2016 GBCA Women’s Regatta

The only requirement for the GBCA Women’s Regatta is that there must be a woman at the helm from the starting line to the finish line. Somehow this year I got volunteered for this honor, and I dared not refuse. On our race boat there is a tradition as well of the woman backing the boat out and returning it to her slip.  “Dockline to dockline”

The Friday before I was greatly discouraged by the men-to-women ratio at the pre-race skippers meeting, and I encouraged all of my sailing girlfriends to come on out and show them how serious we were.

My friend Kayla from SV Folie a Deux joined us as well for her very first race.

We had a great mix of seasoned veterans and newbies out for the ride, and everyone really came together as a team. The veterans became teachers, and the other ladies were really focusing on learning their jobs.

Meanwhile our captain, Doug, was busy teaching me how to trim to the telltales.  A big part of this that I missed was steering from a place where you can actually see them. That helps a lot.

Even harder to do while you’re constantly being distracted by ladies wanting pictures. 😛

Overall we did really well for a heavy boat in light wind, taking 4th.

I can’t wait for next year’s Women’s Regatta!  Which of these lucky ladies will get to helm next?!!!  🙂

Big thank you for all the pictures Mike Cameron!

GBCA Icicle Series Race #4 – Low Tide, No Wind

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Recent north winds have been draining Clear Lake and Galveston Bay of all their water.  This beach pictured above normally does not exist, and you can see how close that channel marker is in the distance.

The low water conditions left us on the dock until the very last minute deciding if we should risk trying to get out.  Our boat is a shoal draft, and is the most likely to make it. Unfortunately it’s pretty under-powered motor wise, and can’t plow through mud very well. In the end we successfully braved it, but we saw plenty of other dedicated sailors who were obviously stuck.

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The winds were 2-5 knots, and we watched our calculated finish time climb past 9pm.  Icicle drop dead time is 3pm.

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Some boats were even flying spinnakers going upwind.

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When the time rolled past 3pm and we were not yet to the second marker we decided to just sail around a bit and then call it a day.  Many of the other boats were doing the same. In the end very few boats ended up finishing.  One of which was Hamburg (pictured above stuck) who took 2nd.

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The highlight of the trip for me was that I docked the boat for the first time, and didn’t hit anything! I took advantage of the extra crew to have Fred show me when to turn etc.  Just need to do that a few more times before I have it down.

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Thanks to Mike Cameron and Tina Caron for a couple of the pictures!

2016 Icicle #3: A little bit rainy

The forecast said the thunderstorms wouldn’t start until 3 p.m., but the rain came early Saturday.

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The first leg of Icicle #3 had us close-hauled in 13 knots of wind, so we tried reefing in the jib to drop it from a 130 to a 100 to see if we could point a little higher this week. We made good speed and had a more neutral helm, but we still couldn’t point as high as most of the fleet.

It probably didn’t help that just before we started the race the slug on the back of the mainsail jumped out of the track on the boom, and we had to do some quick rigging with an extra line to tie it back down. I guess we’re going to have to put a larger slug on there.

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The wind then shifted to right off the mark during the second leg, which sent everyone tacking. I saw a couple boats choose to make about 10 short tacks instead of 3 or 4 long ones, and we caught up to a few of them.

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The last leg shifted back and forth between a broad reach and a run and got quite rainy. I wish I had a photo of all four crew members and the dog huddling under a leaky dodger.

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Judging by the time between lightning flashes and the thunder, it was never THAT close to us, but it was still a little unnerving when it would light up the sky.

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Based on performance in the first two races, our PHRF got shifted from 180 to 186, which moved out start time from 11:56 to 11:55. However, due to the mainsail issue we didn’t get started until 11:59. We finished at 2:16 with three boats behind us, which might be the best finish we’ve had so far. More importantly, we didn’t break anything, but we will have to work on the main. I’m also going to have to replace the halyards soon as they’re stretching and chalky, but my budget says we’re going to have to wait a few months on that.

Thank you to Brian, Matt, Shari and Tony for crewing, and special thanks to Shari for bringing kolaches and pulling her phone out in the rain to take a few photos for the blog this week.

Rum Race #7 and a Redfish Island Barbecue

With the race boat that we crew on out of service for the week, we posted on facebook inviting anyone who wanted to come out with us for a little grilling at Redfish Island. Well not five minutes later our friends Shari and Daniel volunteered, and we were getting ready for a day of sailing.

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Even though we have limited destinations in Galveston Bay, one of the best things is that the flurry of boats and wildlife make every trip a new adventure. Today we happened to be sailing through the Cruzan Rum Race #7, and on a very similar course. Fortunately, having no start time we got a bit of a head start.

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It wasn’t long though before boats started passing us left and right. I spent most of my time on foredeck trying to snap shots of all of our racing friends.

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All the while Fred is at the helm yelling..”Get this one!”  “You’re missing all the good shots!”

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Well I think I got a couple decent ones.

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At one point we were even passed by Doug, our captain on Antares, crewing on a Walter and Beverley’s boat Shaken not Stirred. Daniel almost had to walk the plank when tried to toss Doug beer, and lost it forever in the drink.

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We even managed to catch a glimpse of this Flying Phantom absolutely streaking through the race.

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After clearing the intensity of the race we started to take down our sails and head for Redfish for an evening grill. As we dropped anchor we could see the racers heading downwind.

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Then it was time to fire up the grill.

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After an incredible meal of beer brats, grilled egg plant and salad it was time to raise anchor and head home. Me and Shari decided that, girl power and all that the two of us were going to raise the anchor. Well we didn’t know that Fred had a patented technique that involves cleating and waiting, and pulling and cleating, and so we were extremely unsuccessful and had to rely on men.

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Our sail home was all downwind jib sailing and was extremely lazy and beautiful.  We set the autopilot and all went up to the foredeck for some relaxing sailing.

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Of course we posed for a small photo shoot.

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After several hours of beautiful sunset sailing we realized that we had in fact been going very very slow.  At about 2 knots we were not going to reach shore anytime soon, so we finally started up the motor.  Arriving well after dark, despite the best efforts of some drunken navigation from foredeck pointing us away from the channel, we managed to arrive home safe and sound.

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GBCA Cruzan Rum Race #5

Saturday we reported to Kemah Boardwalk for Rum Race #5 of the current series. Hippokampus was out of action for the weekend, so their crew joined our crew on Antares. Mary took her post working the main sheet, but with plenty of able bodies aboard, I skipped winch duty and spent the afternoon sitting on the rail and taking photos. Here’s a few of my favorites from the day.

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I decided to shoot this entire race with my vintage 90mm Elmarit. While it provides a great crop for landscape shots of the race and gives me enough reach to capture the crew of passing boats, it’s not so good for capturing any pictures of the crew on your own boat.

While I was goofing off taking photos, Mary was doing a great job on the main sheet. I would say she has definitely conquered her anxiety in regard to heeling since we came across the finish looking like this.

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We had a great run, but a bittersweet ending to the day. The diesel wouldn’t start, so we had cruise up and down the channel a few times waiting for a tow boat to come get us.

But hey, at least we got another photo op when we sailed back past the committee boat.

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Thanks to Scott Lacy for the photos of Antares. Click here to see the rest of his shots from the race.

Weekend plans

It looks like we’ll finally have an entire weekend with no rain here in Houston.

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Saturday we’ll be crewing in the Galveston Bay Cruising Association Women’s Regatta. Mary isn’t quite ready to helm Gimme Shelter in a race, so we’ll be on Antares, the Cal 40 we crewed on during the Icicle Series earlier this year.

Sunday we hope to stop by Lakewood Yacht Club for the 2015 Keels & Wheels Show. Who doesn’t want to classic cars and some gorgeous wooden boats while benefiting Boys & Girls Harbor?

Then sometime in-between all that excitement I plan to change the steaming light, mount a wind instrument, run cables down the mast, install a NMEA 2000 backbone, and change the zincs in our heat exchanger … unless, of course, we decide to just go sailing instead.

A slow day racing is better than no day racing

We’re not really hardcore sailboat racers.

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In fact, I entered the boating world by restoring a sunken sailboat that didn’t move for almost three years. That probably makes me more of a sailboat mechanic than an actual sailor. I only took the ASA basic keel boat course because I needed to know how to run the lines when I put the boat back together.

Laid back cruising has always been the plan.

However, after being invited to crew on Antares last year, I’m really starting to enjoy racing. It’s definitely been great practice for sailing on our own boat, and we’ve made lots of new friends.

Last weekend Mary surprised me with a new set of Henry Lloyd foulies as an early birthday present, so I’d have them for the last two icicle series races.

They’re very nice. I put them on Saturday morning, and even the snowy egret hopped up on the breakwater to check them out.

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However, the foulies proved completely unnecessary. By race time the weather was so nice, and the wind was so light that we actually got Mary to come along for the ride as crew photographer.

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There was enough crew to run both Antares, Doug’s Cal 40, and Hippokampus, Andy’s Pearson 422.

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First leg started with the spinnaker flying, but even with the kites up, this photo pretty much captures the speed and intensity of the entire race.

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Yes, he’s napping on the transom. They also had a guy napping on foredeck.

Hippokampus was flying her spinnaker for the first time. The red, white and blue definitely looked good.

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I got some good practice working the spin sheets and the jib sheets, and Mary got some good photos.

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2015 GBCA Icicle Series begins

With rainy weather in the mid-50s, there were no actual icicles to be seen during the first race of the 2015 Galveston Bay Cruising Association Icicle Series Regatta. However, I was glad I decided to put on a coupe extra layers of clothing before reporting to the boat Saturday morning.

With Antares, the Cal 40 we crewed with last year, suffering from a leaking fuel pump, I crewed for our friends Andy and Jayne aboard their new boat Hippokampus, a Pearson 422. It was my first time sailing with them, and it was their first time racing the boat, so it was a learning experience for all of us.image

All was going well as we approached the starting line. Then we attempted our first tack to begin the race.

That turned out to be a very long tack. The jib wrapped itself up on the furled stay sail, and it never took less than two of us to run to the foredeck and work it loose. Jibes were no problem, but a clean tack proved impossible, and we ended up starting ten minutes late.

Once started, the first leg of the race went well. Then when we were about ten minutes away from the second marker, the wind shifted. That resulted in a couple more very dirty tacks to stay out of the ship channel and make it around the tower.

The last leg would have been uneventful until we were about ten minutes from the finish, at which point the wind completely died. That last ten minutes stretched to thirty as we sped towards the channel at a whopping 1 knot.

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Of course, the day wouldn’t have ended appropriately if we hadn’t had to make one last tack to get through the finish markers. We actually furled the jib and used to stay sail to  make the turn, then unfurled the jib to finally crawl across the line.

It’s interesting how many time during the race that starting ten minutes late made a difference. Of course, nobody was worried about where we placed. It was great just to be on the water with friends, learning the ins and outs of a new boat. Of course, the rum served after the race was great too.

More photos of the regatta can be found here, courtesy of John & Scott Lacy: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lacyphotos/sets/72157649706310299/