Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride or Governor's Cup 2014

Pride of Baltimore II
That's what one of the other crew members V said/yelled in my direction on Friday night/Saturday morning as we sat on the rail in the driving wind & rain sharing slimy gummy bears. Somehow she managed to get them out of the packaging & into our glove-covered hands--a little at a time & we rejoiced when we both got Pineapple--along with a mouthful of rainwater...  the grapes got a healthy dose of Chesapeake Bay water as they almost got swept away--but we caught them in time at least twice. But, we didn't have to worry about washing them off. 

Earlier in the day I'd listened to the weather report & heard that Baltimore was going to be spared the rain but if you were going to be in Southern Maryland like St. Mary's, it would be a different story...sigh. I grabbed my heavy foulies, my life jacket, 2 towels, & 3 changes of clothes & prepared myself for a few rain showers. I thought, well, CBOFs is calling for lighter winds so at least the rain will be manageable....HAH!
The Dove

The race start was 6PM & the Race Committee boat was Pride of Baltimore II. For those who don't know, the Governor's Cup is so named because it is the race from Maryland's new seat of government, Annapolis to the first one, St. Mary's. The Dove was race committee at the end. That is pretty cool. 

Anyway, back to the wild ride. It didn't start that way--we had better wind than expected but so far no rain--we had a decent start & were doing quite well--we decided that we'd have watch shifts of 4 hours on and then off, there were 7 of us--at 8:00 it was my turn to get some sleep--still no rain, & I wedged myself in the quarter berth & tried to sleep--we had a pretty good heel on but I was able to get pretty cozy. Until midnight when it was time to go back up--it had been raining, but not too badly, we were in a bit of a lull & so I thought that things would be pretty low-key. HAH!

The wind picked up, then the rain, then the sea state...ACK! I sat in my heavy foulies with my usual red hat on (Mt Gay Rum CRAB Regatta from 2009--now more pink than red), the hood from my jacket pulled low & tight & braced for the onslaught. The rain hit like little pellets of icicles & made it just about impossible to see much of anything let alone the long tow lights--thankfully not coming in our direction.  At first, I was thinking to myself, "I signed up for this?" I'm freezing, soaked to the bone, tired, & a little bit scared as I rarely have had to sail in these conditions--I just wanted the wind to let up a bit & I'd be fine. Then I thought, "find the zen in this--become one with the storm." Yeah, a little hippie-dippy, but I needed to flip my script 'cuz I was stuck there for the unforeseeable immediate future. I trusted the rest of the crew, knew the boat, & knew that this was a great opportunity to expand my sailing skills. Once I flipped my thinking pattern, I really began to enjoy the exhilarating experience.  I looked at the whitecaps glowing as they crested--bio-luminescent plankton really made the tops of the waves glow in an amazing way as well as the comb-jellies that got disturbed by the wake of the boat--kinda like the picture below but with more waves--it was incredibly cool.
Later, my skipper sat next to me, & yelled in my direction, practically nose-to-nose, "How's this for your first Gov Cup?"  "Intense!" was my response--he said that at times it was a lot like ocean racing--the sounds, the waves, the speed, the intensity. Cool.

One of the highlights for me was our spinnaker run. We could barely carry it because we were so on the beam but, we did for a while & I was trimming.  V was the grinder & thank goodness she was there because we really had to fight to keep it full--imagine, black kite, black sky, bulleting rain in your face--I needed swim goggles (no wonder the Volvo Ocean Racers wear face masks). Anyway, at first we rounded up pretty badly, but I let the sheet ease & we popped back up immediately--heart beating a little fast but under control. So many times as I felt the bow dip down, I gave a little ease & we were good. I heard later that most folk didn't put up their kites.  I feel that my ability to trim under these conditions was put to the test--what a way to see improvement--it is great to see how far I've come from when I began trimming the spinnaker so many years ago to now--of course there's still so much more to learn but I have a real sense of accomplishment from this experience. And after all was said & done, we won silver! Most Improved from the previous year. So happy to be part of the crew who helped win this recognition. I've been asked many times recently, would I do the race again? You betcha'!