Monday, July 02, 2007

How to Run Sailboat Races

OK -- it's time to wrap up the group writing project on Top Race Committee Screw-ups. Thanks to all who participated. There were some truly awful stories of incompetence, arrogance, ignorance and stupidity of the highest order. It's good to see that the fine tradition of abysmal race management is alive and well at the grass-roots level. After all as my friend and occasional guest blogger Joe always says, "If a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing badly."

Here is the complete list of entries.

The RC is Always Right from M Squared.

Miller Genuine Draft by Carol Anne from Five O'Clock Somewhere.

No Foul by jsw225.

Sex Change Operation

T E A S by Chris Jordan.

April Folly.

Joe would be proud of you all.


Anonymous said...

Hope you don't mind a late entry:
How To Run Sailboat Races

The name of the regatta and even the time of year are lost to my memory, but one race (or not) will never leave me. It was a PHRF race, a nice sized fleet, and it was honking on Lake Pontchartrain. At least 25 knots and probably gusting to 35. We should have stayed at the bar.
As it was, it was me, Pee-Wee and Ed on the committee boat. Ed was eighty-sumptin' and not a sailor, he appeared one day out of somewhere and started helping on the race committee boat. Ed was a delightful man and pleasure to have aboard. Pee-Wee was 72 years old, or thereabouts. Pee-Wee had been running races for decades, sometimes alone, more recently with help from me and some others. He taught me everything I knew about running races. He was also half deaf, a result of too many .20 gauge blanks in a cannon without ear protection and half crippled, a result of shooting the cannon into his leg (It wasn't the shot that did it, he found some foul liquid aboard the boat to cool it off, apparently it was acidic). Well, maybe I didn't learn all his lessons.
So its honking and we have a race to run. We head out, a little late because we are running a course outside of a one design fleets and we don't make great time in the lake's nasty chop. Get to the starting mark and set up to drop anchor for the line. I dropped the anchor and let out all the line. Of course the ground tackle is marginal above 25 knots and we drag anchor.
At this point, we start getting razzed by at least one competitor, the fact of the matter is, we really were trying to delay the start just to piss him off.
So, I'm down in the lazarette finding another anchor and untangling a rode to set another. Ok, Pee-Wee, let's pick up the first anchor, I'll rig up the second and we can try to set a line with a 2 anchor spread. Which we did.
Except, whatever, this line is not square. Nope. Not at all. Thanks sailors for pointing that out. But hey, we're the race committee, we are here to serve.
Then my brain farted.
Don't know how, don't know why.
See, I figured that there was a real chance that we would wrap the second anchor line around the prop while I was picking up the first. So, I decided that Ed should come up on the foredeck with me, sit on the cuddy cabin top and pull up slack in the second anchor line while I raised the first. (Did I mention there was no windlass on this boat.) Well, Ed was 80 sumptin' and he didn't live that long to do something that stupid, he refused. OK. Pee-Wee, you go up forward with me and tend the line. Ed can handle the boat. The fact that Ed had never handled the boat in more than 15 knots of wind, and seldom at all should have let me know that I was now inhaling the fumes of my brain fart.
So, Pee-Wee goes up forward with me, I explain again that I just want him to sit on the cuddy top and tend the slack in the 2nd line. Ed's driving. We move forward and I take up slack in the 1st anchor line, pointing in the direction of the anchor so we run up it far enough for me to break it out. Did I mention it was blowing stink? OK, so we move up the rode and I go to cleat it off to let the motion of the boat break it free. Did I mention it was blowing stink? We start drifing back. Quickly. I'm cleating.
Pee-Wee yells.
I look behind me.
Pee-Wee is off the cuddy top. Pee-Wee has the second rode around his leg. The boat is drifting backwards. Pee-Wee is getting dragged over the port bow. I grab Pee-Wee by the back of his collar as he reaches the gunwale.
Compound fracture.
Racing over.
Fortunately, there was a doctor in the fleet (imagine that). We got him and a few others aboard the committee boat without damaging anything else. We put a splint on Pee-Wee's leg from miscellaneous found objects aboard. How Pee-Wee wan't howling with pain, I'll never know. He was one tough old coot. We got the anchors up and headed in.

Pee-Wee: "Put up the abandon race signal. Get out the N and A flag and put them up. Shoot the cannon three times."

Me: "Pee-Wee, we can't put up the N over A"

Pee-Wee: "You have to, we abandoned"

Me: "Pee-Wee, the N and A flags are what we used to splint your leg."

Pee-Wee died within two years, he never fully recovered. Ed died soon after that. I miss both of my buddies.

So, remember friends: thank the race committee and buy them a drink at the bar.

Tillerman said...

Geeze milo. That story takes the cake.

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