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.