Monday, March 19, 2012


Some of you may know that I have a Catalina 22 and enjoy sailing in San Diego Bay.  I am also on the race crew for Sabbatical, a Catalina 36.  I've been crewing for Larry, the Sabbatical's owner/captain for the past year and we have been pretty successful racing against others in our fleet.  We usually manage to pull out a first or at least finish near the top.  Once a year the National Ocean One Design  Regatta, commonly referred to as The NOOD (pronounced nude) comes to San Diego for a weekend of racing.  This is a really big deal in the sailing world with 141 boats entered in 17 different classes.  Races are held, offshore, in San Diego Bay and Mission Bay.  Our class of Catalina 36s'was in for 5 offshore races with three on Saturday and two on Sunday.

Weather became a issue with a rather large cold front heading our way.  With the forecast for 30+knot winds and 10 to 20 foot seas, the race officials cancelled all offshore races and moved them inside the bay.  Even with that the winds were steady at right around 30 knots with gusts to 40.  Larry said we're going, so we suited up in our foul weather gear and got the boat ready.

To give you an idea of what winds of 20 knots are like, here is a video of a Catalina 36 in Puget Sound.  Keep in mind that winds in San Diego Bay for our races were clocked as high as 40 knots!

With all the boats inside the bay, it gets pretty crowded at the start.

In the first race we are the last class to start as the Catalinas are the slowest.  There were four starts ahead of us at 5 minutes intervels.  Race signals are horns sounded from the race committee boat and with warning horns leading up to the actual signal to start.  If you cross the start line before the horn, you must go back and cross again.  Well, we were way off on our timing and confused at which horn had sounded.  We actually started on the one minute warning and didn't realize our mistake.  So we were off, ahead of everyone.  Even if you subtract our one minute head start, we were actually faster than most of our fleet and crossed the finish line first.  But because we screwed up we were scored in last place.

With the weather getting worst and visibility down to just a couple of hundred yards, the rest of the races were cancelled for the day.  We were cold, wet, tried and dejected.  We knew we had to do better on Sunday and not make any mistakes. 

Sunday morning the weather had changed, mostly for the worst.  The rain was scattered and included hail.  The offshore swells were higher than Saturday and the wind was still howling.  Another great day for racing.  In the first race we timed our crossing of the start line to the second, along with several others.  We could have passed beer between the crews we were so close.  We fared better and finished in 3rd.

In the second race we managed to squeek by and take 2nd place.  While racing we clocked a wind gust at 40 knots.  With winds like those the skipper is always fighting to keep the boat going in a straight line.  When healing over in strong winds, more of the boat's hull is in the water.  The more upright the boat is means less hull surface in the water, thus less drag and more speed.  That's why you see crew sitting on the side of the boat with legs hanging over.  Those crew members are called "rail meat".  So when you're not tacking or trimming sails as many of the crew as possible become rail meat.  And I did a mighty fine job too.   

When all was said and done and the scores were tallied, we ended up in 4th place overall.  You might say that, "well that's no too bad considering", but since there were only 5 boats in our class, 4th is the same as "next to last".

For me, this was the first time I sailed in these conditions and I managed not to fall overboard.  Cold, wet and tried but it was pretty exciting.  Next year there won't be any mistakes and we'll get our pride back. 

Hear's a great Photo of Sabbatical coming at you.

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