Saturday, April 25, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009, SYSCO Spring Series, Cruising Class

This was the first race of the SYSCO Spring Series, Team Aventura's first race as my boat, too.

Introducing the team:
Skipper, me
trailer, topping lift, Chuck
foredeck and grinder, Rick

We all arrived early, 4:50 PM. Traffic from Hillsboro was light. I pick up Chuck at the Orenco Station. He was able to get his meeting finished early. He has a 3:00 PM meeting scheduled Thursdays and most meetings are scheduled for an hour and usually fill the time. This getting done early is a good sign.

When we arrived at the boat, I found I had left the running lights on. I hope I did not confuse my fellow boaters. I hope none of them took evasive actions to avoid the docked boat underway. Rick the other team member had already dropped of the sandwiches, but was not at the boat.

After sandwiches and all the excitement of getting underway, we were out on the water by 5:15. Wind was about 6-8 knots. So we wanted to sail. We got the sail cover off and started to haul the main sail, but the main halyard would not budge. We even put it on the winch and still not budge. We disconnect the shackle from the sail and tried snapping the line in and out to free it at the sheave. We decided to go back to the mooring and go up the mast to free the line. I had just turned the boat around and was looking around, contemplating going up the mast when I noticed the main halyard still shackled to the starboard outer shroud. The "Ahah" moment and the palm on the forehead slap. "Hey, guys, you used the topping lift instead of the main halyard." After head shaking and switching the lines, the main went up normally. The rest of the night will go much more easily now that we have made our first mistake of many.

We sail down to the committee boat (CB). By the time we arrived at the CB, they were handing out rosters. We got in line and got it. Our boat was not on the roster. I told the team I had been contacted by SYSCO Race Captain, and I was told I would be able to race. We circled around again, because we were so busy getting the roster, we did not observe the race board to get the course, which turned out to be C-B-14-R-B-C. Nice course.

Next order of business was to get our start lined up. I needed to practice a run at the start and figure out timing. We found a spot by lining up on marks ashore on both sides of the river and I spotted the I-5 bridge tower and the shore. We took a run at the start and timed it at 1:45 minutes. Ok, that's how we will start. I explained the flags on the CB at little, but not nearly enough. The races start in 5 minute intervals with the cruising class starting in the 4th start at 6:40. We had setup to do the standard starboard tack start on the north end of the starting line. We milled around waiting for the race. I assign one crew to watch for boats and the other to do the timing. The first and second races start. They looked like normal starts, except one poor soul had got entangled on the north mark in the first start.

About the start of the second race, I noticed a barge coming down stream. In fact, its timing was going to place it at our line up point of where we practiced. Well, so much for practicing. Then our timer accidently hit a button on the stopwatch and stopped the timing. We had to rely on my gestimate using my wrist watch. We got over in the crowd milling up for the start of our race. The problem with the river is that the current is always down stream. The wind is usually upstream. This night was no exception. So to line up facing down stream in reasonable shape to get to the start without sailing over the starting line before the horn is the problem.

We started OK. We were about 5 boat lengths from the line at the horn. We were in company and started on starboard tack. We headed for the North Channel. We were above Cirrius II, we gained on her by blanketing her wind. We tacked nicely to line up about 7 to 8 boat lengths from B to establish overlap on starboard tack. We were leeward and we could make the mark and claim "mark room". We rounded the mark amongst traffic and threaded our way between boats. We set the pole to port on a starboard tack wing on wing. We headed straight up river to the downwind mark of Buoy 14. We managed to stay in clear air and gain on boats.

Approaching 14, we got Rick up on the foredeck and instructed him to take the pole off the mast and hold it out to get ready to let the sail go. We signaled that and rounded the mark with at least 5 feed to spare. We headed to the Washington side on port tack. Could not make the mark on the next tack and thus headed some more on starboard tack. But when I got to where I wanted to tack, there was a boat two boat lengths astern and two boatlengths to windward. Both of us were on starboard tack, but to get to the mark we had to go to port tack in front of the other boat. We were gaining a bit, but would not be able to tack before the mark. The other boat would have to tack, too to make the mark. Instead of waiting for the other boat to tack, we tacked. The other boat did the right thing, (Thank you other boat) and tacked to avoid collision. He asked if we were going to take our penalty 360. I did not hesitate and said yes. Looked around and we were clear of any boats and promply pushed the pulled the tiller windward. The boat spun on its keel. We did not change the sail set. We at first gained speed when we spun downwind and then rounding up lost speed until the head sail back winded and pulled the bow to port tack. We lost maybe 30 seconds on that maneuver. We were back on our course and ready to tack to the mark. Looking around I discovered the other boat on a port tack also, but heading away from the mark in the wrong and not closing in the mark. We had gained boat lengths on that boat with this maneuver.

We rounded mark R but did not have to change course that much to head to mark B, our next to last mark. That mark is not as clear in because there was less traffic. We set the pole to port again to run to the finish line. We finished sixth or seventh and were the first less than 30' boat across the line. I thanked and bowed to the committe boat. Rang the ships bell. High fives all around. Good job team.

Rethinking the race, the down wind mark at 14 could have been handled better. If be used that like the start, we could have come about on starboard tack and eliminated an additional tack and the fortunate penalty.