Sunday, April 19, 2009
Sailracer in 'Napolis
It's been a long time. I used to race on sailboats ages ago & have been looking to get back into it but up until recently I just didn't feel like I was in a place to go there. This year I decided it would be different so I listed myself in a local magazine for sailors around the Chesapeake Bay area. There are classifieds for those who want to race, both skippers & crew. Last week I received an email asking if I wanted to race on Saturday. The boat was a J-42 out of Annapolis & they were pretty serious racers but they were willing to take on a relatively novice racer but certainly an experienced sailor. So off I go.
Drove down to Annapolis on Saturday morning well before the 10 AM rendezvous so the team could practice flying the kite. Which means the Spinnaker, the big-bellied sail with all the colors. Working a spinnaker is a real bitch. It is very lightweight, very big & quite full of itself--or wind, rather & that is its biggest problem as well as the fore-deck crew's biggest problem. But we managed quite well, although we were in very light wind during the practice, which makes it much easier to handle. Regardless, the skipper was satisfied we could deal during the race even in a heavier wind. The race was mostly against a bunch of Navy boats. These were the big guys, approximately 40 plus feet, known as "blue-hulls". I always find the start of the race the most exciting part--we're all making a mad dash for the start & you don't want to cross the line before the horn or you have to circle back & cross again losing precious minutes. Usually the closest calls happen at the start, rounding the buoys, & then the finish. Depending upon the set of your sails you may have to give way to another boat--for our start we were maybe a foot apart from one of the blue-hulls. Even one of the middies reached out to fend-off (a very stoopid move by the way--a very good way to lose a limb) in case we brushed one another. Think about pirate boardings & how rigging can get tangled & you get the general idea. It was a huge adrenalin rush. That & the near miss we had rounding one of the marks--unfortunately we had to give way that time. It's almost like playing chicken--you try to get as far you can without crashing & hope the other guy gets nervous & comes about before you have to. The next huge rush happens everytime you tack (turn) & also when you have to put up or take down (dowse) the spinnaker. Taking down the spinnaker is when most of the mistakes happen--you are fighting a huge belly full of wind hoisted on a pole & attached in 3 places. Meanwhile you are also putting up the head sail (jib). It takes perfect timing & no fouling up the spinnaker to make time. But usually mistakes happen, the skipper screams & the boat loses time. We executed 2 times out of 4 perfectly so 50% was our statistics--my goal was not to mess up at all & thankfully I didn't--I wanted to make sure I got asked back to race again. It was a lot of fun & I learned a lot. I especially learned what it feels like to be the only female on board--very interesting & a great way to watch how men communicate. Yes, sailing is a great sport to get into especially if you are a single female.
There are a few female sailors but mostly the men dominate. Even more fun are the after-race parties. Sailors are huge partiers. After a race, folk all go to the local bars & drink--A LOT. So just as expected, we all hop off & go to a bar up the street from the marina & there was a party already in full swing--apparently it was the opening of rockfish fishing season & all of the fishermen were having a blow-out. We joined in with the live band & the flowing Meyer's Rum which seems to sponsor a lot of events near the water.
Today I was back down in Annapolis for the crew listings party--people who want to crew & people who need crew find the excuse to party & sign people up to crew on their boats. Yep--the Meyer's was fast & free. It was good to go & network a bit--I hope I get a few calls to crew soon because the race I was in was so great & I do want to meet a sailing kinda guy to spend some quality time with in the future. Dating experts always say go to where the men are or pick a new hobby or interest that men may like as well & then do it. I am going to try that with my sailing but I will also get even more out of the racing--I will learn how to be a better sailor & ultimately that's really what I want most out of this adventure.