30 September 2008

The Racecourse is No Place for Schizophrenia

I have to wonder if this is somehow related to that "what would Ben do?" thing, maybe the opposite of it. Good sailors know what they need to do, adjust that to what they can do, and then execute, maybe pushing the limits a bit. Through our haphazard Vanguard 15 foray into PHRF racing last week I learned that it is also very important to make your intentions clear to others. Being the dedicated bunch of dinghy sailors who launch every Friday night just down the other end of the marina from Benicia Yacht Club apparently we'd been casually invited to join in the BYC Thursday night beer can races, but (apparently) unbeknownst to that night's race committee. Or, maybe they had figured we'd join in some way other than showing up with our own boats? :-) In any event, the race committee wasn't keen on having us officially entered (something about "liability"), but they hinted that if we were to happen to cross the starting line they wouldn't try to stop us. In my opinion, that was the beginning of a bad idea.

In order to avoid messing with those officially racing, we chose to start one minute after the first class (the slowest of three) and get well clear of the line before the next class started four minutes later. This maneuver plus the fact that not all of our class chose to cross the line "properly" was the beginning of the confusion we caused for all the real racers. "What are those little boats doing out here? They're not racing are they?" I believe this contributed to a couple of right of way incidents following. The first was a simple port/starboard thing except the 15 foot Vanguard on starboard, not wanting to mess with the real racers, attempted to relinquish it's rights to the 33 foot keelboat on port. This just confused the big boaters and it got messy ending in shouts of "Hey, we're racing here!" and "So are we! (sort of)" The second was a clear leeward mark overlap case again with the 15 footer with rights over the really big boys from class A who had by now caught all the slow boats ahead. With an appropriate amount of yelling, the little guys likely could have defended their position without incident, but being insecure about the not-really-racing thing, they just bailed out and didn't bother rounding the mark. OK, still might have been the right thing to do, but I wonder if our big boat friends would have shown a bit more respect for us had it been clear that we were racing just like them.

I hope the nice folks at BYC invite us out again, but I somehow doubt it.

16 September 2008

Megabyte Mk II Reaching Fun

Thanks to Mitch scribbling on my Facebook wall, we got out for a little fun time in the racing boats. No high intensity short course racing stuff, just a Vanguard 15 and a Megabyte Mk II chasing each other across Carquinez Strait, stopping in for a blow in Martinez, then down around the mothball fleet only to get chased off by the floating rent-a-cop. A good breeze made for some fast reaching fun. After our Martinez stop, I swapped places with Dean. First time in the Megabyte for him, and he looked like a champ.

It was great to have Mitch along. I could tell that he was thoroughly enjoying himself. It's hard to sail fast and catch up on old times at the same time, but it was all good and leaves me eager to get back out there again soon. Seeing each other once every year or two is clearly not enough.

10 September 2008

7 Humans in a 19 Foot Boat -- Perfect

Well, after not having Mothra in the water for 11 months, she's now gotten wet twice in 9 days. This time, she faithfully carried three adults and 4 happy kids for a trip down around the mothball fleet. With Dean aboard, I decided to try the bigger spinnaker. Wow, it's quite a bit broader than the old one. Turned out to be too hard to handle on the tight reach we needed to sail to get under the bridge. Should make for a great ride on a dead run, though.

All in all, a pretty nice afternoon sail with friends. I'm amazed at how many people can find a comfortable place to sit on such a small boat. It's also nice to have such a variety of places to sit and enjoy the ride. Down in the cabin, standing through the foredeck hatch, to leeward with the water sloshing by a few inches away, atop the cabin, on the weather coaming, all the way aft, . . .

03 September 2008

Feeling the Start

Trying to get caught up on the sailing log here, and I have to admit that I'm a week and a half behind--not that my bevy of global readers would know anyway. Come to think of it how would anybody know if this blog were really all just made up? If it were fiction, would it still be a blog? Sorry, so much chatter about social computing at work these days, it's starting to mess with my humble blog.

OK, what was I was going to log here? Oh yeah, Fleet 76 a Friday and a half ago--the last one for me before the Benicia boys shutdown for the season? Starting among other aggressive sailors was the learning opportunity of the night. Key learning: don't get to the line too early thinking you can just sit there and defend your spot (especially with a strong current running.) With the small fleet, there was plenty of room to maneuver around, and the aggressive skippers who kept some speed up were able to quickly drive around--above or below--those who tried to camp at the favored end. It made me think back to a particularly poor start at Whiskeytown a couple of months back. I was really tired and just kind of lolled around until about 20 seconds before the start. I had managed to position myself at a good spot on the line, but when it came time to get serious, it seemed like I had lost all sense of timing and boat speed. I was late crossing the line, in a funk up the first beat, and last around the top mark. Intellectually, I had a good start planned, but brain, body, and boat had fallen out of sync. It would seem that knowing how to start was insufficient without feeling how to start.