankly the best I could have hoped for. But, the lure of things like closet space and a real kitchen have been calling her like a Siren for a while now, so alas we will be moving off of and putting the LT up for sale here in the near future. I wonder if this means that I should change the name of this blog?

House for sale

As for me and work I have kind of relegated myself to a part time position at Glacier Bay, basically working on call from home for them, and have returned to the sail loft to work as much as I can within the confines of the Glacier Bay job. It's a little cumbersome at the moment, but it will work itself out as we move forward I'm sure.

Ajax above the Carquinez Straits

As for you Ajax fans you will be happy to hear that he has grown up quite a lot and seems to have mellowed out considerably. He is still only two and not a lot smarter, but has lost a lot of that puppy craziness and energy. Also on the plus side he hasn't eaten a remote or a pair of sunglasses in a few months now.

Lot's of stuff happening in the near future, sailing and otherwise, and I will update as I can.