Thursday, May 28, 2009

Stinking up the joint

Last night was a Wednesday night race like we haven't had in a while.

For openers, there was little bit more breeze than typical and from a different direction than usual as well. Also for the first time this spring the race committee gave us a course other than course two. This meant the long course with an offset mark. As is becoming the norm for Wednesday night it was just Jeff, Cameron, and I. I keep inviting folks to come play, but nobody ever does.

We watched the first two starts, including a very interesting Columbia 5.5 start in which at least two boats were over early, but since the committee didn't call it only Kevin turned back while Adam kept going. As for our start, it was my turn to drive and boy did I stuff it up badly. We got a little too far down the line and I had to turn down to kill speed and as result kind of got us pinned up against the shore right after the gun. This resulted in a huge duck of a starboard tacker on the way back out.

Of course this allowed our main competition to get away from us. Usually we get a good start and hold these guys off for a while. Not this time though. We had an ok first beat and came into the top mark to do a rare, for the Estuary, bear away set. Unfortunately we had all kinds of problems on the set as the spin halyard jumped the shieve, and we tore the kite on the way up. 

A no wake buoy is the weather mark!

So now we are sailing with a big hole in the kite and a long way back from our principle competition. It could have been worse I suppose, one of our competitors missed the wind shift, gybe-set, and then had to crash gybe right away to get away from the shore. I figured that the kite would hold up for the run, but had forgotten about the fact that we would have to head up quite a bit to clear the restricted start-finish line after the offset mark. We also had the issue of whether the kite would come down or not?

Jeff trimming the kite.

As it turns out we got one out of the two. The kite held, but the halyard didn't come down as we rounded and headed to a wingmark across the Estuary. With Jeff and I both pulling on the thing we got it down far enough to unclip the sail, but the halyard is still jammed in the shieve. I was feeling kind of bummed that the boat had not been set up right and told those guys that if they wanted to bail it was ok with me. Both of them said they were cool with carrying on as we had enough beer and good enough wind. 

Cameron, beer and tiller in hand.

For the second upwind rounding we dropped the jib, untied the halyard that was on the roller furling swivel, and tied that to our back up kite. The back up kite is the original HONEYBEAR kite that came with the boat. 


It's a very pridefull red, orange, yellow, and blue affair that was probably built during the last days of the Ford administration. Still it did what it was supposed to and got us around the course ok. In some ways we might sail better with the honeybear kite as we are all so busy not looking at other boats to hide our shame that we might concentrate more on our own sailing. 

Two old tired sails.

After an early drop, untie of halyard, re-tie halyard to jib, hoist jib rounding we finally finished the race. Despite all of these and some other problems, such as a broken tiller extension, a slipping too small jib halyard, and some horrible rig tune issues. I don't think that Jeff, Cameron, and I ever stopped laughing the whole time. It was actually one of the more fun races I have done in a while. Mostly because of the attitudes of the two guys I was sailing with. We were just happy to be out there sailing, racing, drinking beer, and talking shit.

We ended up sixth for the race, by far our worst result of the year. It's funny to hear the guys on the Islander 36 who have been winning the races talk in the bar. They get horrible starts, their sails and boat handling are average at best, and they sail with a dirty bottom. Yet because they are by the far the biggest boat in our fleet they soon pass everyone and sail away to the win. But to hear them talk about it it is all because they are sailing better than everyone else. But, whatever, it will give us motivation to get the boat sorted out better and go out and beat them. 

Monday, May 25, 2009

Spinnaker Cup

Last Friday I did the Spinnaker Cup, a nice little 88 mile race from San Francisco down to Monterrey. This is one of the more fun downwind coastal races out of the bay. It is the earliest of the three coastal races, and as such it is usually the windiest. I actually wrote a blog post about the 2006 race as one of my all time favorite races.

My ride this year was the Farr 40 Twisted. This was our first real race for Twisted as the boat had only been splashed here in the bay a week before. While we all hoped to do well, I think that we all viewed the trip as more of a shakedown run, and a chance to get to know the boat better as much as anything. The forecast leading up to the race had been a bit of a mixed bag, some southerlies (bad), and generally lighter than hoped. As it turned out the forecast was mostly spot on. We started off in a southerly, but it slowly clocked around and we got the kite up about a quarter way down the track. It was however a little lighter than hoped. 

As we were the second start we got to sit back and watch the fun that is the big boats starting. The line was very biased towards the committee boat end and as a result there was a huge pile up. Three of the class zero boats got squeezed out and had to restart, but the best part was watching our friends on the big red boat, Cinnabar, lead the fleet off the line.

Cinnabar leads the A fleet

Our start was also a little frantic with Mike driving and Patrick calling a pretty sweet start of our own. We did shove the Sydney 38 Low Speed Chase over the line, but it was there own fault as they got there a little early and had nowhere else to go. As is often the case in these situations some pleasantries were exchanged, but it was all in good fun and they have probably forgiven us by now.

We led the fleet out of the bay and then set off down the coast. As I said earlier the first part of the race was all upwind. We had the medium headsail up at the start and continued to use it as we headed down the coast. We had figured that we would be changing to the light as we got out the Gate, but the wind held as we began our uphill slog towards Monterrey. We managed to sail into the tail-enders of the A fleet before the wind began to slowly shift around enough to begin thinking about off wind sails.

At first we went to a code zero type headsail, but even as we were putting it up we knew that we were going to be putting up the spinnaker right away. Due to some confusion with the local rating people though we couldn't fly our masthead spinnakers, just the fractional ones. As a result the boat never really got going in the moderate breezes that we ended up sailing in. One thing that surprised me was how much a Farr 40 loads up. Even in windspeed in the low to mid-teens the boat felt loaded up and hard to get going. I would imagine Twisted is going to be a handful to manage in any kind of breeze in the ocean. The boat also fell into and out of trim very fast. It is a hard boat to keep going fast. 

Christine, Anne, Paul, and Tony

They actually let me drive for a short period but I fired myself pretty quickly as we got caught and passed by another boat almost immediately. It was hard for me to get dialed in with the wind and the waves, and I found it hard to keep the boat on track. I thought that I got better as I went, but I was pretty relieved when Mike came back on deck and I could hand the helm off to someone else. 

We did get pretty close to the Antrim 40 XL to get some good pictures at about this point, but they then gybed into the beach and we never saw them again after that. We also had to choose whether to go into the beach or stay offshore ourselves. Inshore usually pays on this race, but the winds had not been normal and after much discussion we decided to stay offshore in the breeze that we were in and hoped that it hadn't filled in more on the shore. We eventually ended up between twelve and fifteen miles View Larger Map" offshore, but it seemed to pay as we had wind the whole time.

The Antrim 40 XL

The coolest part for me was the ride across Monterrey Bay after the sun went down. It was moonless with a low cloud cover. So it was almost impossible to see the spinnaker luff in those conditions so trimming became a real issue. We drove almost completely by the numbers on the instruments. 145-150 true wind angle seemed to be the magic number. I had heard about people just driving off of the numbers at night before but this was the first time I had really seen it.

Patrick called us a really nice angle into Monterrey, which conveniently enough is where he is from and learned to sail, and we finished with the kite up at about midnight. We were first to finish in our division correcting out to third in our division of eleven, and tenth overall out of fifty-seven total in the fleet. So at least we did get a podium finish on our first ocean race. Hopefully the first of many.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Team Gonzo in mid-season form...

Last night was one of the better Wednesday nights of the year so far. Just a good mellow boat race on the Estuary in what turned out to be really nice conditions.

Jeff,  Cameron, and I represented team Gonzo as a threesome last night. I think four is probably the ideal number for Estuary races, but five doesn't hurt us. Three is tough as it is nice to have the extra hand for busy mark roundings, especially for spinnaker take-downs. 

Going to be a crowd at the bottom mark

As we have no watch between the three of us I end up using my phone to get the countdown to the start. This works ok until the screen saver kicks in and we lose the countdown, usually at some critical moment. Seeing as I am the one who knows how to operate the phone best, and I then like to hit the tracker button right as we start it is usually easier to have someone else drive. Last night it was Cameron's turn.

Cameron and Jeff, the "A" team

Cameron got us a great start, crossing the fleet  on port with speed just at the gun. One of our neighbors here on the dock even commented about it to us afterwards. Jeff has always been able to call good starts for others, he used to do it for Steve on the 5.5, and he and Cameron nailed this one together. One thing I like about the Oakland Yacht club race committee is that they do try to mix things up a little. Last night it was reversing the starting order so that the smaller boats go first with the bigger boats going last. 

Watching the 5.5s start

Sometimes they will try reverse courses so we get downwind starts as well. Not everything they do works, but at least they try new things and I am all for that.

Being in front of the fleet on the first beat really allowed us to sail our own race for once. We did get rolled by an Islander 36, who you would think should be racing against the 37 fters in the A fleet, late in the beat but it was one of the better first legs we have had in a long time. A really sweet gybe-set at the top mark and we were off downwind maybe two boat lengths behind the Islander, who had a badly wrapped spin. 

Still on a one-sided Estuary course like we had last night waterline is king and the Islander eventually began to sail away from us. We also got caught by a Moore 24 which my friend Dave has just bought into. 

Dave's Moore not in mid-season form

Since it was only his second or third time racing on the boat, and since they owed us a ton of time and were behind us, I started giving him advice on how to set things up better. We had him adjust his pole and twing trim, and got them a little better situated in the boat. This turned out to be a mistake as they sailed away from us big time on the second run. 

A good drop at the bottom with traffic all around us set us up for a relatively uneventful second lap, which was highlighted by what might have been the best gybe-set we have ever done on Gonzo. These roundings have led to some discussion on board as to whether we should replace the furling headstay or not. It has been so nice just to bang the jib away on the furler, or wait till the last second to unroll it at the bottom mark. 

Jib on furler coming into bottom mark

But we do loose a little bit of sail area, and we are carrying the weight of the drum and the aluminum headstay. Making a really nice racing head sail and getting the rig tuned right are going to be priorities, but furler or no furler needs to be decided soon. 

The final highlight of the race was a very fun drag race to the finish against a Cal 29 that rounded maybe five seconds behind us. Once again Cameron did a nice job driving and we held them off to cross the line maybe 2 or 3 seconds ahead. Our final result was third with the Islander and the Moore both saving their time on us. 

Drag racing the Cal 29

As is almost a tradition for post Wednesday night racing we then headed over to Calafia Taqueria over on Webster street here in Alameda. Very Tasty soft taco's for $1.85 each. Three of those and a Pacifico is the best way to wind down after a mid-week Estuary race.

Calafia Taqueria

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Warm Weekend Fun

It has been a warm couple of days here down on the boat. At least being on the water gives us some cooling breeze and that helps a bit. 

Friday night I got out on Tony and Mikes' new to them Farr 40 for it's maiden race. We did the Island Yacht club race which is probably the smaller of the various Estuary beer can races. This meant that we were by far the biggest boat out there, almost obnoxiously so. Since it was the first time that the boat, which will be called Twisted (follow the link from here), had been out things were taken a little conservatively for the most part. Also since it was the first time out for the boat we had about ten extra family and friends aboard, which made it more fun.

Twisted (ex-Victrix)

We flew the code zero instead of the spinnaker the first couple of times downwind, before finally putting up a kite for the last downwind run. I hooked up what I had been told was the masthead kite only for us to discover that in fact it was a fractional kite. This meant a quick bareheaded change as Farr 40's only have a single masthead halyard. Still it was a good night out and I think that we will have a lot of fun on this boat in the future. The joke is that my official job on the boat will be 'media officer", so hopefully I will be taking some video and pictures as we go along.

Saturday was spent up at Tom and Barbara's house in the Oakland hills. T+B have an awesome house and we have been kind of housesitting for them as they slowly transition to a new place. The view alone would make this house fantastic, but the house itself is also really nice. It's one of those places were everything is just done right. The layout, and the way space is used, things like that. It is kind of hard to explain, but once you spend some time there you begin to realize that the way everything works together has been very well thought out and executed.

The only bummer about our stay up there was the eating of Dina's Blackberry by Ajax. 

Blackberries yum...

It already had a couple of teeth marks in it from a previous attempt, but he finished it off completely this time. However the pork loin that Dina prepared and that we ate on the outdoor patio almost made up for it.

Sunday was Dina's birthday and after a morning of running around getting Dina a new phone, and some light house(boat?) cleaning we had Kirsten and RT over for dinner and a couple of drinks. RT did a tri-tip on the bar-b-q which was excellent. 

Bar-B-Q on the bow

Another thing that happened on Sunday was that Ajax has all of a sudden decided that it is ok to go up on the bow of the boat, something that he had never shown any interest in doing before. 
Kirsten and Ajax on the bow

Sunday's party turned out to be a good one. Kirsten even got out on the kayak for a while, although getting into it proved a little problematic, and we had to give her a blanket to keep her warm and dry later. I think the final tally of empties yesterday morning was 1 twelve pack of Tecate, 3 bottles of wine, 1 bottle of Champagne, and a bottle of rum. the rum and the at least one of the bottles of wine had already been opened, so it might not be as bad as it sounds. 

On a final note a strange thing happened to my bike over the weekend. It seems that somebody tried to steal the rear wheel off of it. They got the nuts off the rear axle, but couldn't get the screw off of the coaster break. they did however leave some of the nuts and washers lying around so I have about half of the parts back. Strange goings on indeed...

Who stole my nut's?

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Graduate

I will spare you the details of last Wednesday's Estuary race, we got third and my fancy race tracker thing didn't work, and go back in time to graduation weekend and all that went down then.

I was a little nervous going into graduation weekend for a couple of reasons. One, I had a small doubt about whether I was going to pass one of my classes, and two, we had so many people in town for the event. We had Dina's mother and brother, my Dad and Pauline, of course my Mother, Josh, and Joe were going to be around, then throw in Pete, Deb, and Steve who all made trips out for the party. 

I had been told that I was going to be receiving some kind of special award and that I should be at school three hours before graduation to receive this award. I figured the award was some kind of certificate for making the Deans list, so I really didn't think it was that big of a deal. As it turns out the award was for "students in the maritime community who excel in maritime education and have the potential to be future maritime leaders". Hmm, who knew? It also came with a $1000 check! Apparently the look on my face when they called my name was pretty good. 

Thank you very much.
The rest of the day went really well. I think this might have been the first time in twenty something years that my mother and father had been in the same room at the same time, so it was fun to give them the tour of the campus and have them watch me graduate. Sadly the ship had been declared off limits, due to Swine Flu concerns, but the rest of the campus was open and all went well, and I ended up receiving my diploma without any drama.

The Graduate
Sunday was the day of the big party. We had some rain early in the morning and although the forecast said it was going to clear up later the decision was made to move the party over to gate eleven here at Marina Village. The gate eleven folks have a pretty sweet set up with a covered patio area, barb-b-q grills, and a fire pit all in place. This turned out to be a pretty
 inspired move as everything went perfect once we got going. 

Dina and I
It was great that so many people showed up. I figure that we had between 75 and a 100 people show up in the end. Lot's of old friends, lot's of sailing friends, lot's of family. 
Jeff, Pete, Me, and Steve
We ended up staying out late, singing songs by the fire pit, which was actually a tub from a washing machine mounted on a steel frame.

I pretty much cleaned up on the booze front. We have since had to convert our onboard wine rack into a rum rack. The coolest gift however was a jacket that was worn by the Captain of the Titanic, in the movie Titanic, complete with a certificate of authenticity. 

Tom and the Captains Jacket
It might be a prop jacket with fake buttons and no liner, but it was really fun gift that I got to wear off and on throughout the day, usually taking it off when it got too hot.

All in all a very good couple of days. It was great to see everyone, and it was great to finally graduate. All I need to do now is find a real job.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Good Morning!! woof, woof, Meow... grrr...

It is way too early here on the Lobster T. It seems that the dog trying to eat the cat at 5am signals wake up time for all of us here in the aft cabin. It's 630 now and Dina has just gotten back from the gym, so as you can see things are moving along way to fast.

Cameron and I did the Encinal Friday night race on Gonzo double handed this time. 

Some attempts were made to find more crew, but since the decision to sail was made late it was just the two of us. We seem to be settling into a pattern on these races. A good start, followed by a decent first beat, then we usually lose a boat at about the 1st mark rounding and then just kind of drop back. I wish I could figure out what it is about us that causes us to drop back as the race goes on.

Saturday was leaving day, Dina's mother and brother left on Amtrak early in the morning, then we took Pete to Oakland airport a couple of hours later. This meant that we were guestless for the first time in a couple of weeks. So Saturday became a day of catching up on laundry and general housecleaning. This meant a great purge of all of my school clothes and a lot more closet space. yay...

Saturday night was out to watch the fireworks on our friend Jacks' 73ft Viking motor yacht. I think we probably had 45 people on board, yet the boat didn't seem over crowded at all. I have to admit I really didn't pay that much attention to the fireworks, but they didn't seem to be as good as years past. Still it was great night out and fun was had by all.

I don't really have any more good photos to post so here is a shot of Jeff and I (and my belly) on Wednesday night.

Yesterday we went out on a day sail on City Lights, the Santa Cruz 52. It was actually a really good mellow day sail. No real excitement, other than a couple of rousing 10-11 knot jib reaches across the slot. We had the kite up for a while form about the Bay Bridge to about half way down the Estuary, but took it down when we encountered two large ships in the turning basin near Jack London Square and decided to let them have the right of way. 

All in all a good few days, and last night I think I was in bed at 915, dog tired.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Back on the water

So I did graduate last Saturday with much pomp and family fun, and I will write all about that as  soon as I get some pictures sorted out. But just as importantly our first Wednesday night race of the season was last night and it was a good one. 

Joining Dina and I on Gonzo this season will be Jeff and Cameron, with Pete making a guest appearance for this race. Sadly it was kind of a small turnout with maybe 30 boats out, it was also pretty light especially at the start. Although it did fill in enough for us to get in a good race. 

As is usual with the Oakland Yacht Club things got changed up a little between us picking up the race instructions and the start of the race. They decided to start all the lower rated boats together instead of a separate start for the multihulls and the monohulls. This led to some confusion as we tried to explain to the J-124 that they needed to get out of our way, and them asking if we were sure as there competition sailed away. 

Our start consisted of every boat with a phrf rating of 100 or greater that was not in a one design fleet. There was enough flood running so that being early wasn't a problem, so we did a kind of port tack approach, tacked in front of a bunch of boats that were all a running a little late, tacked back over to port at about ten seconds and led the fleet away pretty smartly if I do say so myself. 

We rounded second behind an Islander 36 and despite a wrap on the set we still had a better hoist than them. Downwind we had pretty equal boatspeed with the Islander and the two of us extended on the rest of our fleet. After a good drop we had to sail across the Estuary to another mark which required us to tack to clear a pier, the Islander laid the mark without tacking, which was huge gain for them. Then on the long upwind to the weather mark we got a knock about half way up which another boat in our fleet didn't get and they got ended up getting us by the top mark.

We had some problems getting the spinnaker up the second time for some reason. It may have been the that the halyard had jumped off the sheave, but whatever it was we eventually got the kite up. This of course led to some worry as to whether we were going to be able to get the thing down at the bottom mark, and what we would have to do if in fact we couldn't get it down. However the crack foredeck team of Pete, Jeff, and Dina got it all worked out and the sail came down after a couple of mighty tugs. 

In the end we ended up third which was probably a fair result all things considered. Still it was great to be back out on the water on Wednesday night and I am really looking forward to doing 15 more of these this summer.

I have this really cool application on my phone which tracks and records our races and then puts them on top of google earth. We didn't get the first lap, but here is the record of the second lap.