You know you’re in some weather (or perhaps Beyond Thunderdome) when five or six boats enter a race, but only two finish.
I arrived for the captain’s meeting a little before 10:00 and was immediately treated to some fresh pancakes and coffee that Pat was making on Rest Less. When asked if you want blueberry pancakes, you say “yes.”
The wind was already blowing to the point where the flapjacks were becoming airborne even back in the creek. I crewed on Providence II, the Sabre 36CB that I usually crew with. Initially, it looked like I might be the only crew, but Bobby was able to make it which made me feel a lot better given the conditions. I helped Val take off the 135 genoa and put on the 90 jib.
The race was set to be mostly reaching (40 to BI to 39 to 40, port roundings), although the wind was sufficiently from the south that it turned out to be more of a windward-leeward course. We put up a double-reefed main but Val’s boat doesn’t really sail that well on just a main, and we were only making 3.5kts. We switched to just the 90 and immediately were making 7. We had a good start—there was no committee boat and no distinct starting line, but we were in front of Sailitude and Rest Less. The Tanzer 26 Alradee-Chi bowed out of the race pretty quickly, but valiantly kept on sailing. I’m not sure when Tiki bagged it, but they later said that they just weren’t having fun. Rest Less (a Bristol 35) hung in for a while, but was heeled over pretty severely most of the race on a reefed main and small jib and seemed to be getting beat up. They had problems with their dinghy, which was still on the davits, so they went in, leaving only us and Sailitude, a Catalina 375.
The wind was regularly gusting into the mid-30s, and I started to see stuff in the sea state that I actually recognized from the descriptions on the Beaufort Scale—the tops of the whitecaps being blown off and things. Even on just the jib, were were consistently around hull speed and occasionally quite heeled. I had to go forward to try to adjust the leech line on the jib, and at several points the lee rail was so buried that I was standing up to my knees in bay water rushing by at 7kts. When we came around the first mark for the downwind run (which was more of a broad reach), we called Sailitude to see if they wanted to shorten the race, but they didn’t, so, game on, and we set the main again.
Around that time Val started reading off our speed as we surfed down waves, and we eventually hit EIGHT KNOTS. That’s crazy fast. He’d never seen Providence sail that fast, and I’d certainly never need anything close to that.
The rest of the race was fairly uneventful, if a bit tiring. We were almost a mile ahead when our competition rounded the first mark, and we were about the same at the second. We won by over 5 minutes on uncorrected time, and I’m not sure that anyone bothered with coming up with a handicapped score. This was more of a race of attrition, and both of us did well just to finish.
Afterward we ate some hoagies and had some beers with the crews of the other boats and hung out for a bit. I checked on Fortuitous before heading home. While sailing on other people’s boats is fun in that weather, I hope we get a few more days in the 10-20kt range before the end of the season so that we can sail our boat.