|Crewed Lightship #1 at YRA||March 19|
|For those who asked about how it was out there, here are the nice memories from Lightship. I have been away on travel for a week, but it still feels like last weekend. Sanchez, thanks for harness.
We started on port tack toward the Gate with only 4 of the 7 Expresses signed up to go. Desperado took the lead, El Raton following close, Archimedes a distant third and Salty Hotel a little further back. We were the only 4-boat crew so we had to run with a storm jib instead of a number 3 like the others. It was a good choice as we closed in on both Expresses and a Sydney that were gust-knocked at foot of the gate. We saw a few early starters already retiring and coming back in - not a good sign.
Once we got a full view of the swells, I knew it was a perfect place for the expresses -- narrow beam & high buoyancy bow. Before the first tack, Salty passed us to leeward with their obvious better speed. I thought briefly about changing up to a larger headsail but it was too hairy even for a chimpanzee. The tacks were timed carefully to avoid the largest of the waves and I became intensely focused not to jello thru a wave. Speed was life and an extra half-knot was the difference between stalling at a breaking wave or riding up its crest. Once in while we slapped on the backside so hard that I slide forward a full foot before arresting myself on the lifeline. Once we cut the top quarter of a wave and it came flying back in the cockpit. I tucked very low like in football and braced for the impact but it still slid me back a foot and a half (3rd down and 11.5). Tibor looked back half expecting to find no one at the helm.
We were crossing tacks with a reefed Salty and they had to duck under us -- Starboard is sweet.
I wondered how the new guys were holding up the splash and spray. I knew that one was fairly wet but he was not complaining. If he did, there wasn't much we could do. No one was turning green but I could feel my burps coming and sensed a slight stupor in Tibor's demeanor. Time for a helm change or vomit spray -- easy decision.
We crossed tacks with Salty but this time they were easily ahead. Storm jibs don't point well but the smaller jib suited our situation just fine.
We tacked back and forth just outside the edge of the channels trying to stay out of the roughest swell. The conditions really lightened up about 3/4 quarters to the mark and now I wished for a bigger headsail and less shroud tension on the lower mast. We rounded the SF buoy and decided to fly the spinnaker after all, which was not rigged. After some slow-time Balderrama fiddling, we launched and immediately took off like a sled with one man on each critical control -- vang, spinnaker, main and helm. A couple of times we were gusted and knocked on our sides and after a while we all started to get the hand of popping the vang, sheeting out and pumping the rudder to bring her back down wind. We also decided to take the storm jib down since it was providing too much excitement.
Our surfing highlight was sustaining 18 knots off one swell and experiencing major V-spray. When it seemed liked we were gonna do a face plant, I would pull back Tim and Tim would pull back on John to lean back like in a Bobsled. Every little pound off the pointy end was needed to match the boat speed with the conditions. My windsurfing thoughts came into my head as I was reminded of how one needs to go faster off the wind to avoid a bone jarring slam gust. Only in this case, it could be the rig or sails.
Just when we were getting confident in our broach recoveries, the backup-backup spinnaker shredded at the foot. No noise, just a quiet pressure-less event. Tibor said it was strapped too tight too often but I thought more about the age and the gusts. No biggie as it was a patchwork with rust spots.
Race over and we didn't feel like rigging another spinnaker since Salty was likely way ahead. Hmmm, should have put up the 1.5 oz as Scott from Ramona advised. Well, I could at least enjoy the scenery while trough riding. Holy Crap! Did you just see the Golden Gate vanish behind that huge wave!! Woooh! And there goes another 15 footer. Makes sense, the swells were forecasted to worsen as the day wore on.
We raised the storm jib and watched others not flying a kite or passing us way off to the sides with a chute still in one piece. We slide thru the gate on a flood and there was entertainment waiting. At Fort Point an Olson 25 was adamant about sailing to the finish on a Spinnaker but it required a broach every 20 feet. We had front row seats and I thought about what we might have looked like but with alot of knarly wave action thrown in. I believe we eventually passed them under storm jib. Silly Olson! Someone forgot to tell him that Olson's don't close-reach well under spinnaker -- like 99% percent of other boats.
Well that's what it looked like at the very back end of the Express fleet and Archimedes. About 90 were registered, 40 did not cross the start line and 5 DNF'd. My friend on a 40-footer shredded their spinnaker, lost the helm control and had to go to emergency tiller, and almost lost 2 people overboard. I also heard about the Ross 30 that retired, U-turned back to the Gate, threw up a spinnaker and rounded down to snap a pole.
It was Knarly, Dudes! Thanks to Archimedes and ourselves for being decent sailors and to Karl for designing such a kick-ass boat. I will not knock us for fourth in the fleet. Remember, we finished respectfully by doing the 1, 2, 3, 4 Express Flush and beating all others in our MORA class, including the Sydney 32 which rated 60 or 80 PHRF.
Next sail -- 2 practices on April 3 and 10. The next race is Vallejo on March 30-April 1.
YRA Corrected Results (4/5/2005)
Complete Results from YRA
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