Perfect sailing conditions at the Trimaran Nationals
Do you think there is such a thing as perfect sailing conditions? I must say, the sailing we have had at Pensacola beach over the last three days have pretty close to my definition of paradise. Great wind, flat water, and a friendly group of sailors on identical boats to race with!
We picked up the Ithaca boats from storage in Orlando on Saturday evening, and drove overnight to Pensacola beach. After catching a few hours sleep, and breakfast at the Native Cafe (best breakfast waitresses in Pensacola beach!), we rigged the boats and went sailing. There was a nice 10 knt South Easterly, that built to the high teens in the afternoon. The rest of the fleet rolled in to town and went out for a practice as we came in.
The next day was about the same wind, and we had two distance races: 15 miles up Santa Rosa sound, for lunch at a beach-front bar, and 15 miles back in the afternoon. With the South Easterly breeze, it was a close-hauled fetch on way out and a tight three-sail reach on the way out. With the building wind, it was a blast! The wetas were the first start, with the bigger trimarans starting half an hour later. On the way back, we were going so fast, the race committee could not catch up with the weta fleet in their center console power boat! We sailed the 15 miles in about 55 minutes. So we had a fleet discussion and figured out our own scores for that race.
The next morning, we got together on the beach before racing, and Chris Kitchen (weta founder) gave us tips for sail trim and handling. I learned a couple of tricks for executing a more coordinated tack, which after a couple of practice tack worked great for me.
After the Weta "Seminar", we had four windward leeward races on a course just off the beach in Santa Rosa sound. The wind was a puffy 7 to 12 knots, with the wind from the south west, blowing over the town. So it was a day for reading the water and figuring out what side of the course was getting the best puffs.
Chris Kitchen is accustomed to finishing every race first, with the next boat well behind. But here, Chris is in second place, behind former Nacra 5.2 champion Jim Leonard. Eric, Ben and I (the three boats from Ithaca) are having close racing for 3rd, 4th and 5th, and there is close competition further back, between DaveK and Weta dealers Jon and Dick. Unfortunately Dave had a furler issue and missed a couple of the races.
Last night, we had a strong cold front, that brought a strong Northerly breeze. Our scheduled cruise/picnic has been abandoned, and we are having the picnic here at Key Sailing. The breeze should moderate this afternoon, and I hope we will get some racing in later.
The only problem we have had with the regatta organization is that our title sponsor, the Margaritaville Beach Hotel, pulled out at the last minute, after all the shirts etc, have been printed. They got all their publicity, and were supposed to host the regatta parties. Instead the organizers are having to scramble to put on the parties at PBYC and other locations in town. So, if you are listening to a Jimmy Buffet song while you are reading this, I recommend you change station!
San Diego NOOD
I really quite like winter in the North East USA. The only problem for me is, it goes on about two months too long, and round about the middle of March, I am just itching to be back on the water and sailing again! So when Dave Berntsen of Weta West offered the free use of one of his boats at the San Diego NOOD, I jumped at the chance. I soon persuaded my wife that I would not get up to too much mischief ("No, Honey, it's NOOD, not nude...") and I was signed up.
I was looking forward to racing with the west coast fleet, as they have been racing Wetas for a couple of years longer than I have, and I was sure to pick up some good tips. But would I be able to teach them anything? Or would it be a humbling experience? There was only one way to find out!
I arranged with Dave to have a day of practice on Friday, and we were joined by several other Wetas on Mission Bay. The boat Dave loaned me was set up almost identical to my own, and was even the same color, yellow. The only change I made to the rigging was to set in a lot more mast rake. It was sunny, and the wind was a nice 8-10 knots, as we did some tune-up circuits around the bay. We were joined by Matt Bryant, who I know from the Corsair racing circle. Although he was sailing the Weta for the first time, I knew it would not take long for him to get up to speed. As we tuned up, I was surprised to find I had a bit more speed than Dave upwind - enough to send him scurrying back to the beach to experiment with more mast rake! Later, Bruce Flemming came out, and I tuned up with him for a few tacks. He was really fast on one tack upwind, but seemed to be pointing way low on the other tack. So I was feeling pretty good about my boatspeed, and I felt I was in with a chance.
After sailing in the bay for a while, Dave and I took a cruise out into the ocean, where they were going to set our race course. There was a long, sinuous swell running, and it was fun to experiment with sailing uphill and downhill, over the undulating water. Here, I had my first experience with kelp. I am used to catching a bit of seaweed, tugging on the boards and slowing me down a knot or two, but this kelp was different. Hitting a patch of kelp was like running aground! I had to keep an eye out for that stuff on the racecourse.
The next day, it was cloudy, and there was much less wind, around 3-5 knots from the SW. Luckily the tide was going out, so we had some help getting out of the entrance channel, but all the boats were late getting out to our race course. Once the wind direction had settled a bit more to the west, race committee set us a short course, half a mile, three legs with an upwind finish. I don't know why they set us an upwind finish for the first race of the day - we all have to sail downwind after the finish, so why not race an extra leg? In this light wind, the ocean swell did not feel so sublime as the day before. It felt like the boat was struggling to sail up the face of each wave, and I had to ease the sheets to almost reaching to get the boat moving. In the first race, I decided I liked the look of the right side of the course, but apparently nobody else did, and I sailed off all alone. Of course I should have stayed with the fleet, but I decided to go with it and see what happened. When the boats came together at the windward mark, I was... dead last around! But I actually made a pretty good comeback and finished a close third in that race. Never mind. To make up that much ground, I must have sailed with good speed, so I told myself to just stay with the pack, take no more flyers. Between races, Matt figured out that easing the forestay would give the jib more power, and he did much better in the next race, which the RC shortened to two legs. For the third race, the wind was getting really light, but it was still a close race. At the windward mark, a southerly current caused every one of us to have to make two frustrating attempts at rounding. After shortening that race as well, the RC sent us in, for which I was quite thankful.
On Sunday, I woke to the sound of palm trees rustling and halyards tapping. We had wind... lots of wind! It was forecast to build, as a strong cold front was approaching. The race committee decided not to risk going out in the ocean but to set two courses inside Mission Bay. I rigged some extra hiking straps, so I could reach my short legs into a comfortable droop-hiking position and headed out. The wind was about 20 knots to start with, and I felt comfortable as I put in a couple of practice runs up and down the course. But while we were in sequence for the first race, some much stronger gusts hit us. This was going to be a contest of survival! One boat had capsized already, with about four minutes to go. It was Matt, and once I saw that he was ok, I was secretly glad. A DNS for him would give me a good chance for a place on the podium! However, that wicked thought was instantly punished. When I gybed to head for the line, one of my main battens got hooked under the cap shroud. By the time I sorted that out, Matt had righted the boat and was back in the race, while I was late for the start. That was only the beginning of my problems in that race. First, my jib halyard jumped out of the cleat. While I was fixing that, my mainsheet came off the clew of the main; and while I was fixing that, the jib sheets tied themselves in an ugly knot. I was way behind, but I still managed to beat Dave, who apparently capsized twice in that race. Matt was sailing really fast, and was way ahead of us all. For the first two legs of the next race, I did a lot better. I rounded the windward mark close behind Bruce and Dave, caught them, and overtook on the downwind. I was so excited to be doing well, that I forgot that the leeward mark was coming up fast. I remember looking back and thinking, "Why is he furling his spinnaker already.... OOOPS!" Then I got my spinnaker in a big mess that took a couple of minutes to furl away before I could go back for the second lap. After a short rest, the race committee started the sequence for a third race, but by that time, the bay was covered with angry looking whitecaps. It must have been gusting close to thirty knots, which is more than I have ever sailed in the Weta! They abandoned that race before the start and sent us in, and once again I was thankful to be heading back to the club.
So that was the San Diego NOOD. I learned some good tricks for sailing in both light and heavy winds, and I don't think I disgraced myself too badly. I had a great time hanging out with the west coast Weta sailors in San Deigo. I look forward to sailing on the west coast again, and perhaps one or two of them might come over and join in some of our east coast regattas.
The final day
The bay was calm with no wind, until the sea breeze filled in right before the race. The first race was our lucky race. Half way on our first downwind leg, it suddenly got very windy. Everybody else overstood, which means they sailed too far to one side. There were only three boats ahead of us when we started to go upwind. We finished first on corrected time!
In the overall standings we beat Linda. I enjoyed racing, because it was an awsome close competition, and the wind wasn't too strong.
The closest race of my life
On Friday the races were tiring because it was more windy and we had to beat Linda. She won two races and we won one. The races were very close: just two seconds in between our finishes in the last race. We still might be in the lead. At the start I made videos standing right at the back of the boat, but in the third race the memory card was full.
The close match
There was a boat exactly like our boat, sailed by Daddy's friend, Linda. It was a close match. One time we got a good start, but we almost collided with Tom. All our training really payed off because we gained a few boat lengths on Linda each time we rounded a mark. I took some videos of the starts while we were in sequence five minutes before the race. The weather was perfect again: around 10 knots of wind and sunny.
The first race day
The race committee fit in two race today. We had lunch at Lincoln park between races, with all the other racers. We thought that the other exact copy of our boat didn't make it, but she did, and she beat us in the second race. My favorite part was in the first race when we flew the spinnaker and sailed into the narrow bay. A spinnaker is a big sail for downwind. Our spinnaker is yellow and blue.
The catch of the lizard
I caught a lizard today. I found it on a palm tree. It was a small black lizard that can move realy fast, and it had mysterious flanges on it's sides.
The exciting sail
The wind was perfect, not to strong not to light. We went up and down the bay more than eight times. We saw other trimarans also practicing. Daddy would not let us head in until we did a perfect leeward mark rounding. That is where you take the spinnaker down and head back upwind. My jobs were outhaul, and helping Ben get the spinnaker down and sitting on it to stop it blowing away.