Friday, September 15, 2006

My First Regatta!

During the weekend of September 9th, Ben and Kelly and I ventured out to my first out-of-town regatta, the Harvest Moon Regatta at Atwood Yacht Club. Aside from some disappointing interactions with the people there, who were uniformly unfriendly and even randomly mean to us (with the exception of the bar waitstaff, the race committee, and our new friend “J.P.” from Leatherlips Yacht Club!), it was a super-ific fun adventure! Here are some of the highlights. Settle in with a nice cold soda, if you like, because this is sure to be some kind of epic novel, I’m sure.


After some bearing buddy-related struggles that involved the purchase of bearing buddies that didn’t fit, the borrowing of bearing buddies that did fit from Ben and Kelly’s trailer, and the parking of one (rather jaunty-looking) Capri 18 sailboat in a Walmart parking lot whilst shopping for a new grease gun… we were on our way to Atwood Lake. The drive was mercifully uneventful, and I thoroughly enjoyed the rare opportunity to be a *passenger*. (Translation: I took a car nap.)

Upon arrival at AYC, we raised the mast, launched the boat, and parked her in one of the few open docks near the ramp. We didn’t want to risk losing our dock to one of “The Flying Scot People,” so we reluctantly decided not to go for an evening sail. (Waaaaah!) Our accommodations at Ben’s Aunt and Uncle’s nearby lake cottage were superb. Aunt Martha and Uncle Roger were excellent and gracious hosts!


Saturday morning brought the skipper’s meeting bright and early (aka 9 AM.) I was one of -- if not the only -- lady skipper there! Girl POWER! Team Central Air were wearing our team shirts custom designed (and ironed on!) by Kelly. (“Team Central Air – powered by Twinkies!”) Kelly – who is also our rockin’ Tactician – took great notes during the meeting. I was most grateful, because I have little patience for “details.” And truth be told, I was nearly peeing my pants from anxiety related to:

(1) Skippering my first race [sailing in close quarters sort of freaks me out, and starts and mark-rounding are ‘all about’ sailing in close quarters!]

(2) Sailing in unfamiliar waters [I have a fixed keel and no depth finder, people!]

(3) Having more wind than my little boat and I could handle. [It doesn't take much, I tell you!]

Well, fortunately my fears were unfounded, as they usually are. (Note to self: consider anti-anxiety medications… perhaps the one with the little egg guy in the ads. He seems pretty carefree and well-adjusted after he takes the little egg-guy pill.) Anyway, here’s how things worked out for each of my areas of anxiety:

(1) Employing the ‘stay out of the way’ starting strategy worked well, and we were so far behind everyone else at the first mark that it was no longer an issue! (Woohoo! Not!)

(2) Staying in the center of the lake when motoring from AYC to the race area (near the dam) was effective. And we were having so much fun during the races themselves that I no longer gave the subject more thought or care than it warranted!

(3) Yeah, uh, NOT an issue!! During the first race, we hardly had any wind at all… and by the last race (on Sunday morning), my definition of ‘too much wind’ had been ratcheted up by a few notches!! YEAH!! Bring it!!

It became pretty clear from the starting horn that our little 110 high-cut (as opposed to ‘deck sweeper’) jib was not going to enable us to be very competitive. Oh yeah… and I didn’t have a PHRF rating to bring with me (another ‘note to self’), and the regatta’s PHRF guy was still having trouble finding a proper rating for us that morning. Regardless, I’m pretty sure that there would be *no* PHRF *ever* high enough to make up for A.D.D.-girl tacking on the windward leg and then sailing around sem-randomly trying to lock in on a proper close-hauled course, though! So, between the lack of a suitable headsail and an inexperienced skipper, we were pretty much in it for the good times. And that was fine with us!

We certainly did our best, though. This was literally the first time I had ever sailed while truly ‘aiming’ for something – the race marks, in this case. Drawing on Ben and Kelly’s excellent race experience (2nd place in the Summer ‘Red Cup’ Series – YES! – plus the Catalina 25 Nationals at Lake Erie this summer) was very helpful. I learned a lot from following their good advice on a variety of sailing subjects during the entire weekend. Observing Ben’s starting techniques during the second race was super instructional, for example, and it helped me start the third race in a much better position than I did the first race. (Yay! Progress!)

Some ultra-cool and memorable good times took place during the second race. The wind started to pick up a bit, and Central Air did the very special and magical thing that sailboats do when the wind picks up a bit: she heeled over just as pretty as you please and we picked up a lot of speed.


Now in the past, when a boat heels over, Christy geeks out a bit and doesn’t want to man (woman) the helm anymore because it’s scary. (Boo!!) But it was different this time. I loved it!! Now, I must admit that I was making rather loud pronouncements about the whole situation, but those pronouncements were related to the fact that everything in the perfectly-organized (and very cute) little cabin was flying around everywhere. (I am a ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’ kind of girl, so this was pretty appalling to me.) The Shremshocks remarked that we were washing the windows (yes!!) and assured me that everything in the cabin would be just fine. To my credit, I did not pull the ‘emergency cord’ (the mainsheet) once. And you know what? It was a freaking blast!! After we rounded the windward mark and started sailing slowly downhill to the distant leeward mark, Ben and Kelly looked at each other and said almost in unison, “She didn’t freak out!” Victory!

Here’s what I think helped me make the transition from scared little girl… to chest-pounding, wind-hungry ANIMAL:

(A) The excellent instruction and practice time I received as part of ACSA’s Learn-to-Sail program this past Spring. I especially recall the ‘tough love’ instructional tactics that Tom Wehrung employed aboard ‘Balanced Sheets’ on one especially breezy day. (‘Tough love’ = [paraphrasing] ‘If you want to be a sailor, Christy, you’re going to need to learn how to sail when it’s windy. Nothing bad will happen when the boat heels. You can do this.’ … Yeah, thought I should explain what I mean by ‘tough love’ so that you wouldn’t think he was, like, beating me with the boat hook or something each time I complained. Those instructional tactics were employed only aboard Jim Foreman’s boat.)

(B) We were *racing*, people! I wanted to go FAST!!!

(C) I was with my friends, and we were having more fun than should be legal. More wind = more speed = more FUN!!

The wind continued to freshen and become more consistent after the second/final race of the day, so we stayed out and played for awhile. Ben drove the boat, Kelly reassembled the cabin and relaxed in the Capri 18's spacious and comfy cockpit, Christy tested out the porta-pottie (which works well, I’m happy to report) and found an excellent radio station on the stereo system, and we enjoyed a beautiful, sunny day out on the water. And when we got back to the cottage at 7 PM, we all crashed for the evening and slept like babies! (We didn’t even know the score of the OSU-Texas game ‘til the next morning. Now *that* is tired!)


The third and final race of the regatta went off without a hitch. This time, the stuff in the cabin was bungy-ed in place and ready for anything! Although we had some nice wind for the most part (sailed 4 kts downwind at one point), the wind really didn’t show up strongly enough to test the new cabin-organizing-strategy. (Kel, you rock anyway!) Still, we enjoyed our final race of the regatta and thanked the race committee (on their plush Catalina 30!) effusively for their patience with our under-dressed little boat.

The pulling, de-rigging, and mast-lowering exercises also went off without a hitch (accidental pun, shudder), and we were soon on our way back home. Home… where they have Blackberry signals and everything! As wonderful as it was to spend the weekend sailing at a cool new lake (albeit one with very flukey winds), it was good to be heading back to our huge and delightful home waters. Be it ever so over-populated with jet skis and unlimited HP powerboats, there’s still no place like home!

Attending the Harvest Moon Regatta at Atwood Lake was a great experience for this new-ish skipper. I feel like I became pretty comfortable with some skills that have intimidated me in the past (sailing dead downwind and heeling, for example), and I have a much better idea of which specific skills I need to work on more (driving around at idle speed with the outboard, sailing as close to the wind as possible without pinching, and finding and ‘sticking’ a new course quickly when tacking, for example.)

I’m really looking forward to getting Central Air back in the water at Alum Creek for some serious (!!giggle!!) ‘practice time!’

1 comment:

Tillerman said...

Great story. Just forget the mean people - there aren't many of them in sailing.

And the more you race you will soon become comfortable with sailing in close quarters. Sounds like you've really got the racing bug. Good luck.

I have added a link to your blog in my blogroll.