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!