I consider myself to be a very good sailor but I will admit (almost too fast) to not being a good racer. Starting lines go against every safe maritime practice that I can think of and beating to windward doesn't conform to my idea of a fun relaxing sail. I reef before most people and keep a safe distance from other boats. This might explain why I finished last in every race last year. That and the fact that I insisted on taking a Catalina 22 out in 25 knot winds.
Polka Dot Racing was reborn on Sunday, our first race on the new boat. And get this, we didn't finish last! In fact we put a beating on 3 boats, placing 11th out of 14! Here's the indomitable crew post-race:
You may notice a wide variety of people on that crew, a salty dog (me), a person sailing for the second time in his life (BC), a veteran from last year (KG), and a Kindergartener (CK). BC was on main (and doing a very good job of keeping the boat flat), KG was on jib (and wearing herself out with my non-self-tailing winches), I was driving, and CK was on tactics.
We went out early to get a bit of practice in, so that the crew could learn their jobs, the plan was to do nothing fancy. The wind was blowing about 8-10 knots at the beginning. CK read the flags on the committee boat and plotted our course...I punched the marks into the GPS and CK called out our speed, distance and course for us.
We were the second to last boat over the line as the driver is apparently scared of the scrum that most people call a starting line. Our first leg was upwind and mostly uneventful. A little bit of excitement when the lazy sheet got snagged on a cleat during a tack, BC jumped up and cleared it with the appropriate flair. It showed that he'd been on a sailboat before, his first time the week before he almost fell overboard....experience is key in a racing crew.
Towards the middle of the second leg (downwind) we were catching up to a sloop of undetermined heritage but she held us off to round about 2 boat lengths in front of us. Our lack of a genoa was showing on the next uphill leg as she put some distance on us. The wind had picked up to 15-20 knots by now and the crew was still comfortable but we just couldn't catch this guy in front of us.
Rounding the last mark was the best rounding I've ever done...I picked the perfect layline, barely had to pinch to make it and were within 3 feet of it as we passed. Seriously, usually I miss it by about 100 feet either direction and have to either sail a bunch of extra distance or do extra tacks to make it.
I'd estimate we're about 10-15 boat lengths behind mystery sloop, neither of us have a spinnaker so it should be fair downwind home. We pick up some lengths on them, have a Merit 25 pass us (rated like 36 seconds a mile faster than us), but are being held off by the sloop.
At this point, CK (the kindergartener) reminds me that I told her she could steer during the race. Sure, I hand her the tiller extension and keep steering with the tiller. She, of course, notices that the tiller extension is moving on its own so she again gently reminds me that she is supposed to steer. What the hell, let's make sailing fun for her, so I let go of the tiller, raise my hands and yell "5 year old driving!" loudly enough for the other boat to hear us.
They look back somewhat scared and I'm sure they noticed that our course goes haywire. CK starts bearing up and the boat heats up a bit...the SOG jumps as I frantically yell "push the tiller" "pull the tiller" as the boat zigzags around, still picking up speed as she can't keep the boat heading too close to DDW. But, what the hell, we're PASSING them. CK's hot course picked up enough boat speed that we got inside of and passed them.
Polka Dot Racing has a new secret weapon...a 5 year old driver! I took back the helm to get closer to downwind and our intended course, got in front of the sloop, had to gybe twice to get back onto a course to clear the breakwater, but we ended up beating these guys by 5 boat lengths!
Polka Dot Racing's first race ever that wasn't a DNF or DFL! And it's all due to our Kindergarten Driver.