GBCA Icicle 5: We end the series with a spirited DNF

Friday evening our outlook for race 5 was still dependent on whether or not I could repair the cabin top winch that raises and lowers the centerboard.

Once I got the winch open, the mechanism turned out to be incredibly simple. There is a gear on the drum, a gear on the winch handle, and one pawl that is supposed to release whenever you turn the handle. I will have to completely remove the cable and lift out the entire drum assembly to identify why the pawl is staying locked, but I found a way to pull it clear with my finger. Using the finger method we could raise and lower the centerboard with no issues, so we were a go for Saturday morning.

The lack of wind that had plagued us the entire series was not an issue Saturday. In fact, it was the most intense conditions we had ever experienced in the Kadey Krogen — an all new test.

The first thing I learned was that 30 knot winds put Mary into a complete freeze-up panic. I know she was struggling hard with being out in those conditions, so when she asked that we only fly the reefed main and the staysail, I complied. The rest of the crew did not seem as worried, but I did notice they all put on life jackets for the ride.

We had a beam reach for the first leg with apparent wind frequently gusting to 35 knots, and we were consistently making 6.5 – 7 knots on our way to the first mark. I attempted to take some pictures and video, but Mary promptly took my phone away and told me to focus on steering. However, she did take this one video clip before zipping my phone into her pocket for the duration of the race.

The second leg, we were dead down. The main was blocking all of the wind to the staysail, but we were pushing ahead at 5.5 knots and steadily running down the one or two boats that started ahead of us. The better strategy would have been to roll out the genoa and drop the staysail and main, but with the extreme conditions we decided it was better not to change sails. We did try to push the staysail across for wing-on-wing, but with the single-line system we have on that sail, we couldn’t get it to stay.

By the time we had reached the second mark, we had seen some torn sails on other boats along the course. We made the second turn and that’s where our competitive edge ended. The wind had dropped to the 15-20 knot range, and we really didn’t have enough sail out. We also realized the line brake that held the outhaul was slipping, but the outhaul and the mainsheet share a winch. There was no good way to get the outhaul tight and then off the winch to a cleat. We also had no winch at all for the staysail line, which was taking serious muscle to sheet in. We had lack of sail, poor trim, and I was having to pinch to make any forward progress on the course. We were lucky to get 3.5 knots boat speed even with all of the wind. Then the real kicker was that we learned the boat cannot tack with only the main and staysail, so each time across the bay, we had to do a slow loopy jibe. It was terrible.

After crossing the bay four times we were the last boat still on the course. I REALLY wanted to finish, but Mary had been sitting in tense fear for more than four hours and kept suggesting we start rolling in the sails, so I finally turned on the motor.

While our sailing performance in this series was absolutely dismal, we did learn some important things about the boat. I think for safety we’re going to switch the mainsheet system because having the controls on the cabin top puts the user in a prime location to get hit by the sheet and traveler as it swings across. That would also fix the outhaul winch situation.

I was impressed with the way the Krogen handled the 30 knot winds. One of the boats had their traveler ripped off. The Krogen wasn’t phased at all. However, it is a real conundrum that Mary only likes sailing in less than 15 knots of wind, and the Krogen really only sails in more than 15 knots of wind.

I wish we had sailed better, but getting off the dock four out of five weekends in January was a big accomplishment. I can cross the first thing off my list of goals for 2021.

GBCA Icicle 4: Pure heartbreak

You would think that after three weeks of focused boat repairs and adjustments, sailing performance would go up.

You would be wrong. Icicle 4 was the worst race yet.

When we re-installed the jib, we tied on the old slightly smaller diameter sheets that had been found in the bottom of the lazarette. The theory was that our new sheets were too large for the turning blocks and were binding up during our tacks. Unfortunately as we unfurled the jib on our way to the starting line, one of the sheets came untied leaving the jib flapping in the wind.

We left our starting position to partially furl the jib and get the line re-attached, but that put us about 10 minutes behind and quite a bit off course.

Once the jib actually caught the wind, the bow of the boat started turning uncontrollably giving me a clear indication that the center board had not actually dropped when we lowered it. Apparently the centerboard winch was jamming up. We spent another 10 minutes finessing and finagling it while I was inside the boat jerking on the centerboard wire trying to get it to deploy.

At this point we were 20 minutes late and completely in the wrong spot to start. We had to spend another 10 minutes motoring back to to race area before we could even get into a starting pattern.

We started VERY late. There was only one J boat and a trimaran behind us.

The jib sheets did seem to bind up less during tacks, but it was hard to know if it was the line size that was making a difference or if it was the fact that I cleaned quite a bit of corrosion out of the jib cars, so that they were operating better. Unfortunately the self-tailing winches did not always hold the smaller line.

One of the biggest problems I’m still facing is that with our undersized shallow draft rudder, we have a major issue with the boat continuing to turn in a circle once it starts the tack. I don’t think there’s any cure for this. This boat was designed by a single man for anchoring in shallow water and drinking in the spacious cockpit. It’s essentially a trawler with a mast, and it sails like garbage. The fixed keel version handles much better, and I’m quite sad we didn’t go that route.

We managed to make one tack on the first leg of the course, then the wind dropped to 7 knots, and we stopped moving. Everyone was content to drift, but eventually we were drifting into a children’s regatta area, so we had to give up and turn on the motor to make sure we didn’t float over a bunch of kids on optis.

To say I’m more than a little depressed about the boat’s performance would be an understatement. Every other heavy, cruising class handicap boat finished the race. To be fair, they all had a 30-minute lead, so maybe there was jmore wind down the course or they were able to make the first turn to be on a better point of sail before the wind dropped, but I think something is seriously wrong with our rig and sail plan.

We have one race left in the series, and my aspirations of placing have diminished to just hopes of finishing. Of course, unless I can get the centerboard winch unseized before the race, we may not be able to sail at all.

At least we’re getting off the dock. That’s progress over the past two years.

Still, it’s hard to stay positive in regard to this boat when it’s sailing so poorly. I don’t mind having a pig, but this is ridiculous.