As summer approaches with us unable to go on an extended cruise, we are chomping at the bit to be out on the water. The Universe has presented us with the opportunity to go sailing each week and to learn a bit more about sail trim. We are crewing on a C&C 40 named Blue Moon. She races every Wednesday night in Commencement Bay in the PHRF class, which means she flies a pretty spinnaker during the downwind leg of the race.
We feel really lucky to have places on this boat. The captain is very experienced and even tempered. He has primary crew who have been sailing with him on this boat for years. They know the boat and each other very well. In general it’s pretty hard to enter a group like that and feel like you are a part of the team. But they were so welcoming and patient with us, teaching us about the boat and giving us jobs to do. Mike and I now know how to properly pack a spinnaker. Mike is working the foredeck (a place where I quickly learned that I do not belong on this boat) and I am working the cockpit. I help with the main sail, and loose the foresail lines on a tack. Mike’s been thrown into the fire on this boat because he’s a guy and they can use another guy on deck. Good thing he’s a quick study.
Last weekend we did the Race Around Vashon Island on Blue Moon and it was an excellent day for sailing! We had good wind for the entire race, and with sustained wind building to about 16 knots with gusts beyond 20 knots on the down wind leg, there were some exciting times getting the spinnaker down and changing sails. Here are some photos from our first two races, and some of the lessons we learned, or re-learned.
- I do not get anxious on other people’s boats. There were plenty of opportunities for me to be a little worried on this race boat, especially as people jockey for position at the start line. Not me. Calm as a cucumber. Why? Because it’s not my boat. I’m not responsible for it, and I don’t have to pay for any damage incurred to that boat or other boats. Getting hurt doesn’t actually cross my mind. I also trust this captain. He’s been at this a long time. He doesn’t want to hurt his boat or his crew. He’s also not hard-core-win-at-all-costs. I like that. He wants to have fun. I like that, too.
- I now understand completely why there are all-women crew. I am going to want to spend some time on an all-woman boat simply because it will show me how women handle things like all the action on the foredeck during a race when there are no men around to take over. As a middle aged woman, I am definitely the weak link on this crew of mostly men. At one point I went forward to help the foresail around because everyone else was busy. I’m very glad Mike was there as well because otherwise it would not have ended well for me. I was happy to have escaped with only a small rope burn to my nose. Lesson learned. While we both had a great time that day, Mike came home with considerable bruises as a reward for his time up front. We both took a big dose of ibuprofen and went to bed early, thinking about how much energy it takes to sail a relatively small boat (smaller than ours) in high winds for that long.
- I can move fast if I have to. Who knew?
- We know more than I thought. The assumption appears to be that if you are a cruiser rather than a racer, you don’t pay much attention to things like where the wind is, what the currents are doing, where you may get caught in a counter-current, how to tweak the sail to get another .1 knot from the boat. We do pay attention to that stuff and always have. The difference is that our current boat, an Olympic 47 that weighs 23 tons, is a different animal from our previous boat, a Cal 34. For instance, we don’t have a traveler on our boat. The traveler on this C&C 40 gets tweaked every time there is a minor change in the wind because that makes a difference in a race. It would not make that much of a difference on our boat. But on our Cal, we used the traveler a lot to make the boat sail better.
- There is something simply glorious about sitting on the rail during a fast race, spray coming over the bow. Especially when it’s not cold. We both miss sailing that close to the water. We love our boat for the purpose of our long trip. She is so comfortable on the ocean and at anchor. But we both see a day when we will go back to a boat that sails closer to the water.
We’re looking forward to our Wednesday nights on the water this summer. Tonight it looks like we’ll have terrific wind and sunny skies! Let’s go!