Two and a half men

Opus is a fairly large boat at 43 feet long. As a result, her sails, and her gear is also proportionately larger. As she has no power winches, everything is done by human muscle and, of course, involves a bit of motion up and down the decks. Things just are never within reach on her.

Tuesday was another race, or at least was supposed to be. One of the foredeck had said, weeks ago, that he would be unavailable for the race, so that meant we were already down one person. Then the second foredeck had something come up. Now we were down two. At the semi-last moment, another person cancelled. now we’re down three – approximately 1/2 of our crew.

I put in to the organizers that this might be a good time for Opus to do her duty as committee boat, but someone else was already slotted in. Ok ,guess we aren’t racing. It’s going to be maintenance except that the winds are up nicely and…

Oh, heck with it, we’ll race with the three of us.

Things went smoothly for departure as we switched from “maintenance mode” to “racing prep mode”. Hubert took us smartly out of the slip earlier than we usually would as I figured the prep work getting the sails up and squared away would take longer with just the three of us. Safely out of the marina with the wind blowing off shore, we motored further out and then turned bow towards land and into the wind to hoist the mainsail, then add the foresail. Conditions were wonderful with the wind speed in the double digits and little to no wave action.

We saw the committee boat set up and were listening on the radio, but didn’t hear the course call. Still, I was pretty sure how we would start, so started lining up Opus, only to see (almost) all the other boats on the other side of the start line. Quickly we hustled over to that line, concentrating on getting ourselves set up for the start. At the last moment I look up and…

… all the boats are on the side I started at, and we don’t have time to reposition. Once again, a late start as we swung around the committee boat for a proper (non-penalty) start, though now we were well behind the pack.

Still, these are the conditions that Opus likes, and we were overtaking them, starting to think about the tactics of picking our way through the pack. Unfortunately, since we didn’t hear the radio call, we had no idea where the pin was and therefore couldn’t plan strategy. All we could do was play follow-the-leader and hope that it would eventually be clear. Meanwhile we seemed to be heading out to Saturna island.

Eventually we figured out where the pin was located, but once again we were in a bad position and had to do a bunch of maneuvering that caused us to lose ground yet again. However, we came around the marker, giving it a respectful space since the marker was a concrete marker well embedded into the sea floor. Hitting it would be a bad, bad, idea.

Now it was time to head back and here’s where a spinnaker would really have been nice. I made the (incorrect) call to switch over to a broad reach hoping to get some better speed. This course took us out into the channel again, which was a bad call because we were bucking an incomming tide. In retrospect, it would have been better to stick closer to shore where the tide/current was less.

Once again we dragged in as the last boat of our division, though there were still boats behind us, they were a lot closer than they should have as Opus is a faster boat if sailed properly.

Lessons learned:

  • When out in Georgia Strait, hug the coastline if you’ll be fighting a strong tide
    • Become more familiar with the currents, especially where eddies and swirls might form
  • Have someone assigned to listen to the radio
  • Learn the course marking flags so that you can tell the course by looking at the markings on the committee boat.
  • Actually look at the committee boat to see the course
  • The closer to the pin you are, the faster that a course will converge on it. If you are 1 nm away from the pin and traveling 90 degrees to the pin, it takes a long time to change the angle of a course directly to the pin.
  • Clean up the cockpit and get ready for the next evolution as soon as possible.

So why 2 and a half? I turned my ankle on a line that rolled my foot before smashing into the coaming of the cockpit. My mobility pretty much went to zero, which made things difficult.

So we are currently in 4th place in the series. Yes, there are more than 4 boats, so we’re not quite in last place. That’s better than I thought we would do!

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