31 January 2010
Initial Report: Three Bridge Fiasco 2010
You all know that clumsy big kid with the heart of gold who just can't get out of his own way? He's always bumping into people, accidentally causing trouble and tripping over his own feet? Yep, that was us at the start line. With little to less wind, we came barreling into the start wielding 26,000 pounds of ocean-ready cruising boat, hanging a big anchor off the bow and a wind vane off the stern. And we were on port. So we ventured into the scrum, almost fouled 8 boats in one fell swoop, did our slow motion version of a crash tack, rinsed and repeated. We just kept going in there and getting pushed back out. I'd love to blame the Moores but they only caused the first two failed attempts. Things finally cleared out enough that my helming skills could get us "near" the line about 45 minutes later!
Of course I'm kidding, Paul and I are great sailors and even better racers, we just happen to disagree with PHRF's assessment of Valis at 126. Our egos know the truth, given the boat's maneuverability and straight line speed, combined with our cat-like racing instincts, we should be about a 18, so we just wanted to start with our faster brethren. Give those guys with the high ratings a bit of a head start so we could teach them and PHRF a lesson in Yacht Racing 101.
The proof of this skill comes in our actual belated start. Paul: "you're not going to make the mark", me: "crap, you're right", him: "hmmmm", me: "uh oh", him: "maybe stuff her into the wind for a second", me (this one is a thought bubble): "I wonder how much gelcoat costs on a Pacific Seacraft like this?" And, then, miraculously, our skill paid off, we missed that big rusty ball by about 4 inches (Mr. Crealock, good idea on the canoe stern) and our wind vane cleared the top by about 1 inch. We didn't hit it! After high fives and a brief debate on whether it was like football where breaking the plane was the same as hitting, we kept going.
This is where our strategic insight came in. Thanks to our head start strategy, we knew what the two halves of the fleet were doing and it was obvious that CCW was the way to go. As we got to the point of tacking towards TI, we just kept going. Not sure if it was deliberate but we had wind and neither of us wanted to go through all of the headache that involved tacking the beast. Besides, it was sunny over by Richmond and foggy over by Oakland. Decision made, we were going to Red Rock first.
We cleared Point Blunt, bore off and started talking kite run. Paul, as the man that pays the bills, was selected as foredeck (we hadn't discussed this beforehand) so off he went up into the war zone to get the kite hoisted. He came back about 3 minutes later and said, "no spinnaker we have a mouse nest." I'll admit here that despite my huffery over my many ocean miles and insistence that I really know how to sail, my first thought was, "crap, another term I don't know" and figured it was some technical term describing a spinnaker that was tangled up somehow. But, nope, it meant that a mouse had chewed up his spinnaker and made a nest with little pieces of his spinnaker. We had a very expensive laugh over the absurdity of that situation though I know there are some sailmakers out there right now thinking about breeding rodents.
The spinnaker was out of the equation and the wind was dropping so we had to do something. As possibly the only boat in the race that has more anchors than spinnakers on board, our only choice was wing and wing. Again, Paul went forward, swapped poles, and we started a spirited race with a Catalina 22 (to be fair, it might have been a Capri 22).
When we made it almost to Red Rock, we looked down Raccoon expecting to see the masses catching up to us and were surprised to see NONE of them. The TI-first contingent was making its way down there but we realized we only needed to keep a 2 mile lead on the Blackaller crowd to beat them (since we still needed to round that mark). This spurred us into even more action, so I went down below to get lunch ready. While enjoying our pita wraps, Dixie, *photoboy, and a friendly guy whose name I didn't catch pulled up to chat. They kept asking about our other kites and didn't seem to understand what Paul meant that they were all in the barn.
We rounded Red Rock with little incident, saw only one boat looking like it was violating the long wharf but saw hundreds and hundreds of spinnakers coming our way. Being on port, we were blinded by all the pretty colors and using our new-found anti-collision skills, we just weeded our way through the crowd. Pulling out the slide-rule from the navstation, we calculated that these boats would beat us. So I threw a bit of stinkeye at them, and we continued heading south to TI. Suddenly, like last year, wind. This leg always has wind, it might just be my favorite. Wind is what makes a Pacific Seacraft 44 move. When there's a lot of it, we sip coffee, pull down our sou'westers, and start passing boats. And so it was. We had enough wind to counter the 2 knot ebb as we got to TI, blasted through there, seeing only one boat violating the CG exclusion zone (though I can't figure out why unless the wind farther out was bothering him), made our turn and played the current out to The Bay Proper.
One odd note: who were the boats just getting to TI CCW as we got there modified-CW? Had they parked at Blackaller and didn't have the patience to wait it out? At this point, we were sick of Jeff Beck and Neil Young and switched to The Police Unabridged Box Set. We looked back at Red Rock and our Blackaller-first friends were still there, parking again apparently. We felt comfortable we had them.
We had a beautiful upwind ride on the conveyer belt down to Blackaller. For our last tack, we pointed at the finish line, and let the current push us to Blackaller. It was epic. But also disconcerting, we had just spent over 80% of our race upwind. That's plain weird but I think it might be why our strategy worked so well. You know, because a mouse ate our spinnaker. When we rounded Blackaller, we had our last little bit of downwind sailing, the only thing that made it possible to bear fighting that current. We winged and winged (no pole at this point) and headed into shore to get relief and make the finish. At 4:53 we crossed the line, having sailed the *most* unconventional course that freethinkers like us could devise. I'm pretty sure we didn't beat any boats that started with us but a lot of the ones that went before us and went conventional courses were behind.
After putting away the boat, having a nice Thai food dinner, we made a pact to beat down any rodents that we see before they can eat another sail. The next races that Valis is doing are the Spinnaker Cup and the the Pac Cup, I'm pulling out the charts to see if what "alternate" courses we can take there!