31 January 2010

Initial Report: Three Bridge Fiasco 2010

This is a write-up I did for Sailing Anarchy (I want to win an SAYC burgee for the effort), I'll write up something more pertinent to the blog this week and add more pictures.

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!


David said...

Rat's nest, eh? That explains the big boat that overhauled us on the way to Red Rock with no spinnaker. I think that "Catalina 22" was me in the Catalina 250 wing and wing. We were one of about five boats that made it around Blackaller before the parking lot. To stay in the flood and SE breeze in the middle of the bay, we left Angel Island to port. You caught us just before Southampton, I think and left us way behind on the way to YB. But with Blackaller already checked off our list, we caught you at the line coming the other way. Finished at 16:43.

Tillerman said...

Edward, this is the best post about racing you have ever written. How do you do it?

By the way, I didn't understand most of it but the scene with the mouse was very touching. I had a mouse eat my skiing mittens exactly the same way.

EVK4 said...

David, that is so very cool. I have some pictures of you I think. I'll check and put a note on your blog if I do.

I kept looking at the sail and was pretty sure it wasn't a C22 (I used to own one) but honestly we were so busy cracking up about the spinnaker that we didn't look too closely.

EVK4 said...

Tillerman, I'm pretty sure you're poking fun at me for having other blogs on the side. Not sure though.

Sorry about the mittens.

O Docker said...

Sorry about the spinnaker.

But this does explain a lot. We were just south of the long wharf in a Capri 22 around 1:30 pm, doing man overboard drills (cushion overboard drills, actually - I may do a blog post explaining how that came to be).

A mouse swam by us frantically, wearing what appeared to be a brightly colored feather boa.

Until now, we were baffled.

Captain John said...

Edward, I love your reporting on the 3BF - EXCELLENT! The Got Wind and Water Photo boat had you on our target list for pictures and video. We caught some of the boats drifting along towards Blackaller at the very beginning, then swung around the fleet to see if we could get a money shot of the start with the GG Bridge in the background. At that point we noticed warn weather and plenty of wind to the East. The Moore fleet was rapidly gaining on TI. We saw others heading on the river of flood through the slot and opted for some shots of spinnakers at TI. Never saw you even though we followed the herd north to Red Rock. - Next year . . .

tillerman said...

Edward, I would never make fun of a blogger whose articles and pictures made the front page of Sailing Anarchy, and without any snide remarks from the editor about how much he hates the word "blog".

This is the best blog post I have ever read on the front page of Sailing Anarchy. How do you do it?

EVK4 said...

Haha! SA front page, that means I win the burgee! It's going right next to the Mars YC burgee on Valis. I now have to work on my speech.

major syrtis said...

There's a Mars YC? Where can I join? You ought to write a blog post about it.

Dodo-Goldilocks said...

Yes, the Mars YC was founded when water was discovered on Mars. Where there was water, there must have been yachts. A blog post? Yes, that is an idea.

Borealis said...

I thought the YC was formed when what they first thought was water turned out to be gin.

Valles Marineris said...

I believe the cause and effect relationship goes like this:

first there is water, then there are yachts, thus there are yacht clubs, therefore there is gin.

bonnie said...

That must be the prettiest mouse nest of all time.

Pat said...

I thought it was anchor rode or perhaps halyard shackles that got moused, not the spinnakers themselves. Is mousing the spinnaker bag a peculiar O dock practice?

Now the old time tall ship sailors would cat their anchors and mouse their shackles, so would they have been in a cat-and-mouse pursuit of anchoring?

Carol Anne said...

I'm sure Dulce would gladly help you out with your mouse problem. She used to eat a lot of them, but she's destroyed the population here, so there are no more.