Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Champion of Champion's Race

I get home form work one day and get this email about the WBRA Champion of Champion's Race and I think to myself, Oh.. the YRA screwed up the results again and they think I won the Weekend Series. I skim through the invitation and see that two boats from each of the WBRA fleets (IOD, Knarr, Bird and Folkboat) were invited to participate in this one of kind race. Cool. I'll do it. Otherwise I'm not sure I'd get another day on the water until next spring and the weather has been so good lately. I show up after the usual routine of getting the sandwiches and beverages and rush into the club to turn in my entry form (40 minutes before the first gun). Kurt is already in the club looking for the bulletin board, but I can't find it and we need to get going. As we were leaving Mike Peterson was turning in his entry form... better late than never.
This was a no brainer to participate in for me because the Island YC decided to use the GGYC for their race deck and well... This picture is taken 30 feet from where the first picture of the club was taken.. yes, that's my car parked illegally.
From the previous picture, I turned and walked down the dock to the boat and from the cockpit, this is the rear deck of the GGYC.
Kurt brought his Special Danish spirits and Risley joined us. We scrubbed the bottom with a couple of brushes, while I hung my fat ass off the shroud... this made access to the bottom a little too easy. Maybe I should ease off the Hawaiian style chips? First gun went off and we were still at the dock. We rushed to get the sails on and got outta there as quick as... I hate metaphors.
We turned the corner at the wave organ and hardened up the sails... the leads were set right and the boat really does well in the medium light condition. It was supposed to pipe up so we put up the Doyal jib instead of the MP and everything felt ok.
First race we had the course wrong, but in a handicap race where you have the "slowest" boat, it doesn't matter, just follow the crowd. Problem was we beat a Knarr to the first windward mark... I won't mention who it was (M.P.) but let's put it this way, that wasn't supposed to happen. We did have a great start. We sat on one Knarr and the other was back off the line a bit. We went out for the better current but too far and M.P. beat us the the leeward rounding. Unfortunately for them, they sailed into a header, we got lift and on the first crossing we had actually passed a Knarr up wind... unheard of. We were sailing a parallel course for most of the up wind, actually holding quite well when the confusion occurred. Some silly swimming event had just dumped some 100 swimmer in the water up near our windward mark and there was much discussion from the swimmers group for us to abandon our race. M.P. must have been looking for an out because they bore off back to the starting line thinking the race had been abandoned. We never heard such news and kept going as if the race was still on. We would have beat them on corrected time anyway. The course was 16,6,16,6 and finish... two laps in late flood with a tad bit of early ebb at the windward mark. I really thought there was only one race, I didn't read the sailing instructions. We finished the race some 5 minutes behind Tom Reed but had no clue if we had actually won the race or not... and this why I think handicap racing is silly. Oh, and right before the finish I broke my custom made carbon fiber tiller extension I had made from an old fishing pole. Risley scrounged around and found a thin baton and some electrical tape and we braced it up much like you would a broken arm or leg if you were administering first aid... it held up nicely for the rest of the day.
2nd race was a Bay Tour... Blackhauler(16) to Harding (17) to Blossom (18), back to Blackhauler down to Fort Mason (6) and finish... a 13.5 mile race with a reaching leg. On the first beat we all right together which is great for us and looking back, foolishly I went inside Anita on the shore side, not really knowing if we were breaking the rules... The crew read the S.I.'s and it wasn't read that this was out of bounds... Tom Reed put up his protest flag, but we kept going because it wasn't in the S.I.'s. After the rounding we had a reaching leg to 17 (Harding Rock). Reaching legs are great if you have a spinnaker, but in a folkboat, it's quite boring. It's a parade, no action really happens and it's about making sure you don't let the current sweep you down below the mark so you don't have to battle against tide to make it. We stayed high and reached down to it, M.P. did not, was too low for too long and we beat them to the 2nd mark. wow. Both the Knarrs went to the north of Alcatraz and the IOD (Jim) and I went the southerly route thinking... better current, way better pressure, but greater distance. We were right this time. We pulled up closer to Tom Reed, and put some distance on M.P. It wasn't until the Jerimiah O'Brian that M.P. finally passed us.
Now the fun part really begins...
Turns out there were a few other fleets enjoying the city front racing with us. The St. Francis was holding some master mariners race with all the old sloops and yawls and whatever other boats made of wood that were still sea worthy. The Finns we also holding some major event and so were the Stars. It was like a swarm of locust when there start was perfectly timed with our beat up the city front. They all hugged the shore like ants and we basically held our distance, but as the ebb grew so did the distance from shore they began to venture. The 2nd race ended in amazing style... as we were coming away from shore from the East end harbor, the Star boats were bearing down on us. The Finns were all coming downwind after finishing their race and it was awesome! 30-40 Stars, 30-40 Finns and us, right dab smack in the middle. I'm still amazed we survived. We were on port and on a lay line for the point just past the wave organ when the most amazing thing happened. Several Finns went inside between us and the rocks (like ants) two Stars tacked before forcing us onto starboard because taking their sterns would have been impossible, too many boats! As more boats returned on starboard we were either clear ahead or clear astern and never altered course or speed. We just went straight though it all completely and totally unscathed. A Finn did, in an attempt to avoid a Star, Turtle and lost it's rudder. But everyone stuck around to help him retrieve it and put it back on amongst the chaos.
So, at this point we know we are toast even if we do actually win because we went inside Anita Rock and they are going to protest... they said it was mentioned at the skipper's meeting... I really ought to start going to those.
3rd race another long one, but only one lap. 16, 18 finish. The winds were up to 20 by this point and we were really in the groove as a team. We port tack started just because and since the ebb was almost all the way out it really didn't matter where we started. Our goal was just clear air. We all fought it out to the weather mark and it was actually tight until about 3/4ths up the course. We weren't so far behind and we didn't give up very much on the downwind. We jibed after crossing the tide line and sailed a very long down wind leg past Alcatraz to the base of Treasure Island. By this time the ebb against the wind made the bay look as intimidating as a double black diamond run with moguls, but these were moving and the wind was blowing and the tiny ship was tossed.... a 3 hour tour, a 3 hour tour....
I forgot sunblock so by this point my face was fried and I was getting rather tired and very happy to see the race end. We got really wet and bumped around on this last race and I was sure Cassandra did not expect me to be gone all day. We got to the dock, put the boat away, had a beverage or two and went up to the club to see the results...
We got 3 firsts.
But, we went inside a restricted area.
The way it happened it would have had no bearing on the results had we gone around it, it was that close. But the rules are the rules and we discovered after actually reading the S.I.'s that it was restricted... the only honorable thing to do was to withdraw from the 2nd race and take last place plus 1. Our score was now 7, Tom Reed's was now 5 and he won. I guess I could have been the guy who said... there was nothing to say, we went the wrong way. I'd rather give up the trophy and keep the respect of Tom Reed and my WBRA competitors than ignore the truth and win an empty victory. There is no honor in it, so...
Congratulations Tom... Champion of Champions 2008.

I've always looked at like this, If I were a better sailor my name would be on the trophy.


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