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 .