Sunday, August 31, 2014

Are We Racing Yet?

Leave it to kids to quickly hit upon one of the more confusing points of casual sailboat racing... The start. There is something interesting about sailing with kids and seeing the fascination, curiosity, boredom of sailing through their eyes.

I took my kids to today's race and we went up against Troy and Sandy single-handing their own boats. The weather was tentative. but we could feel a breeze so we couldn't pass it up. As we made our way out of the marina into the more open waters the kids were excited and full of energy. Today we finally remembered our secret weapon (marshmallows) and even shared an extra bag with Sandy in hopes that we could unite forces and slow Troy down.

All three boats grouped up just outside the marina to start our first race. We decided to race up to Battle Point on the Bainbridge side, then make our way around a couple old pilings on the Brownsville Side. We had some fairly consistent wind coming from the South East. I had the tiller and main sheet, and each of my kids were in charge of a jib sheet of their own. As the three boats came in line we started the race and I quickly found some of Sandy's dirty wind. I fell in line watching Troy pull away, out of range of our arsenal of marshmallows.

After rounding the first mark and realizing that Sandy was an easier target, we caught up to her and opened fire. I think she had a suspicion that we would double cross her because her ammunition was easily at hand for return fire. Don't let sandy's easy going demeanor fool you, when racing and shots have been fired, she will defend herself. We took some sticky shots ourselves in the skirmish. The kids and I were satisfied for a time, but we really needed to set our sights on Troy and take him out. The kids and i had to get serious and really sail to make up some time.

As we came to the third mark I was feeling pretty good about the ground we had made up by passing Sandy. The kids were still working on perfecting their sheet handling skills, but I thought we could easily make a quick tack around the piling we used as a mark. I was a bit worried about our mast or boom hitting something so I concentrated pretty hard on keeping clear of the mark, but I still stayed close. As we came out of the tack I heard a twang and all of the sudden our boom fell.

I was initially dumbfounded. I looked at the mast to check that I had not hit the mark and caused damage. Nope. I then scanned down the mast for the halyard and saw it was still attached and had some tension on it. Then I realized that it was the jib sheet that had knocked the main halyard loose because my kids were still pulling the jib across the bow instead of letting the wind do it. I quickly had to give the tiller to my son since he had a small amount of rudder time. I told him where to go and just let me fix the rigging. I was able to quickly get the main sail back up and we were still in a decent position, but it didn't last.

Soon we were being passed by Sandy, then by Troy (who did touch the mark with his mast and made a penalty rounding of the mark again). We popped off a few rounds of mallows as they passed, but to no avail. We did another lap around the marks, but were never able to catch up very well. The temperature had cooled off, but the wind was picking up, so we were optimistic that we could get a couple more races in. We grouped up again to start the next race.

The next race initially had good wind, but after rounding the first mark at Battle Point, it was clear that the wind was not here to stay. It took what felt like an eon to just get to the third mark. By then the wind was in the process of switching to coming from the North, but we were out of time. We decided to call it a day and head back. The marshmallows continued to fly, even Troy had collected enough to mount a pretty good assault on us.

Both my kids got some tiller time, we made our way through two bags of marshmallows, I was able to race with some dear friends, and as usual the sailing of the day had lifted our spirits and fed our souls. At times when I am trying to organize an event I can forget why I even do this sailing club, but when I'm out on the water with my friends and family it is clear as day. There are few activities like sailing that will challenge your skill, patience, agility, cunning, and reaction to circumstance. Whether you are battling others for first place, working against the weather, or just trying to convince your kids that sailing isn't boring, it is a challenge that is different every single time. Hope to see you on the water.


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