Monday, June 23, 2008

Racing - the ultimate zen exercise (yeah, right)

This is the wind graph for Saturday's Cog & Leaf Gorge Cup. We had a pretty decent forecast (15-21 in the afternoon), a sponsor (Sailworks - the cog part of the equation, and Roberts, hence the leaf), awesome trophies (commissioned by Bruce and created by MacRae, who is a metal working wizard and whose steel art is pretty cool), as well as arrangements for post-racing dinner (Mexican).

And a little after 3, the breeze came up. We all got on the water and checked out the course (same as last time, except the marks were more in a straight line, which would open up all kinds of tactical options downwind). Unfortunately, it died (with a vengeance) before we could even get a sequence started. As the day wore on and the wind continued to no-show, Bruce joked that the minute the first burrito was broken into that night, the breeze would come up.

Sure enough, at about 5:30 or so, with reports of no breeze anywhere within a 100-mile radius and completely flat pressure gradients, the race was called, sailors derigged and loaded their gear, Amy arrived with the food (yeah!), beers were cracked open - and the water started to show some texture. Darren and Scotia were game to run fun races as long as wind and light held out (thanks!), so a bunch of us got on the water (properly fortified with excellent Mexican food) to run fun races (since the event had been called, these couldn't count - so those excellent trophies are still waiting for a good use).

We got to run two quick heats before the wind got too streaky. On the first start, I started starboard with just a few others as most of the fleet expected the usual port favor and just wanted to get into the still-fast river current to take them upwind. I decided against that at the last second because of the northerly slant to the breeze on the Washington side and the big hole near shore (right around where you'd tack before hitting the eddy-line - the big current masked that hole, and I just sort of discovered it sailing around before the start). This worked out great, as the port starters, after clearing us, got knocked like crazy. I made it to the windward mark in first by quite a margin because of that and held on to it. With the streaky conditions, I was glad for my 10.8 and the big Finworks LT; not sure how Bruce managed to get his 9.1 around the course and get second- he must have some sort of anti-gravity device to get- that, or he really worked it, as he sat out the next one and let one of the juniors use his rig.

Second heat was different, as the breeze started filling in at the south end - so it was back to port starts. I ran the line for a bit to get away from the pack and have a nice pocket to leeward to accelerate, then came up over the line about 1/3 of the way in (Nikoka, on the RSX, was kind enough to keep the rather eager pack stacked above/behind her from spilling onto the line, so I got a clear lane). The first few Starboard starters, led by MacRae, cleared me easily, but when they tacked, the current and better breeze in the middle had already given me enough of a lift to where they were lining up with my wake. Jay got second, followed by (I believe) Mac Rae. And then it was time to finally bag it for the day.

As I talked to my 8-year-old on the phone while derigging the first time, her comment was that "it just wan't meant to be." Great perspective, I guess. I'm glad we got our little spurt of fun-racing in at the end, as that made me feel a little better about the total of 11 hours spent in the car that day. Hopefully, over the course of the season, the driving/sailing time ratio will improve a bit. Considering that the PWA guys all flew to Korea for a big slalom event and got completely skunked for a whole week with not a single result, this just goes to show that this sport will teach you some form of zen - whether you want it to or not.

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