Monday, May 25, 2009

Flying the Chute

Miles was a blast! The boat I was on was very old & really couldn't point much but the people who "own" it for their friend really want to learn to race so it's a good place to start. There were five of us: the "owners", a woman who is just learning how to sail, another man, & me.

I wasn't too sure about this race because as I mentioned the people weren't that experienced & neither am I; racing that is, which can potentially be a dangerous thing with a huge piece of equipment like a sailboat & 18-20 knot winds. Thankfully they had an experienced guy on board, at least for the race down to Miles. What I didn't know was that he wouldn't be racing back---

Going down was amazing--great wind, those of us who had some experience did well & there were no issues at all. Our start & the second leg, were most probably the best part of the race for us. We really did nail the start--even better then a couple of the more seasoned racers in our class of old Catalina 27's. Even though we came in dead last in our class, we weren't the last of the fleet to get to the Miles River Yacht Club. Most of the Cal 25's were behind us & a lot of the PHRF class boats came in after that. One of the most beautiful sights was on our downwind leg of the race--all of the spinnakers behind us, spread out across the bay--just a phenomenal picture.

We arrive & raft up with the other Catalinas & Cals along the bulkhead. Let the partying commence! And it was a massive one! My other boat was there--the SR-33, so I went on board to visit them & was immediately handed one of their regatta specials so now I was already a two-fisted drinker...needless to say, sailors are a loud bunch & it was a roudy night until 3 AM. There was a band & plenty of another sailing special: Dark & Stormy. This consists of Gosling's dark rum & ginger soda. It was not easy getting on & off boats when drunk--I wouldn't recommend it actually. Our outboard made it impossible to just step off onto the bulkhead so I had to hop onto one of our neighbor's & then step off--at 3 & 5 AM it is NOT fun. Of course we all woke up with massive hangovers & had to get ready for our gun at 10:40 AM.

Racing back was an adventure--especially for me because besides the folks running the boat, we'd lost our most experienced crewmember & the other woman didn't know how to sail at all. That left me as the only one who could remotely handle the sails in the pit. Which meant I was the one who was going to fly the chute. The start was a downwind run too. The gun meant getting the kite up & set to go. I was very nervous & hugely stressed--hangover was a thing of the past. All I can say is that when you are in control of such a massive & beautiful sail & you are able to fly it well--there is nothing more satisfying. It was just spectacular! It is just extremely hard to do. My shoulders are killing me now--but I wouldn't trade the experience for the world. And on a boat with a more experienced crew, I never would have had that opportunity.

It looks as though I'll sail with this boat again, but the folk on the SR-33 want me for some of the longer races too so I may have to switch off. I think this is a good thing because I can get the experience I need with a seasoned crew & apply that to the novice boat. By the end of the season, I will have an super racing skill set. Next up: Wednesday night in the West River, & Leukemia Cup amongst other potential races....I am loving all this sailing!

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