Monday, October 31, 2005

Broken Neck

Man it was good to be again. And Sunday was a perfect day for it. 60 degrees and a gusty north-westerly at 10 to 15 knots. After 4 weeks with no sailing I was psyched up and rarin' to go.

It looked like there were over 40 Lasers out for the first race. This is a tough fleet with guys who have done Olympic campaigns and qualified for the US team at the Worlds. I usually think I am doing well if I am in the top half. My objective for the day was to get front-row starts, to get acquainted with the boat again and to have fun.

Race one I line up next to my friend D. towards the starboard end of the line. I am able to work out a nice gap to leeward. As the countdown gets to 10 seconds D. bears away giving me an even bigger gap. I reach into it, sheet in, head up and am off like a bullet when the starting horn goes.

Snug up the vang. Hiking hard. Looking good. Level with D. but with a nice sized gap between us giving me plenty of space to foot. Bow out on the boats to windward. Sailing flat and fast.

Halfway up the beat D. tacks away and ducks me. I look back and see one of the kids that did well last week several boatlengths behind and in my bad air. Threequarters of the way up the beat I dig back in. Still looking good. Might be in the top ten at the windward mark.

Tack back out to the left to avoid all the traffic mid-course. Getting close to the layline so tack back on to port for my final approach. Still in clear air and going fast. Bit of a gust, tighten the vang a bit so I'm not overpowered. I see a whole crowd of boats on the starboard tack layline. This could be ugly. Might have to tack below them and with the current pushing us downwind that could make for a dangerous mark rounding.

Getting closer now. Catch a bit of a lift. I'm just going to cross the lead starboard tacker. Cross him and tack. Ease the vang, downhaul and outhaul. Roll the boat to windward and round the first mark in the lead.

Wow. How did that happen? I haven't sailed for four weeks. I'm even using my old sail. Maybe the old guy hasn't totally lost it.

Sail the run with a big smile on my face. Go close to the committee boat so they can get some good photos of this most unusual turn of the events. Approaching the leeward gate I decide to go right. Set the downhaul and outhaul before the mark. Nice rounding. Sheet in. Hike hard.

BANG. What the hell was that? I look at the mast and see that the gooseneck is no longer attached to the mast. All the rivets have sheared and it's just sitting in more or less the right place held by friction. Geeze. This is not good. Can I finish the race? I stay on the same tack until I'm on the layline for the finish. Tack. Boom drops to the deck. Race over. I'm DNF.

A rescue boat comes over and helps me detach the clew of my sail from the boom. They tow me back to the club. I'm laughing all the way. At the club I find a friend who will lend me her mast bottom section for the day. Rerig the boat and head out to the course again.

Man it's good to be sailing again.


Anonymous said...

That just plain stinks!

EVK4 said...

Wow, don't know how you can take that any way other than you were sailing hard and fast. What a great race, chalk it up in the "unofficial" win column.

Anonymous said...

I had a similar incident a couple of weeks ago, at club level. I had a flying start and worked hard for the first two laps to maintain my on-the-water lead (handicap fleet). In the third lap, the kicker tang (mast fitting) split at the weld while I was hiking hard.
Next tack, another bang as the starboard side rivets pulled through, leaving the tang attached to the mast by two rivets and the kicker assembley held to that by only a couple of millimeters of weld.

Finished the race by easing the kicker, boom up in the air on the downwind legs.

My lead was much reduced on the water, easily allowing a solo through on handicap.

As I crossed the line, I banged on the kicker, letting it pop the weld, a sure reminder to get a new tang fitted..

Carol Anne said...

Those of my friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and students who do not sail tend to equate sailboat racing with watching the grass grow. I'm going to have to recommend your blog to them -- you capture the action even better than I do, because, I am ashamed to admit, I haven't done all that much. I've mostly just watched -- although the directions my husband gives to people trying to find our house are "look for the fleet of Sunfish." We have one in front, and two in the side yard.

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