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.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Oakland YC Sunday brunch

So, we have done three of the five OYC sunday brunch series races. The first one was a pretty light reach fest in which we got our usual stellar start only to just get run down by the larger boats in our division. Cameron drove the race and did a good job with the down wind start and holding off the bad guys for a pretty long time. We finished an honorable third in a race that was very much not our conditions.

One thing that has changed this year is that we have RT sailing with Jeff, Cameron, and I. RT may not be a long time sailor like us, but he is learning the ropes and has the right attitude in regards to beer and disdain for our competitors. RT will drive a race before the end of the season whether he is ready or not.

I missed the second race of the series as I was just flying in from Malaysia at about the start gun. Steve flew up from L.A. to sail with Jeff, RT and Cameron and apparently acquitted himself well as they led the race from start to finish for team Gonzo's first win of the year. The highlight was starting from out of the fairway of the marina for the the reverse start while the rest of the fleet bunched up at the pin. from what I was told it was pretty much over from that point on.

The third race was the kind of race that I always claimed that we should win if we ever had to sail in those conditions. A light air westerly that made it so you had to tack and gybe in the Estuary. Not the usual reaches that we have been having for a while now. Throw in the fact that the OYC selected a course that had three laps in it, so boat handling became important as well. It seemed that we should be able to sail the kind of race that we had always claimed we she win for once.

As it was we caught a bad shift right at the start and ended up being pretty late crossing the line. Add in the fact that we got fouled by the guy who looks like Spock and where forced to tack and things didn't look to good at first. For most of the first beat we tended to get ping ponged around by the other boats in our start and never really got in phase. Jeff, who was driving, did a good job though and once we finally got by a couple of boats and got into phase with the shifts at the top of the beat it all started to come good.

With three sets and drops to do our boat handling really helped set us up against the bad guys. With RT working the pit, Cameron trimming, and me working the bow we easily put time on the bad guys at every mark rounding to eventually overtake all of them to take the gun.

So, we are now solidly in first place with three of the five races finished. Next week we will be racing with a new headsail which is actually a used J-24 genoa as I have finally gotten around to getting a wire headstay on the boat. This means that we are actually going to be racing with a real full sized headsail for the first time on Sunday. it should be interesting to see how we do with it.

I don't have lot of pictures but here is a link to the OYC racing pages that has a series of pictures of us in them. Plus you can see the results here.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I hate people...

I was going to write about one of the trips that I have taken in the last couple of weeks. One to Malaysia for work, and another to the Florida Keys with Dina for a vacation. But instead I am going to write about some fucked up douche bag who has caused me great pain and anguish.
We got back from Florida late Tuesday evening and pretty much went to bed right away.

Wednesday morning I left the house as usual to head off to work. I have been leaving a cover on the Miata as the rear window leaks and as I got out to the car I noticed a small tear in the cover. While pretty disappointed in the fact that a cover we had got less than a month ago had a tear in it I figured in the great scheme of things it was no big deal. Besides A six inch tear in a cover is something that I can fix pretty easily.

Just a small tear

I drove to work as normal and settled back into the routine that is me at Glacier Bay. When I came out at lunch however I noticed that the right front fender of the Miata had been dented. AAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!

Dented fender

I guess some pencil dick must have hit my car while we were away on vacation. Worse than that I have a sneaking feeling that whoever hit it might not have even noticed that they did it. The crease is along the top of the fender, made by something much taller and bigger than the Miata. Covered up as it was by the cover they may not have even noticed that they hit it.

Die fucker die...

Either way Whoever hit it didn't leave a note or anything, so I have no way of knowing who did it. I may leave a note at the gatehouse at the top of the ramp, but I seriously doubt anybody will come forward. My best hope is that they see the note and become so overwhelmed by guilt that they take their own life in some particularly painful way...

Either way fuck em...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

First race of 2010

I was hoping to post a story about our first race of 2010, complete with tales of utter and complete domination over worthy, yet ultimately doomed, competition along with a bunch of video edited on my snazzy new laptop...

Sadly when I went to load up the camera on my way out the door it didn't want to work. Something about a "dew alert", no doubt caused by the damp conditions here on the Lobster T. This was kind of a bummer as the first part of the race might have actually been somewhat interesting to film.

Team Gonzo showing excellent early season form right out of the start.

RT joined Jeff, Cameron and I for the race which was a pretty light air affair. The race itself followed the usual pattern of us winning the start, but then getting rolled by the bigger boats as it turned into a light air reach. We ended up third after leading most of the first beat, and a lot of the run. The Race Committee shortened the race after one lap, which was probably the right call as the next boat behind us finished way way back.

A random sunset shot taken from the Lobster T at the pump out.

Still it was good to be back racing on the on the Gonzo. We may enter the Island Yacht Club series as well even though we have already missed the first couple of races. Just getting out back out is a good enough reason for me.

Early morning fog here at Marina Village.

In other news we have had a few pretty cool mornings of dense fog here on the Estuary. One morning you couldn't see 50ft down here on the water, but as soon as you went a couple of hundred feet inland it was bright and sunny. It's good fun to walk the dog in that stuff, although I don't know why.
Tony, Krysia, and Jessica on the Farr 40 on Christmas eve.

Another cool thing going on down here in the marina these days is that we are getting a lot of either Seals or Sea Lions around. I first noticed a bunch of them on Christmas Eve when I went for a quick sail on the Farr 40 with Tony and his daughters. There was a group of about four out that day, which is a lot this far down the Estuary. Ever since then though there has been a rash of these sea critters here in the marine. They swim in between the boats and the docks here, presumably looking for whatever it is they eat. We actually saw one jump most of the way out of the water just off the stern of Gonzo the other day. That really got Ajax excited...