31 October 2010

Even Bad is Good

Probably best if I didn't make this post. I'll just sound like a whiner. So, as Kevin, Dean, and I reflected yesterday in the middle of the bay, we're dang lucky to be out sailing in late October. Truthfully, this cold rainy day felt almost more normal than the last time Kevin went sailing with me.

29 October 2010

Worst Regatta Ever?

Race 1 abandoned 3/4 of the way through--not sure if it was because of the ship approaching or the race committee forgot we were still racing and pulled the weather mark. Three to four knots of ebb by the end of the day. Starting was treacherous with one 505 getting pinned to the bow of the committee boat, capsizing, and nearly getting sucked under. Fleet held up by chase boats on multiple occasions mid leg to let large commercial traffic through. Oh, and it rained. That was day one at the St Francis Fall Dinghy Regatta.

Day two promised to be . . . um . . . worse, and it was--a truly nasty day on the bay. Dave Berntsen rigged up, went out, inverted, and returned. Stephan and I rigged up and then before leaving the dock, watched the carnage (like the big puff that knocked over a whole gaggle of Lasers.) We decided to stay put. The race committee abandoned on account of excessive carnage without getting any races in.

Of course it wasn't all bad. On both days there was plenty of hot water in the showers, free beer, and bar grub afterward. The Weta fleet continues to strengthen under the leadership of local distributor, Dave. Eleven boats signed up (eight braved the weather and made it to the line.) Dave has us well organized and provides endless pre-race support and boat handling tips ashore. What with all the weather and shipping challenges, the racing was kind of lame, but hey, we sailed; we raced, and we had a good time chatting Wetas in the parking lot and at the club.

As for my day: I was leading race 1 with one mark to go when it was abandoned; I just couldn't get in sync in race 2, finishing 4th; race 3 was crazy with commercial traffic. On the upwind leg, an ocean going barge towed 100+ yards behind a huge tug cut through the course (OK, the course cut through the shipping channel.) I had a nice lead at the time, but the St. Francis chase boats made it clear that I would need to hold up. On the downwind leg, a container ship emerged out of the fog--crap. I gybed to port and set a course for the monster's transom. The size of the wake off the bulb was really a surprise--must have been 6 to 8 feet. I went up and over the leading one without much fuss and then started to worry about how to get over the backside of the other one. With a sort of zigzag move, I got over the top and then "dropped in". As I outran the wind, all the sheets went slack, and I had to make a fairly tight bottom turn to get powered back up again. About this time, a 5o5 crested the wave behind me. It looked just like a scene from Big Wednesday as they came ripping down the face. Wild! I dodged the surfrider and sailed on for the win.

OK, so it wasn't my worst regatta ever. With a 4-1 I did win it after all on the tie break.

A bunch of photos at Ultimate Yacht Shots including this one of Dave Berntsen demonstrating what fast looks like.

21 October 2010

Boys and their Toys

A few weeks back, Iain had the opportunity to meet Chris Kitchen, 1/2 of the design duo responsible for the Weta, and show him the mini Weta raingutter racer. Turns out Iain is not the only kid in this world to build his own. A boy in Austria built a remarkable 1:18 scale model with his grandfather. Full story here.

19 October 2010

Starting Over

Initiate roll with strong "cheek press", stay low, take one big step across the cockpit while dumping a foot or two of mainsheet, sit down, switch hands, hike flat and sheet in. Oh Wait, that was the old boat. Now it's something like (I don't have it all figured out, yet): put the helm down initiating quick turn, scooch across boat, release old jib sheet, switch sides while trimming new jib sheet (not too tight), flip tiller extension around the back, climb out to weather ama, power up and sheet jib in rest of way. That's tacking, I think, and what about gybing? Well, that totally different.

Friday was absolutely beautiful on the Oakland Estuary--clear skies, seventy-something, light Northwesterly. Made for a good opportunity for some tacking and gybing practice out the narrow channel to the bay proper and back. I had this weird feeling of having done this all before--same water, same beautiful day. This time, however, I had three times as many sails to manage and three times as many hulls to swing through each maneuver. With practice days like this, I was actually getting pretty good with handling the old Megabyte. Combined with some general improvement in race tactics, I was almost able to get to the front of the fleet (OK, I admit it, that one point loss to Charles at the Megabyte North American Championship bugs me.) So, here I am starting all over again in a new boat. Yeah, that's kind of a pain, but learning is gud.

03 October 2010

Two Climes, Two Boats

I thought I could handle it. I nice little family cruiser for . . . family cruising and a rippin' little racer for my own enjoyment. Sounds like a good idea. Two different kinds of boats for two different kinds of sailing. No conflicts, right? Well, it doesn't work out quite like that. Seems I've had this problem before only this time it's even more mixed up since I started racing the cruising boat and the family likes sailing on the racing boat more than anything. Now what. Hmmm.

While pondering that for a few months, it was time to get down to the marina to check on Lapras (and make a "to do before selling" list?) And hey, why not take Surfing Pikachu along for a little sail out Potrero Reach. That'll be nice. Lapras was still nicely tucked in her berth looking ready to go if a bit slimy on the bottom. Time for another haul-and-scrub, I guess. One of the "joys" of owning a bigger boat. After sitting in the cabin for a bit and feeling weird about being on such a nice boat without going sailing on the nice boat, it was time to get the Weta wet.

They say the San Francisco Bay Area is a region of many micro climates (I sometimes wonder if a bunch of theys say that about wherever theys live.) The so called Richmond Riviera in one such. It can be blowing freezing snot out in the middle of the Bay and toasty warm off Point Richmond. It was hard to tell what was what on this day. At the Marina (East end of the Riviera) it was windy but warm. I rigged the boat for a good blow and once out on the water was glad I did so. Just fifteen minutes later, however, I tacked around the Liberty ship, Oak, opening a view all the way down the reach--nobody heeled over down there. The farther West I went, the warmer and calmer it got. By the time I cleared the breakwater there was barely enough wind to power the boat through the Bay chop. The return trip was the exact opposite beginning at two knots and topping out at 13.

Also on the topic of two boats, there seems to have been a lot of chatter lately on the Weta forum regarding the relative speed of the Weta to the Laser. It would seem that some are having a hard time beating Lasers in the local mixed fleets. That's weird. While I don't have much experience in Lasers, I spent a lot of time in Mr. Bruce's 30 year afterthought, the Megabyte. In most conditions, the Megabyte had no problem overhauling the Lasers especially downwind. Now, I've never put the Weta up against the Megabyte, but I know I certainly never did 9 knots to weather in the Megabyte. And 13 knots off the wind, as I did this day (without the reacher, even), would have been unthinkable in the Megabyte.

Of course, to compare these boats is sort of pointless, and one would choose their ride for a variety of different reasons. Regardless, with the Weta class growing as it is, mixed fleet racing will be a thing of the past (as it almost always is for the Laser) and the only thing that will matter is how fast one can make their Weta go relative to their buddy's Weta. That's good racing.

Enough about all that (I got sick of all the back and forth on the forum after a while--wanted to scream, "just shut up and go sailing!!") Oh, one more thing. The Marina Bay ramp is not such a good place to launch from when the Rivera is rippin'. Well, I guess launching was OK. Getting back was no fun, though. The wind angles were just all wrong for making a nice controlled docking maneuver. Took about four tries to get it right--must have looked like the noob that I am.

30 September 2010

How Slow is Fast?

2.2 knots, 2.3, 2.1, this is boring. Maybe I'll just unroll the gennaker, screacher, reacher (what the heck's the right name for this sail anyway?) and scoot off towards the Benicia Bridge. 3.7, 3.8, 3.9, ah that's better. Hmmm, I wonder how high I can go with this thing? Up, up, sheet in a bit more, up, up, up. 3.2, 3.3, 3.1, not bad.

On a light air day, a 50% increase in speed sure feels good, but is it? It appeared that I was making better progress up river, and I was certainly sailing "to windward" albeit with some pretty fat tacking angles. I swapped back and forth a few times, low and fast, high and slow. Subsequent informal analysis of the GPS tracks revealed anywhere from a 10 to 25 degree disadvantage in sailing angles with the big sail set, most often at the wide end of that range. Plots suggest that if I can keep it in the 10 to 15 degree range this just might be the fast way upwind in super light air. Of course, I'll need some better data collection to confirm this. I'll have to see if I can get my GPS to project a waypoint way upwind and then monitor VMG. Gennaker, screacher, reacher? Hmmm, maybe it's a "code zero". Sailors and their terminology . . .

22 September 2010

One Plus Twelve Equals Five

Davo, our delightfully active, fleet promoting, local distributor, managed to get the Wetas invited to the Richmond Yacht Club Multihull Invitational last weekend. That might not sound weird, but in many ways, the Weta is more like the skiffs racing next weekend at the Big Dinghy regatta than like the catamarans duking it our for the Area G berth at the Alter Cup. Anyway, we went. We looked good. We raced hard. And, we may have just poached some Hobie sailors over to the Weta fleet, too. Seemed to be an awful lot of interest in our speedy little singlehanders.

On Saturday with very moderate conditions on the bay, 5 to 10 maybe 12, efficient boat handling and sound tactics seemed to rule the day. This was a nice switch, albeit less exciting, from the just-hang-on-and-bang-the-corners strategy at the 25 knot NOODs. I had decent starts, mostly remembered to keep the bow down (hard to correct years of the pinching habit), and made some decent tactical decisions to record a 3-1-1 for the day. Race two was particularly interesting tactically. The usual strategy here on Southampton Shoal is to work the South side of the course both upwind and downwind to escape Angel Island's wind shadow, and that was certainly the case in race one (I know because I broke that rule on the first downwind leg and gave up two or three places.) But for race two, the wind had started to let up. Was this just a temporary ease or the sign of a change on the way? Bob, Dave, and one other guy got excellent starts at the favored end left of me and opened up a good lead. Unfortunately for Bob, he hadn't noticed that with the let up in wind pressure the race committee had significantly shortened the first beat, and he overshot the layline with the other two speedsters in tow. I tacked early and got to the mark first. That's when the weirdness started. Within about two boatlengths of the starboard layline, the wind suddenly clocked right about 30 degrees. This wasn't just some random shift. It was a whole new wind. All I could think of was, "get around that mark as fast as possible and do a gybe-set." So, that's exactly what I did. Gordon rounded close astern and must have thought I was nuts shooting off to the North as he setup to lead the parade down the South side. Well, on that new wind with the 30 degree advantaged course I was quickly out of sight. At the leeward gate, I must have been nearly half a mile ahead of the rest of the fleet who had all gone the "right" way. Unfortunately, Saturday was the end of the fun as I had other commitments to attend to on Sunday. Three DNCs at 12 points each dropped me back to 5th for the regatta.

What's really cool about this is that 5th was top half. In the Megabyte, 5th (if we were lucky enough to have that many boats) would have been last. I love my new boat, and apparently a bunch of other people love it, too. It's great to be part of a growing fleet.

10 September 2010

Spoil 'em Early

It was a typical Summer day on San Francisco Bay. Sunny, low 70's. A gentle breeze blowing in the Gate, bending around Angel Island. Just a wisp of fog cutting through the towers in the financial district. Delightful. Typical. Hah!

I finally got my neighbor our for a sail on Lapras last week. I didn't realize he'd never been on a sailboat before, and I wouldn't have known if he hadn't told me so. He did great. I passed him the helm just a couple minutes after hoisting the main. Within about four sizable oscillations he found the correct tuning constants, and we were soon gliding down Potrero Reach headed for the open bay. Once clear of the breakwater we came up hard on the wind for Angel Island. Time to break out the beer and sandwiches. Thirty minutes later we were leisurely trading tacks with a couple of other cruisers through Raccoon Straits. Delightful. Did I already say that?

Typical? I tried to convince my nooby crew that all of this was not normal. For a Summer day on the bay in a relatively tender and pudgy boat we ought be spilling our beer, losing our sandwiches, ducking the spray, avoiding Raccoon. Of course, as I had no evidence he didn't believe me.

He loved it. I think he'll be getting a boat soon.

21 August 2010

Mini Mini Tri

What's smaller than a small trimaran? A model of a Weta designed to run down a 4 inch rain gutter, that's what. Iain has had quite the Cub Scout sailing career winning the design contest in his first two years before moving his sights to the racing classes. Last year his rule-beater 'superskiff' won the monohull division, and this year he stabbed the pointy end right into the hotly contested multihull fleet.

Having recently converted to trimarans in the real world of sailing, it was natural for him to give that form a try down the trench. So, we build a mini Weta--a reasonable facsimile of our own Surfing Pikachu--and, sure enough it dominated the catamarans with bursts of speed not seen before in the Raingutter Regatta. Congratulations, Iain!

20 August 2010

Natural Born Trimaraners

Dad, "So, how'd you like the new boat?"
Son, "That was awesome."
Dad, "Would you like to go out again?"
Daughter, "3000 times!"

Yes I've dreamt of, but never expected, that kind of response. Taking the kids sailing has been like taking them to BevMo--sure, they get a little something out of it (like a fancy root beer), but we're only going because Dad wants to. So, how come the enthusiasm all of a sudden? Well, the Weta is like this: a bunch of comfy places to sit or even lie down, no tipping over, water rushing by within a kid's arm reach, and fast. Bottom line is a very high fun factor without feeling scared.

We have a winner.

12 August 2010


Last Friday was only the fourth time this season I've made it out with Feet 76. The keel boat has only left the slip 6 times this year. The new Weta has been sitting dry in the boat yard for seven weeks after getting wet five times in her first week. Dinghy Delta Ditch was yesterday, and I didn't show up. The dory skiff? Forget about it. Despite all the sailing I do do, the thought of not sailing, the challenge of scheduling more sailing, induces a strange anxiety. Is it wrong to have a perfectly good boat sit unused? At least the boat yard at the side of my house doesn't yet look like one of those hoarder lots seen every so many miles along the rural interstates. OK, maybe it does a little. And financially, of course, none of this sailing stuff makes sense. It never has. Overall costs are relatively low--Lapras' slip being the bulk of it. Still, somehow the thought of "I have boats (and friends with boats); therefore, I must sail them." leads to tense shoulders, a little twing down the the spine, and the desire to go lie down for a bit. Screw that. Let's go sailing!

I promised to take my neighbor sailing on The Bay. I want to go cruising again. I'd like to try an overnight trip on the Weta. Racing singlehanded on Lapras to Vallejo would be cool. There are at least three more regattas this year with chance for a good Weta fleet. The 76ers are out every Friday night. And and and . . . Relax! This has got to be, already, one of the best sailing years of my life.

Big boats--little boats. Cruising--racing. Singlehanded--with friends. At home--on the road. Salt water--fresh water. Big wind--no wind. It's all been good. It always feels good, feels right, to be on the water . . . in a boat. So why the anxiety?

Maybe everything else in life is too frantic, too hectic, too fast paced. We frantically try to escape, to fill our "free" time, every last minute of it, with something not so hectic. OK, sailboat racing can be very hectic, but that's a good very hectic. I'm reminded of three long, heavy air days on the City Front for the Vanguard 15 Nationals. Afterwards, it occured to me that the period on the water was the longest continuous block of time I'd experienced in quite some time without a thought of work or other stressful things. How to keep the boat shiny side down, moving fast, and getting by competitors was all I "worried" about. So, I guess I need to just do more of that but without worring about doing more of that. A steady pace of sailing goodness.

06 August 2010

Man Cruise II

Well, unfortunately Jorge couldn't make it this year, but Mitch and Dean were back to join me for the second, now annual, Man Cruise. (In case you Googled your way here looking for something else . . . this is about sailing.) With Lapras now stationed on The Bay we had many more options for our destination. We chose a 2-day full bay tour with a stopover in Ballena Isle on Alameda. Nice place. Walking distance to fun stuff to look at, and a decent restaurant with a view of Lapras snug in her guest slip. Not much more to say here. I'll let the video tell the story:

Check out the long version of the video.

15 July 2010

High Intensity Regatta

"Foot, foot, foot! Let's get up some speed and start figuring out how to get out of here!" After 7 miles of dogfighting up and down the lake, Marcel had rounded the last mark inside of us and Chris with a tight rounding astern was now up on our hip. With a half mile to go, we had two boats to fight through. Not good. "Go fast, go fast." "OK . . . If we go now we can mess with Chris." Bam! Good tack.

"Starboard!" Chris chose to tack right in front of us. Interesting tactic, but it worked perfectly for us. Marcel had no choice but to tack and cover his two trailers, and as soon as he did that, bam!, we were back onto port and breaking cover. Now, how close to the shore dare we go? A good starboard tack lift can often be found over there, but at risk of sailing in less pressure. "Watch it, watch it, watch it." "Is that it?" "Let's sail into it. Yep, that's it. Let's go!" Back onto starboard and stomping up the beach still in good pressure. "Huge gain. Sail fast!"

It didn't take Chris long to see what was up. He managed to break Marcel's cover (not sure how) and come get a piece of our advantage on the right. We let him pass through behind us and then set up for a series of lee bow tacks each time he came across on Starboard forcing him back on port and deeper each time into the wind hole close to shore. Meanwhile, Marcel was still moving fast in good, clear air on the left side. Had we caught him? Too hard to tell at this distance but we would soon know as he made his last tack onto the port layline for the pin end of the finish. Converging from the right but below the line now, we had to make one more tack to take the short route to the committee end. "Uh, uh, oh no, is that a header? Are we gonna make it? Careful! Don't pinch." "Uh, it's gonna be close! Crap, here comes Marcel!" Do we tack, do we pinch, do we tack, do we pinch, and just then as the race flashed before my eyes, Dean dropped the helm and shot the line. Whoosh, we nipped Marcel by half a boat length. And, Chris was only a boat length or two behind that.

Crazy thing is, that's the way the whole High Sierra Regatta went this year. Three Vanguard 15 dudes from Benicia banging it up and down the lake never able to shake free and make a run out front. In the end, Marcel and crew's sound tactics, crisp boat handling, and superior offwind speed would win out. Dean second. Chris third. What a great experience. It was certainly the most intense racing at High Sierra that I've been part of, and also my best sailed.

In spite of how great the sailing is on Huntington Lake, of course the High Sierra Regatta isn't really about the sailing, it's about the family fun on the beaches and around the campsites. This year was no different. Iain made the trip with me (girls had a girly girl weekend at home), my Mom and Bill joined in the fun, and we made all the usual rounds including the Folsom Lake Yacht Club annual potluck. Yum.

Thanks to Peggy for the great photos!

05 July 2010

Fast and Stupid Fast

Having survived day one, it was time to push it a bit on day two. One thing I was learning quickly about multihulls is that there is a big difference between fast and stupid fast. The trick is to find the groove maximizing the percentage of time spent at stupid fast. Today, I focused in particular on upwind speed. I stopped staring at the telltales (a nasty monohull habit) and just felt the boat. Stupid fast feels distinctly different from fast. When I found the groove, it was more like flying than sailing. Sitting out on that windward ama just skimming over the wave tops as the leeward ama dug in, I imagined I was a pelican doing that thing they do.

Here's what it looks like from off the boat.

That's me at 3:17 and 4:13.

And hey, increasing my stupid fast percentage paid off as I climbed into 4th place for the regatta. I love my new boat.

Lots of regatta pictures here including the photo of the year here--That's Bruce from San Diego--very nice guy.

04 July 2010

Just Don't Hit Anybody

A fast boat. A new boat. A big regatta. A typically windy Summer day on the Bay. Sounds like a recipe to break something or somebody. Order of the day, then, was sail smart (get around the course efficiently) and don't hit anybody. I'm the noob in this class with just one week of experience in the boat prior to the start of race one on Saturday. Yes, the tacking and gybing practice was very helpful, and the "training floats" would provide a margin of error against capsize. Trouble is these dinghies are twice as wide and nearly twice as fast as what I'm used to racing. And those floats? It's not obvious how forgiving they are. Everything feels fine, but what if I stuff one into the back of a wave or something or somebody?

Well, everything turned out just fine. We had a bit more wind than I might have asked for in a first regatta, but I managed to keep the shiny side down and the pointy ends ding free. The Sailing World sponsors like my hat and had me posted in the gallery. Of that shot, Dean said, "You look way too relaxed. You ought to be hiking out or something." Of course, I was relaxed--I was sailing from a hammock! Actually, though, it was kinda scary. I was reminded of that popular '70s t-shirt, "Keep your tips up!" Several times downwind, I stuffed three bows into the back of a wave. At full speed, this was quite a dramatic experience as the entire boat was covered in white foam and the skipper's momentum nearly launched him over the bow. Before the weekend was over, I would learn to make the bottom turn a bit earlier and/or blow off some kite pressure.

These Wetas smoke both upwind and downwind as long as you keep them powered up. That means on the edge. We started six minutes or so behind the Melges 20s and usually caught and passed them before the race was done. The poor Melges crews were on their edge, too. We had to be careful not to setup to windward of them on the downwind legs as they had a propensity to wipe-out. As Bob put it, those Melges guys were probably thinking "they should have bought four Wetas instead--one for each crew. Be a lot more fun than hiking all day."

By the end of day one, I'd be at the front of the back half, 6th place. On day two, I'd start to learn some new tricks . . .

03 July 2010

Enough Weta Wonkiness - Time to Race

Well almost. One last practice session just fit in the schedule on Friday before NOOD . . . last weekend. (Yeah, I'm a little behind here with the ship's log. I vacated to Monterey for the week immediately following those two days of ripping around the bay on the new boat. Now, I need to get caught up before High Sierra happens next weekend . . . and Man Cruise II the weekend after that . . . and . . . Summer sailing is in full swing!)

Practice was pretty uneventful. I had just enough time to throw down a handful of tacks and another handful of gybes. OK, I basically know what to push and what to pull and when. The remaining question is can I do it, and generally keep the boat moving fast, when it's blowing like the forecast says it will? We'll have to wait another day to find out. Time to pack up and get across the bridge to the St. Francis to get registered . . . hey, nice swag!

23 June 2010

Weta Winged

A shot for Doc just before launching at Benicia this evening. Those "wings" sure provide a lot of places to sit for a 14 foot boat. Tonight I practiced my tacks and gybes. It's not hard to get the boat through the wind, and gybes aren't scary like they often were in the Megabyte. Still, with those floats out there I have to wonder if I just have a false sense of security. I'm not sure yet how far I can bury one before I should be worried. A couple of big puffs had the leeward ama underwater a couple of times, but no loss of control. It just popped right back up. Top speed 11 knots so far. Fun. One more chance to practice on Friday before the big race.
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22 June 2010

Weta Wetted

Flip the tiller around the mainsheet, then tack and tend to the jib sheets. No, just put the helm down, literally, go tend to the jib, and then pick the tiller up on the other tack. Flip the jib sheet forward before you furl the kite to keep it from fouling. Don't even try furling with a load on the kite. Steer up if the big puff comes from forward of abeam. Steer down if abaft. Don't oversheet the jib. Sheet just an inch to get top telltale streaming. Yikes, there is a lot to remember in this three hulled, three sailed gizmo boat, but with all the tips flying from Bob and Dave last Saturday, I was soon feeling comfortable. Well almost comfortable. It's going to take some time to reach basic competency with the Weta. I'll squeeze two more practice days in this week and then it's trial by fire at the Weta West Coast Championship on Saturday and Sunday at the San Francisco NOOD.

Wish me luck.

12 June 2010

Weta Waiting

Picked her up yesterday. Felt weird--never owned a brand new boat before.
Rigged her up today. Felt good--can't wait to get it wet.
Covered her up for the week. Felt sad--too busy to sail.

Launch day Friday.

05 June 2010

Newbie Night

"OK, now everybody stand up and move over one seat." Strange Fleet 76 night--not a single regular driver at the helm of any of the four boats. Gus drove Jamie's boat, Rich his own boat (but he's new to that), Mark (?) Josh's boat, and I helmed Dean's. Heck, Dean wasn't even there, man. How nice of him to let me take MOE out for him. I picked up newbie crew, Jon, to tend the front half of the boat. He did amazingly well for somebody who's only been in a sailboat a handful of times. I think his surfer skills paid off as he had remarkably good balance in the boat. Most newbies are very tentative and can't get their weight in sync with what's going on--everything is a surprise to them. Jon settled into the rhythm right away and after he figured out that the jib sheet handling technique I had given him was all backwards, he found a way to get the jib across cleanly on each tack. I hope he joins us more often. It was fun sailing with him, and he could get good at this sport fast.

Thanks again for the loaner, Dean.

01 June 2010

Half Cruise

If you don't actually go anywhere is it still cruising? We went sailing. We slept on the boat. Just not in that order. I had no idea Richmond had so much freight train traffic in the middle of the night--at least the kids slept through it. Daybreak arrived as a beautiful clear morning on the marina. Now, one thing about being on a small boat is that there's really nothing to do but go sailing; so, after some coffee and a quick breakfast, we headed out the channel. First sailboat out accompanied by the last fishing boats. We didn't sail far, what with the light wind and flood, or for long--maybe an hour or so before we turned. By this time the rest of the sailors were starting out for what would become arguably the most beautiful sailing day on the Bay this year. As it was still early, they must have thought we were returning from a long overnight passage. Nope, just wrapping up a half cruise, the first overnight adventure for the family. Good practice for future more ambitious trips.

08 May 2010

Soaking Wet Grin

Rich didn't have much to say as he stood there at the top of the ramp gazing over the contraption that had rocketed him allover the Carquinez Strait. "So how was it?" He just bobbed his head in a Chevy Chase kind of way mixed with a Cheshire Cat grin as his sailing gear drip-dried into a puddle around his boots. Rich was the lucky odd man out tonight--no empty crew slots in the Vanguard fleet, but a friendly Weta evangelist happened by. So, while the rest of us banged out three races on an unusually long (for Vanguard weenies, that is) windward-leeward course, Rich banged about every corner of the Straits with Bob Hyde aboard the Weta.

The Vanguard 15 racing was good despite only three boats on the line. Good aggressive starts, clean sailing, a few lead changes, and all close at the finish. Marcel and Rachel had their boat moving really well, especially downwind, and their boat handling was superb as evidenced by our inability to shake them off in a vicious tacking duel in race one. And hey, that Robby kid can drive! The high-school team skipper took the helm of Josh' boat and had them in the mix all three races.

As we finished the third race transmitting all the usual hand and arm gestures to gather consensus--one more race or beer time--we could see Rich and Bob blasting back across the Strait, a cloud of spray behind, and disappearing down the Benica Marina entrance.

27 April 2010

Sailing in 2025

The future of sailing? It's here right now:
  • Advanced materials
  • Engineering first, art second
  • Multihulls
Oh, and the Laser -- after all, tradition and resistance to change are sailing's strongest forces.

Back to you, Tillerman.

17 April 2010

Season 4

No, it's not some box set of reruns to help you waste hours and hours on the couch watching other people pretend to be other people. No, the only way to see it is to do it. Fleet 76 is back at it, racing Vanguard 15s Friday night out of Benicia. The fleet is looking as healthy as ever with one new boat and several "new guys" looking for a crew spot. Rich is going to skipper an underutilized boat this year which means David is back in the crew training business. And hey, the owners even have a new old outboard on the way to replace the one that was stolen off the committee/chase boat last year.

I missed the first racing night of the season (had to get my speed rest before Corinthian), but made it out last Friday for day 2. We were blessed with perfect conditions--enough current to make some break from the parade downwind to look for an advantage and enough wind to get even us big boys in the hiking straps. Other than feeling a little awkward with boat handling it felt like we just picked up where we left off last October, except that I hate Dean's new tiller extension--sorry, Dean.

The parking lot post race camaraderie also flowed right in from last year with renewed pressure from some for me to buy and campaign my own Vanguard now that the Megabyte is gone. They are not going to be too happy with me when they find out what I did at the boat show last weekend . . .

14 April 2010

Corinthian Survival

OK, right out with it: we were the last boat to finish in our class. But hey, the keyword there is "finish." This race turned out to be more of a real fiasco than the real fiasco--about a third of the boats in the fleet never made it to the finish. Heck, with 38 mph gusts at the start, some never even started the race. We made a reasonable show of it, getting our pudgy little cruiser around the bay tour race course, but being on your ear all the way up wind (we ran out of reefs) and wiping out several times downwind (despite being in the non-spinnaker class) ain't exactly fast.

Other than being well outside our optimal conditions, we probably had at least 15 minutes worth of slow start, extra tacks, misjudged laylines, uncoordinated sail handling, etc. That's the difference between finishing 5th and 8th. It was tough on everybody, but especially so on the little guys and those of us with basically cruising sails and such. In that kind of weather Lapras probably can't sail to her rating, anyway, but with a little more help from her humans she could have a closer look at the front.

Last or first, it was still a ton of fun. We got around the course on a really rough day, one if not for the race we would have spent at home watching TV or something.

More here: Blustery SSS Corinthian Race

21 March 2010

Are We (They) Having Fun, Yet?

Video games, play dates, excessive homework--seems these days there are just so many things better to do than go sailing. And even in the off chance that there really was nothing else to do, for the non-sailors out there, what's the attraction? How can sitting around on a bobbing hunk of plastic (or whatever) moving no faster than most of us can jog actually be any fun? Man, does that sound lame. Maybe I'll just sit here and do nothing instead.

OK, those of you with kids know where I'm going with this.
"Hey, kids, want to go sailing today?"
"Ummm, well, umm . . . not really, Dad."
"Well, what if we go get some nice sandwiches and eat them on the boat. After that we can walk around the marina to the playground."
"OK, maybe that would be fun."
I loved to go sailing when I was a kid. Couldn't get enough of it. Big boats, little boats, all day in my sabot, racing with Dad around the buoys or over to Catalina. All good. This is my perspective. So why would my kids not be begging me to take them sailing? As I think on that, though, I remember that my siblings weren't all that jazzed about sailing either. They usually did have something better to do (stay home and party while the rest of us went racing for the weekend.) They put up with it as the "family sport", and I know they usually had fun when dragged along. It just wasn't always their choice. I wonder why. I'll ask--stay tuned . . .

So what of my family? Did the lunch and park bribe work. Of course it did, and once aboard for lunch it made perfect sense to slip the dock lines and go for just a little sail, right? Yeah, there was a little grumping, but in the end all enjoyed themselves. Would they do it again when given the choice between video games on the couch and sailing on the bay? Maybe we're not quite there, yet.

At dinner the next night, I pushed the topic.
"So, how did you like sailing yesterday?"
"It was OK."
"What would you think if I decided to sell the boat?"
"NO, don't do that. WE LIKE SAILING!"
Well OK, then.

07 March 2010

Soup's On!

Somewhere between the end of the Fiasco and home port (the lights off the starboard bow.) Gotta get out there again . . .

03 February 2010

First Race, First Fiasco

Start in any direction. Go around the three marks (under or at the three bridges on the bay) in any order, any direction. Finish before 7pm. That's the Fiasco. Simple, huh? If not for 349 other other boats out there, big current, big wind shifts (and big wind holes), and every boat just single or doublehanded.

And did I mention it's a reverse handicap pursuit race? Being one of the slowest boats entered, that meant we got to go early in clear, albeit hardly a puff of, air. It also meant we had to pick our start direction and first mark without the benefit of watching others' mistakes.

This was the first time I've ever raced my own keel boat. Wait, what's this racing the cruising boat? Well, with Feraligatr gone, Lapras is pressed into double duty, and with Dean as crew we were ready. So, first time for Lapras, and save for a race/cruise across across San Pablo a few years back on Don Holden's boat, I hadn't raced anything bigger than a dinghy since high school. Incidentally, it had been that day on Don's boat out in the middle of San Pablo that I had one of those epiphany things and decided to get back into sailing after being away from the sport for . . . well . . . a long time.

Having started at the front of the pack, I almost feel bad that we made it look relatively easy getting out west and around Blackaller Buoy just East of Ft. Point. Our plan was to get Blackaller crossed off early so that we would not have to risk getting swept out The Gate on the afternoon max ebb if the wind never filled in. Before the start, we'd discovered a nice little eddy to counter the morning's flood tide. And it worked. "1.8, 2.2," I called off the the speed over ground as we crawled east from the start in a very fickle morning breeze. And even when the wind fully shutdown within spittin' distance of the mark, "0.5, 0.6", the eddy washed us along. By staying inshore, we had made the most of this and passed all the boats that started in front of us and went offshore looking for wind.

Oh yeah, back to making it look easy. Turns out about half the fleet decided to follow us to Blackaller first, the other half taking Yuerba Buena first-minus a few oddballs who chose Red Rock first. With this mass of a hundred or more boats bearing down on us we were sure to be overrun in no time. Then, the weirdest thing happened. A little puff from the East carried us and the four other little boats rounding the mark just behind us out into the middle of the channel while the mass of boats behind sailed into, perhaps created by their own, um, massiness, one giant hole. Once into the full strength of the flood mid-channel, the breeze filled in further from the Southeast and we were making eight knots for Angel Island. "Wahoo! See ya suckas!" Here's a good picture of the parking lot behind (I think that's us in the upper right of the photo ripping out to Point Blunt.) And here's a report from the ugly mess back there.

After rounding Angel Island to port (wanted to stay in that nice Southeast wind) we noticed a big honkin' boat, well more honkin' than Lapras anyway, coming directly across from San Francisco with no spinnaker flying. "Are they racing? Surely they must have a spinnaker on a boat like that. Heck, I bet they have more spinnakers than anchors on that thing." Check out the report from Valis for the other side of the story and the "spirited race with a Catalina 22". Er, um, that would be a Catalina 250.

After that it was pretty much just a nice sail around the bay. We rode the flood to Red Rock arriving just minutes after slack. Mixed it up with a bunch of the speedsters coming around the other way from Yuerba Buena (including Eight Ball, the eventual overall winner), rode the newly formed ebb South to Berkeley, crept by YB in a now failing wind with the South Bay ebb now on our nose, sailed backwards for a while, caught a big blast of wind under the Western span of the Bay Bridge and ripped on home on that huge ebb.

Finished at 4:44. Not bad, and looking good.

Other firsts in a long time? Navigating a boat at night during the two hour trip back to Richmond after the race, and eating a good pot of stew on board. Brought back memories of many nights like that aboard Scotch Mist (that Dasher built by the father of the guy who won the Three Bridge Fiasco this year. Weird, huh?)

How'd we do? I think we were the only boat in our class to go clockwise and actually finish before the time limit. We were 4th of 19 in our class, 7th of 43 total non-spinnaker class boats, and 123rd of 282 overall starters.

Doublehanding and Oreos. A Fulton-Anderson tradition

02 February 2010

Light Air Doublehanded?

Dean and I used to do that all the time.

3BF report coming soon . . .