Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday post about a couple of nice sails.

Why does it seem that I had more time for blogging when I went to school than now, when I have all this extra free time?

It has been a busy week at work which explains some of it. After a slower than normal summer we are now backed up through the end of November, which might be the biggest backlog that we have had this year. That is kind of ironic in some ways as I figured that once the Big Boat Series was over things would drop off and I could start looking for a "real" job. Something which I have started to do.

Speaking of Big Boat Series here is a link to a video that made of the the Cal 40 class and then posted on their website.

We had a couple of good sails last weekend. First it was the final Island Yacht Club Friday night race of the season. I am beginning to like the Island races more and more as they are usually a little longer and they keep us down the Estuary further. Maybe it's just the change of pace from the sameness of the Encinal and the Oakland races. But, I am starting to enjoy them more and more.

We watched the starts of the previous fleets with some amusement as the Island race committee sets a pretty short line. The first start was the non-spinnaker boats, but apparently the Farr 40 Twisted didn't get the memo. So we got to watch Twisted storm in and make a mess of things before figuring it out and getting clear. This however was just a warm up for the big show, which was the A-fleet start. Between the Farr 40, the J-124, a Jenneau 35, plus about 5 other boats it was just chaotic. The Farr came in fast and way too early, ran out of room against the shoreline and had to tack over to port right in front of the starting boats on starboard. Somehow there was no contact, but there was certainly a lot of yelling going on. This start even got it's own thread on sailing anarchy.

Our own start, driven by Jeff was relatively sedate by comparison. We crossed tacks with an Olson 25 and even the Moore 24 for a while, before getting into our own breeze and sailing our own race. We rounded the top mark with the Tarten 30 and watched them pull away from us like they always do. We had some fun with a Santana 22 at the bottom mark, pulling away from them after a pretty sweet weather douse that they could not match. We probably still ended up deep, but it was great night for sailing that we made better by taking a stereo along with us and cranking it up for most of the race.

Sunday we went for a very pleasant day sail on City Lights. This time we were joined by Tom and Barbara who sailed on their boat for the first time in what may have been a couple of years. We did the usual Bay tour around Angel Island, up to Sausalito , followed by a nice run down the Central Bay. We then put the spinnaker up for the run across the city front and into the Estuary. It was actually a very nice day out. Cameron and his girlfriend Amanda joined us as well as a few of the City Lights regulars, two of the Dave's and their various entourage's. Here is a link to our course track just for the fun of it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sweet 16 series wrap up.

Well, that's it for the Wednesday night races. Kind of sad really as they are probably my favorite beer can races on the Estuary. A nice way to break up the week in a low key, yet fun kind of way.

It all ended up on a good note last night though. Bill joined Cameron, Jeff, and I on the Moore for the final race. Cameron drove, Jeff ran the middle of the boat, and I did bow. Usually Bill likes to just come along for the ride, but this time we actually put him to work pulling lines from the pit and doing a little jib grinding for Jeff. Also he was our beer hander-outer, a very important role on any boat.

The race committee had promised us something special for the last race, but instead they just ran a single lap to the far upwind mark at Jack London Square. Cameron got us a good start in the middle of the line avoiding both the pile up at the pin and the gaggle of port tackers on the shore. We tacked right away easily crossing the Islander and then looked back to see Vince and the blue boat get into a shoving match. All I saw was the blue boat sail straight into Vince and Vince reach out and shove them out of the way.

From then on it was just a matter of covering the Islander up the course. Jeff and Cameron finally got the main on the Moore looking somewhat decent by wailing on both the cunningham and backstay to levels that you would usually see in 25kts of breeze, not the 8 to 10kts that we had last night. It was good to finally sail our own race from the front of the fleet. Not getting sucked too high into the Alameda side up at the houseboats, not having to sail in the dirty air of the bigger boats in our class, stuff like that.

We had a decent rounding and set off for the bottom mark. We had some issues getting by one of the 5.5s that had started 5 minutes ahead of us, but we managed to finally get over the top of them and then squeeze them off at the mark. I almost felt bad for Keith and Kathy on the 5.5. They had about a two boat lead over a pack of three boats about 3/4 of the way down the run only to get run down and end up coming out of the mark in third, to then get rolled by Vince to lose more time.

At the bottom mark we executed a pretty good weather drop and then proceeded to camp on the Islander all the way to the finish. The finish was a little bit anti-climatic though, as we shot the line fully expecting to hear a gun, all we heard was silence. The Islander which finished a minute behind us though did get a gun. WTF? We were all a little miffed by this and I actually called the race committee to ask them what happened. We got some b.s. excuse about a "miscommunication" and was told that we did in fact win. Whatever... This was the third time this season that we had been not finished by the race committee for whatever reason.

So in sailing the Moore to a second and two firsts in the final three races. This was enough to put us in fourth place overall in our division. I have to say that this has been a fun series despite the results. Jeff and Cameron have been a lot of fun to sail with and I don't think anybody who has heard us out there doubts that we are having a good time. Also thanks to Dina, Jessie, Dan (Sid), Bill, John, Jill, Joe, Roxanne, Jeff's friend (Ben maybe?) and anybody I may have forgotten for coming out with us. Also thanks to Tony and Mike for letting us take the Moore and salvaging some respect for ourselves on Wednesday nights.

Monday, September 14, 2009

2009 Big Boat Series.

Over the last few days I have been sailing in the Big Boat Series. This is something like my 13th or 14th series and I have to say it might have been one of the least painful ones that I have done. Usually the Monday after Big Boats I am a mess. I am usually tired, bruised, hungover, and just done with sailing for while. This time however I am actually in pretty good shape, no visible bruising, I got plenty of sleep, and I am looking forward to going sailing on Wednesday night on the Moore again.

Speaking of the Moore we did the Oakland Wednesday night race on it again the evening before the series. Things didn't start to well as we lost the main halyard up the bottom of the mast and I had to go up to the top of the mast on a borrowed harness to get things sorted out. Steve had driven up from L.A. to do the series with us and he drove the Moore on Wednesday, joining Cameron, Jeff, and I. The race committee decided to change things up and started us downwind on a reverse course from usual. We got a great start and pretty much led the entire way around only getting passed on the final run to the finish by a Wabbit that owed us a ton of time. We easily took the win for the first time this season.

Thursday the series itself started and it was off to San Francisco for the first of four days of racing. My ride this year was the Cal 40 Shamen. I have raced on Shamen in the last couple of Golden Gate mid-winters and enjoyed it enough that when they invited me to do Big Boats with them I had no hesitation saying yes. Our division only had six boats, the minimum required to get a one-design start but it figured to be pretty competitive as all of the boats are equally slow. I guess the resemble the Colombia 5.5s in that respect. We had done a couple of local races as practice and even though we had finished second out of the three Cal 40's in those races I felt we would be competitive in the series itself.

What we didn't count on though was that one of the Cal 40's that had not been racing in the practice races, Gone With the Wind, had a pretty stacked crew and had obviously been prepared by someone who knew what they where doing. I saw my old boss from North Sails as well as an Olympic sailor onboard. The boat was also seemed immaculately prepared with a very good bottom, deck hardware, and sails. I kind of figured as soon as I saw that we would be racing for second.

Interestingly enough GWtW didn't win the first race, a boat named Henry Hannah won that, followed by GWtW . We ended up third. The race itself was pretty funny in that the race committee sent us on the shortest course that they had. Windward, downwind finish. This kind of set the tone for our races with us getting very easy courses, which suited me just fine. The 2009 series will I think go down as one of the lighter series' in the events history. While I think the wind did get above 20kts one day, for the most part we had really nice breeze in about the mid-teens. This combined with a relatively weak flood tide made for a pretty mellow series conditions wise.

The second race of the first day we got caught out on the wrong side of a tug and barge that was cruising across the race track. We were probably in second place when we got to the tug and as we watched the rest of our fleet sail behind it we got caught out on the outside and by the time we got behind them we were in last place by a lot. We did get one boat back by the end to finish 5th but it was a pretty sad turn of events. So after the first day we had eight points and were tied for third. Two boats had seven points, and GWtW had 3 points. Not the beginning we had hoped for.

Fridays first race was probably the wettest, and coldest of the series. I think it was on the edge of which sail to use, the one or the three. We chose the one and it seemed to be the right call. although by the top of the course it was obvious that we would be switching to the three. It just happened that we also tore the one at the last tack of the beat so we couldn't use it the rest of the day anyway. As it turned out this kind of turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the wind kind of died down at the bottom of the course and a couple of the boats kept their ones up. not having that option we stuck with the three and expected to get hurt in the lighter breeze, however when the breeze came back up again the boats carrying the ones now began to suffer.We ended up second in the first race and actually managed to win the second race of the day. This was nice as the the race committee likes to finish the last race of the day in front of the club, so everybody got to see us take the win.

Saturday we awoke to the sound of thunder and rain, something we don't get very often here in the Bay Area. Also I had to go to the loft early to fix a couple of sails before heading over to the city. At this point we had closed the gap to first place to 5 points, a big gap, but with three races still to go hopefully we could build on our success of the previous day and still take it. Sadly it was not to be. We ended up third in the first race with GWtW taking another win. Now we also had the problem of the third place boat only being a point behind us. At this point we had to basically concede first just to make sure we didn't drop back into third. The second race on Saturday turned out to be one of our better ones as we led most of the way around the track, only giving up the lead about 100 yards from the last mark before the short run down to the finish. I think we worried about the tide too much and just did to many tacks into the beach to stay out of the incoming flood tide and it cost us the lead right at the finish.

The last day turned out to be a little anti-climatic. Gone With the Wind had already sewn up first place and didn't even need to sail but did the honourable thing and came out anyway. The wind really never filled in and the race committee waited for about an hour before they decided there was enough pressure to start the races. We where actually lucky in that on the other course, they run two separate starting areas, they only started on class and then abandoned racing for the day. The one race they did start was eventually abandoned also.

For us the race was all about covering the third place boat Azure. We had a three point cushion on them and would have had to screw up pretty badly to lose second, but stranger things have happened. We traded first with GWtW up the first beat and they just got ahead of us at the first mark. We were just about to round in second when Far Far which had been over early at the start came screaming in from nowhere having taken a huge flyer to the other side of the race course and stormed around inside of us at the mark. We also let Henry Hannah get by us on the next leg, but we still had Azure behind us so all was still ok. After rounding and setting the kite in front of the yacht club's we headed down to the bottom mark off of Treasure Island. We played what I thought was a pretty high risk strategy of staying in close to the city front while the other boats all went out closer to Alcatraz. Ultimately though our strategy payed off and we passed the second and third place boats and gained a lot on the first place GWtW. By this time though the wind had dropped to almost nothing and the committee had decided to end the race at the bottom mark. Even though we got to within about a boat length of GWtW we couldn't catch them. They took the win and we got second, which is where we both finished for the series.

Sorry about the lack of pictures, I just didn't have time to really get any of anything interesting.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

1 Moore Wednesday

As Dina likes to say, there is just to much life in my life. The last week has been like the last month, just to much stuff going on.

Last Wednesday Jeff, Cameron, and I took out a borrowed (thanks again Tony and Mike) Moore 24 to do the OYC race. I never felt that we had sailed the Santana that badly and that our results where more based on the lack of a decent headsail and a harsh rating than our sailing ability. So, in order to prove this to both ourselves and to our competitors we borrowed the Moore which has better sails, and a much fairer rating.

The Moore 24

The Moore was called Kangaroo Court, but we entered it as Gonzo "B" in order to avoid paying a second entry fee. This Moore actually has quite a history having been sailed to Hawaii double handed at one point. I also did the Moore 24 nationals on it sometime in the 90's out of the Tiburon Yacht Club with some friends out of Santa Cruz. It was then bought by a lady who thought it would be a good boat to learn how to sail on, and thus be able to sail with her husband on his larger boat more. Joan then sold it to Tony and Mike a few years back, and they in fact have sold it to a guy up in Oregon who will take delivery of it at the end of this month.

Cameron and Jeff doing the post race breakdown

It was very very light for the race and sadly our rivals on the Islander pulled a no show. Still Dave was out there on his new to him Moore and Vince was out on his Kiwi 30. Plus the usual other suspects of fleet Charlie. We got badly fouled in the pre-start by the Tarten 30 which ended up with us having to tack to avoid him and then protesting by waving the red end of the Tecate beer 12 pack holder. After some discussion he did his penalty circles and we ended up getting a pretty decent start.

We did ok on the first beat while still trying to figure the boat out. We planted a perfect lee-bow on Dave on the other Moore about half way up and put him away pretty nicely. We also got fouled again, this time by a Merit 25 which once again bought out our Tecate red protest flag. The Merit also did his penalty circles. We rounded in first, but in the light, streaky, breeze we found it hard to stay in a consistent lane, that and the fact that we had too heavy of a kite up allowed Vince to get by us at the bottom mark.

Tecate, beer and equally useful as a protest flag

We actually gybed inside of Vince at the bottom mark, but really couldn't hold the kite on the angle to the offset mark. With Vince underneath us we dropped the kite but lost about three boat lengths to him. From the offset mark it was a short beat to the finish, but not long enough for us to do anything to get Vince back. We ended up in second, which we thought was fair as Vince had sailed a little smarter getting his kite down ahead off the bottom mark rounding.

Eat our wake bad guys...

Hopefully we will get the Moore out again tonight in a little more breeze and see if we can build on our success. However we are a little bit behind at work so it is going to be touch and go as to whether we will make it out.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Columbia 5.5 "nationals". Day two...

Long overdue, but here goes.

Campbell, Bill, and I went into the Sunday of the nationals feeling pretty good about things. We had won the last race on Saturday and figured as long as the breeze stayed stable we would be ok. Even though liem had a three point lead we knew that we were faster both upwind and down and just needed to concentrate a little more on the big picture and sail our own boat a little better.

Saturday night a large part of the fleet had blown off a planned dinner at the Encinal Yacht Club and instead had gone up to Bill and Karen's place up in the Oakland hills for a Bar-B-Q. This was a lot of fun with crews from at least five of the eight boats enjoying the hospitality, good food, and usual shit talking that takes place at these kind of events.

When we did get out to the race course it took a while for the wind to fill in, but after a delay of about an hour or so the race committee eventually set a start line in between a large ship and a barge that had anchored in the race area overnight. A little unusual, but it was were the most breeze was so I guess it worked.

The first race went pretty well for us, we knew we wanted the right side and after a pretty good start tacked over and went that way. A good layline call followed by a good set got us around in first only to then be slowed by the outgoing ebb tide. This allowed the fleet to compress downwind a little and cut into our lead a bit. Also we now had to decide which side of the barge we wanted to go on as we headed to the bottom mark. Of course our two biggest competitors, Liem, and Adam both split behind us leaving us with the decision of which one to cover. We decided to cover Adam going above the barge, so of course Liem made some huge gains going under it. I think we rounded second at the bottom mark but another smart upwind leg got us back into first and this time we held that until the finish.

Now we won two in a row and things were really starting to come together. I was amazed by how quite this race had been on board compared to the first days racing. We did however have a bit of a breakage as the the starboard clam cleat was not holding the guy downwind, this meant that my job downwind was now to be a human cleat as well as keeping an eye back on the competition.

The race committee got right into sequence for the second race which caught us out a little bit as we needed to run the spinnaker to the other side. This took a little longer than it should have as we had to have a debate about whether to gybe set or not at the top mark. This left us a little out of sorts for the start. We got to the pin a little early with Liem underneath us, after the usual exchange of pleasantries that often happens in this case we bailed out and gybed away from the line just as the gun went off, we then took off on port taking the transom's of pretty much the whole fleet and headed off to the right hand side again.

This turned out to be not a bad call as we once again got to the favored right hand side which may have allowed us to get to the weather mark in first (my memory isn't what it used to be). From there we sailed in control of the fleet and on to our third win in row. That plus the fact that Liem had hit the pin at the start as well as the bottom mark twice allowed us to go into the last race with a nice run of firsts and a comfortable lead on the score sheet.

What did confuse things however was the fact that there was throw out allowed if the regatta went six races. Usually I am not a fan of throw outs at "national" championships, figuring that if you win you should have no excuses or bad races. That the most consistent boat should win not the boat that got DSQed in one race but did well in all the others. What this meant for us though is that we had a one point lead over both Adam and Liem and that if we finished second then we would win no matter what.

We didn't have great start and things got a little loud on our boat as Bill and Campbell started to grumble to each other. I then pointed out that we were in fact in front of both of the boats that we had to be ahead of so we should just relax and let out speed and smarts do their thing. This seemed to calm things down a little and we worked our way into first place by the weather mark. So this meant of course that even though we were leading on the downwind run that when Adam split and used the barge as a pick and we had to decide who to cover, Bill and Campbell both almost had a nervous breakdowns.

Adam did round the bottom mark ahead of us, but we were easily far ahead of the rest of the fleet that we could attack Adam a little while still covering Liem. We never did catch Adam, but we got the second we needed to claim the title of "National" champions in the Columbia 5.5 metre class. This was my second championship having had won it with Adam many years ago, it was also Campbell's 2nd and Bill's 3rd.