Saturday, January 26, 2008

Luckiest Man Alive

Wed 9 Jan

It was a weird day.

Day 4 of the pre-regatta Laser clinic in Cabarete was somewhat strange to be sure.

In the morning briefing coach Rulo educated us on how to sail a reach in a Laser. Lots of great advice. Starting practice was promised for the on-the-water session. But it was not to be.

It rained off and on all morning. Did I mention that it had been raining in Cabarete pretty much all the time since we arrived? Or at least it seemed like that.

There would be no wind. Then some gusts as a rain squall arrived. Then rain. Then the rain stopped but so did the wind.

During every lull Rulo would optimistically promise, "After the next rain, we sail." After the next rain... no wind. No sailing.

We grabbed some lunch from the Eze Bar.

Around 2:30, with the day rapidly slipping away from us, during another apparent no-wind gap between showers, Rulo said without much hope, "You can try to sail if you want." We students mulled it over. It was decided to send out a "rabbit" in a Laser to see if it was possible to sail in these conditions. Actually three of us volunteered to go out. Might as well. We came here to sail.

As soon as we launched it was apparent that there was a bit of wind out on the sea. Fluky and squirrely to be sure. From an unusual direction too. I played around a bit surfing upwind on one tack as the rest of the group joined us. We sailed towards the gap in the reef and the wind picked up a bit more, though it was still very shifty. Hmmm, maybe this won't be so bad after all.

The wind died completely just after I crossed the reef. Ho hum. Then it filled in again from the more normal vaguely NE direction. Some of us sailed upwind a few hundred yards while Rulo set up some start line buoys.

I bore away to return to the start area and the fitting holding my mainsheet block on the end of the boom came off the boom as one of the rivets popped out. Damn. For you the war is over, my friend. The other guys started a race as I sailed back to the beach.

Tillerwoman met me on the beach and brought me a beer. Ari, the owner of the Laser Center, saw what had happened and told me, "First finish your beer. Then de-rig and I'll replace your boom." What a guy!

"You're the luckiest guy alive!" says Ari.

"Why?" I didn't feel lucky.

"Better you had that thing break today and not in the regatta on Friday."

Hmmm. I guess so. I still didn't feel lucky.

I was kinda wondering whether to rush to rig up a new boom and go out sailing again. But before I had finished my beer I saw the rest of the group returning to the beach too. They had done a couple of drills and then packed it in because the wind wasn't cooperating. "You didn't miss much," said Rulo.

There was a debrief. As far as I recall the main advice for dealing with these shifty, fluky conditions was, "Get a wind indicator." Hmmm.

More rain. The class hung around asking Rulo questions until the rain stopped.

"Can we sail tomorrow?" (The next day was planned as a lay day before the regatta started on Friday.)

"If you want. But top sailors don't practice on the day before a major regatta. It's a time to check your boat, make sure nothing's going to break, and to rest."

Hmmm. Oh well, I'm the luckiest man alive. Where's the Ron?

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