Monday, August 20, 2007

Small Craft Advisory

Saturday morning and the wind is howling from the NW across Mount Hope Bay and blasting the front of our house. Litoralis (a.k.a. son #1) and I check the weather services online. NOAA has a Small Craft Advisory out for Rhode Island and all the services are forecasting 20 mph winds gusting to 30 to 35, with the afternoon being windier than the morning.

We debate whether to go to the regatta or not. We agree that it feels like one of those days where you go to the regatta, hang around for a few hours as the race committee keeps you on shore while they postpone racing an hour at a time until finally calling it off mid-afternoon. To go or not to go? We vacillate. Don't want to waste a day sitting around on the shore waiting for an indecisive race committee to call it off; don't want to miss the regatta if they do sail. Need to leave the house around 11am if we are going to be there on time.

At 10:50am I make an executive decision. We're going. Last minute flurry of activity to pack water bottles, energy bars (no Uncrustables for us), hitch up the two Laser trailers to our cars and we're off.

As we arrive at the regatta site we see the bay covered in white caps. There are a few other Laser sailors in the parking lot looking uncertain. Some have taken Lasers off roof racks and trailers. Some are waiting. Another sailor arrives and announces that he thinks there is a 20% chance we will race. We check out the launch situation: two narrow ramps with a pier between them, rocks on one side, facing almost straight into the wind and with waves crashing on the ramps. We all have mental images that it's going to be something like this video. Going out will be tough. Coming back in will be worse.

Another sailor arrives and proclaims in more positive tones that even if we don't race we will sail. He knows more sheltered areas to launch from. Sounds good. We can still go out and have a blast around even if the RC think it's too windy to race.

Wait. What's this? I see a few Lasers rigging at the beach just up the bay from the boat launch area. That beach is usually reserved for swimming but nobody is swimming today. We jump in our cars and drive over to the beach. Local official tells us we can't launch from the beach. After some discussion he relents as long as we keep to one end. It's going to be a hell of a lot easier to launch through the surf from the beach than off those narrow ramps.

We rig. I encase myself in several layers of neoprene and goretex. The RC boat arrives offshore flying a "Come Within Hail" flag. Launching is something of a challenge but is helped by a couple of guys (non-sailing Dads I think) who help hold our boats in the crashing surf and then push us off at an opportune moment. Litoralis capsizes while launching.

We follow the RC boat out to the race area. Hmmm. This is going to be interesting. Don't think I've sailed in winds like this since Cabarete. The kite surfers reaching up and down add to the impression that this is Cabarete. But the first cold wave breaking over my head dispels any illusion that we are in the Caribbean.

First race gets under way. Two lap triangle. I race the first beat conservatively just trying to stay upright, keep the boat as flat as possible, and not bury the bow into the wave fronts. Litoralis does better and arrives at the windward mark in second place. On the first reach he capsizes, loses the end of his mainsheet and retires from the race. Tie two stopper knots next time son.

I stagger around the two laps, capsizing twice myself on the second lap. I start telling myself that I'm getting too old for this game. What am I thinking, going to two Masters Worlds in the next six months? I can't do this any more. But then on the final beat I find myself only one place behind that guy again. OK. I guess this is tough for everyone. A few boats call it a day after the first race including one guy with a broken mast.

As I munch a Clif Bar and try and recover before the second race, the RC announces that it will be a one lap triangle. That perks me up. Maybe I can sail hard for one lap without getting too shattered. Off we go on the second race. I'm getting the hang of the conditions now. Litoralis arrives at the windward mark in second place again and capsizes on the first reach again. What's wrong with this kid? The reaches are fun. Waves are coming sideways on the first reach and you can catch some rides, but on the second reach they are more from astern so it's one long roller coaster ride to the leeward mark.

Every race I wonder if this will be my last, and I will call it a day after the race. But somehow I recover some energy between races and keep going all afternoon. Litoralis stops capsizing and finishes in front of me a couple of times. I stop capsizing and start actually thinking I know how to sail in the heavy stuff. The wind drops significantly for the fifth and final race, which is probably just as well for the return to the beach.

Definitely glad we decided to come. Great workout and practice in heavier winds. Results nothing to write home (or blog) about but, hey, I'm a old guy who can still Lasers with the kids and survive to tell the tale.

Cheat the nursing home, die on your Laser. But not this week.


Anonymous said...

Inspiring stuff. Nice that you can still tech your son something. How the hell do you jibe in these conditions. I have sailed a laser in some interesting conditions (probably nowhere near this) and can tack no prob but jibing is another story.

Tillerman said...

Not sure whether I'm teaching my son or he's teaching me these days. He beat me on a tiebreaker in this regatta.

Good question about how to gybe. Maybe a good subject for tomorrow's post.

Mal Kiely [Lancelots Pram] said...

Yay for getting out there and having a go in cooler and windy conditions! There's hope there for the rest of us mere mortals ter reading that! heh heh
Mal :)

Carol Anne said...

You leave me wishing I could hold a candle to you. You are just great.

Kai Hinger said...

What do you do to get a bite between races in heavy conditions like that? I have enough trouble just getting a quick drink when it's blowing even moderately hard, I'm too busy trying not to capsize. Do you capsize the boat and sit on the gunnel for a break?

Tillerman said...

No Kai. Just sit with the boat sideways on to the wind and the sail luffing. You get used to eating and drinking while resting like this after a while.

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