Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fall Racing Series

The fall racing series starts today and runs each Sunday for about six weeks. I'm going to try and race a couple of them, even though our boat is certainly not that competitive. We don't have the sail acreage, nor the boat shape to make it much of a racer. In fact, in all but the most incompetent hands, it's a pretty stable boat.

It's more sailing, however it sorts out.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Our First Race Starts ...

The forecast called for eight kts of wind tonight, right around the time the races were meant to happen. I showed up early and launched L&C under a steady 5 kt breeze. Unfortunately, it was blowing out of the South, which is not ideal around here.

Jared came down just before six and said Nathalie with an H was most likely on the way. She's riding her bike to work in support of Bike-to-Work Month here in Portland. I guess it could be an international bike-to-work month, but here in Stumptown it gets a lot of press and ends being a competition with prizes to the company with the most participants.

Jared predicted that Nathalie would tell us how much her butt hurt when she finally showed.

She showed and we launched in a light, 3-5 kts.

We made a couple of tacks, working on our sail handling and weight distribution; we discussed the strategy for racing, at least as much as we knew about it, and then made a run downwind.

Winds became even lighter and shifted to the North briefly. The thermal South was dying out on us in a hurry.

By the time the buoys were in place and the horns blew, the winds were dropping to very light.

We decided to go with the Thistles. Our plan was to follow the fleet and get some experience on a race course. Since the rapidly disappearing wind seemed to be the most important factor tonight, going with the first group away, while there was still a breath of a breeze, was the most attractive option.

The race committee shouted at us, recommending that we go with the last fleet. We answered back, "We are a Thistle. We are seventeen feet."

They laughed and said something like, "Whatever floats your boat," which turned out to be prophetic. As we crossed the start line the wind died completely and it was all we could to hold our spot ten meters inside and upriver from the start buoy. Whatever floated our boat was all we had going for us tonight, 'cause there was nothing propelling it.

Eventually, after much hornblowing, I noticed a blue and white checked flag on the RC boat. I let the crew know that it was all over and we started sculling our way back to the dock.

As I stood in the back of the boat sculling, J and N with an H nuzzled each other near the centerboard and I serenaded the young lovers.

Poor kids.

So, our first race got across the line, the start line. But that was it.

Thankfully, Weenies on the Water showed up in time to feed us after our hard work.

We ended the night by filing a protest with the Race Committee. While preparing for the race we realized we were in distress and put out a general call for aid. The nearest boat was a Thistle helmed by Shannon the Real Sailor. Despite out dire straits, he refused to pass a beer over to us.

We managed to limit the damage and limp back to the dock, but I'm certain that all sailors will see this as one of the deepest transgressions on the Corinthian spirit; a tragedy that could have been avoided with the lightest bit of concern for fellow sailors.

Shamelessly, the aforementioned transgressor, unapologetically lobbied long and hard for one of our beers up on the cliff, post-"race."

As we walked away from the thinning, post-race gathering, a nearly-full moon rising across the river, the lights of Oaks Park twinkling on the water's surface, the squeals of roller coaster riders drifting across the glassy Willamette river, Nathalie with an H said, "My butt really hurts."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Good Luck Charm

My niece, Emily, henceforth to be referred to as The Good Luck Charm, came out sailing with her dad and myself tonight. I've been charting the progress of getting my little girls back on the water, under sail, sharing the story, the ups, the downs, the tentative steps toward a unified sailing family.

However, there's another story. It's a quiet story, playing out in the background, nearly imperceptible, except to the most, um, perceptive.

It's my story.

The story of my increasing confidence and my desire to earn a captain's most important quality: the trust of his crew.

How's that for over-the-top melodrama? It's my best Will Ferrell.

Nonetheless, I was very happy that my niece wanted to try out sailing. As a recently matriculated sixth-grader, and cousin to my first- and second-graders, I thought it might be great leverage to get The Good Luck Charm out on the boat and then share the story with A and M as encouragement.

Winds were mostly flat during the day. I checked the club Webcam and the wind reports and was shocked to see that a giant spider had landed just across the river on Ross Island.

Oddly enough, I didn't see this anywhere on the news.

Things were pretty calm until just about six when a nice breeze picked up. I think it was almost exactly when Emily showed up with Bernie that the breeze started notching up.

I had the boat in the water and we got underway after brief, but thoroughly confusing lesson on sheets, jibs, booms, centerboards, and energy-saving swim stroke advice.

We were making way briskly as soon as we cleard the clubhouse windshadow and did a couple of tacks downriver, into the North wind, before falling off and sailing downwind to the Sellwood Bridge.

Bernie noted that the Sellwood Bridge was given a federal inspection and came up 50% worse off than that bridge in Minnesota that collapsed last year.

Makes me think twice about my making the turn on the other side.

Our upwind run was a fast and fun, as the wind held pretty steady at 8 kts with a couple of gusts over 10. We heeled her over and tacked back and forth, making our turns closer to the banks as we began to work more smoothly together. The Good Luck Charm seemed to have a native sense of how and when to pull her sheet across and set the foresail up just right.

We made some adjustments to the Cunningham, outhaul, and boom vang, since they were pretty loose owing to Love and Coconuts recent light wind outings, and had a fun on our fast ride back to the club.

After putting the boat back in the yard, we repaired to the Fulton Pub for cheeseburgers and a couple of beers for the adults. Where I dubbed Emily The Good Luck Charm. Best wind in a couple of weeks for Love and Coconuts.

Tomorrow, Jared and Nathalie with an H are coming out and we plan on trying out our first races. Woohoo!