20 April 2011

Why We Sail

This past weekend was the Big Dinghy Regatta at Richmond Yacht Club, first time on the starting line for me since last October. Saturday was a "normal" around the buoys format with four races for our fleet of seven Wetas. Abnormal was sharing a start sequence with the open multihull class. Yeah, I know the Weta technically has multiple hulls, but it definitely ain't no Nacra 20! We would have been better off mixing it up with the training-float-less I14 and 29er skiffs than dodging the cats ripping down the line at nearly twice our speed. OK, enough whining. It was great to be back in the boat chasing friends around the bay. Hanging tough and taking advantage of a few critical opportunities allowed me to overcome a number of my own mistakes and eek out a second place on a tie-break (sorry, Gordon.) Well ahead, showing us all how to do it, was Bob "hide" Hyde. We all knew he had four bullets even if the race committee only actually saw him win two. The scores have now been set straight and posted here.

Truth be told, I felt a little unsettled throughout and after day one. I started out nervous and that continued into awkwardness after being out of the boat for so long. Starting with cats and paddling home when the wind shutdown didn't help the groove any. A day racing usually feels better.

Day 2 at Big Dinghy is a reverse handicap pursuit race around a couple of islands in the bay, and with something like 40 boats entered it was a zoo. Did it feel better than day 1? Well, I . . . er we . . . were 36th of 38 boats that actually finished, thanks to at least one major screw-up on my part, but it turned out to be a blessed day of sailing. Dave Berntsen had sent me some crew for the day, a young woman from Golden Gate Yacht Club with an infectious passion for sailing and the desire to have a go at dinghy racing. Kristen was excited from the get-go, well prepared, and ready to learn whatever she needed to. She got involved early in tending sheets, tracking the competition, and sharing tactical insights. During the slow parts of the race, I learned about her sailing classes, family racing heritage, and efforts to promote more under 30 participation in the sport, especially at her yacht club (she's the youngest member.)

The highlight of the sailing came late in the race after finally rounding Southampton Light. The wind had been steadily building as we made our way South out of the doldrums of Red Rock, and by the time we hit the shoals, the waves were up and the wind was starting to nuke. I moved aft to keep the bows up, as Kristen reached for the furling line. She payed it out just as we'd practiced; I sheeted in; and cashoosh! we were up on a plane and bashing through the backs of the waves. Not wanting to stuff the bows and see bad things happen, I dumped some kite and climbed out over the aft beam to sit on the last little bit of hull next to the rudder, as the more experienced Weta sailors have told me to do when it's honking. I suppose I should have been assessing the mental state of my crew before asking her to climb out to the very aft, windward corner of the trampoline (where there's not much to hold on to). What if this was scaring her, first time on a Weta and at the limits of its stability? Instead, I just asked her to come on back. She did, and, I put the power back on. Whooooosh! Surfing Pikachu was flying now, bows up and leaving a blanket of foam behind. Ten seconds later the first "Woohoo!" came from the very aft, windward corner of the trampoline and a few minutes later as the adrenalin rush continued to surge, "Oh my God, this is so much fun!"

Thanks for crewing Kristen. Your enthusiasm, desire to learn, and pure joy helped me to remember why we sail.

09 April 2011


Boom. Boom-boom. The Union soldiers, half of them, fired their first volley and then knelt to pour a new powder charge down the muzzle of their muskets while the other half advanced 10 more yards down the hill upon the rebels. "Fire!" Ba-boom. Boom. Three more shots fired. As these three knelt, the rebels appeared from behind their barricades to return fire. Boom. Boom. crack, "ah, come on!" one rebel exclaimed as his percussion cap failed to ignite the powder. This scene continued on for some 20 minutes: men in blue alternately advancing, firing, reloading; their targets firing back from positions backed up to the shore with nowhere to run. It all looked pretty authentic except for the beautiful backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge on a delightful Spring day.

The kids aren't personally motivated (yet, wishfully) to go sailing without me dragging them aboard. But Angel Island? You bet. They wanted to go there; so hey, let's sail across. Oh my, what a crossing it was. The beautiful clear weather continued from Friday presenting us with mild winds and clear views of the City, the three major bridges, and Angel Island square in our sights.

Upon arriving at Ayala Cove we made our way up the gangway to pay the slip fee. To our surprise, we were greeted by the usual State Park Ranger unusually dressed for battle circa 1863. He recommended we hike our way over to the West side of the island where at 2pm there would be a Civil War reenactment. So we did. Turns out Angel Island has a bit of Civil War history. Cool.

By the time it was time to head back across the bay, the wind had come up nicely. We poled out the jib and the kids took turns guiding Lapras back to Richmond.

05 April 2011

Ah Sailing

Rain and more rain, cold, teaser sunshine midweek, rainy weekend. That's been about it for "Spring" so far . . . until last weekend. Finally some warmth and coupled with a break in the hyperactive personal schedule it was time to get the Weta wet. Surfing Pikachu had been under wraps since October--that's just wrong here in California

70-something, light breeze, fizzy clouds, slack tide. Ah sailing. The Weta trampolines sure make a nice place to just sit or even lie down out in the middle of some quiet water. I dropped the tiller, tweaked the sails a bit, and she just sailed herself for 15, 20 minutes or so. Ah sailing.

About this time, the warm Easterly shut down and the ebb started building. Uh oh, can I find a vector that'll get me in the harbor before being flushed out the Carquinez Strait straight into San Pablo Bay? No problem. A little puff here, a hint of Westerly there. Pikachu just glided across to the North where she found the new wind. Ah sailing.