Monday, April 30, 2007


It's been a bit, so here's a more or less quickie update on our peregrinations and dubious accomplishments.

Friday, April 20th was Freedom Day for Carol Anne as it ended her teaching term at the community college. She spent a good chunk of the day doing panel grading in a room with other English instructors before we drove to Laguna Vista in northern New Mexico. We brough Dulce Carolina, our remaining feline, but left "Tadpole" behind so he could attend a scout camporee in Edgewood. Carol Anne's brother Jerry joined us for a weekend visit shortly before he would leave for San Diego and return to Prague.

That Saturday, Tadpole participated in the camporee, which included events such as black powder rifle shooting (with very small powder charges), tomahawk and knife throwing. However, many of the events took much less time than scheduled, leaving too much dead time, and an orienteering course wasn't laid out correctly. Also, some of the younger boys in the troop had difficulty with discipline and safety issues.

Down at the Butte, the NM State U sailing class students showed up for their final day of on-the-water training with "Dumbledore" and "Mother". They needed medium-speed or better winds to fully qualify in their class, and indeed they got them, with rather boisterous wind and waves. Some of the students got quite wet and had to finish their qualification maneuvers on a larger boat than they started upon.

Meanwhile, Carol Anne entertained her brother and enjoyed the end of the term while I reported for duty at the New Mexico Sailing Club work party to get the marina more ready for the summer sailing season. We dropped the long trusses that run underneath the ends of the finger piers, removed some old ironmongery from under the marina, and bolted up some of the truss uprights to the ends of the finger piers (B north dock). We also dug out the bottom of the trail leading down to the marina so access would be easier. Only six members were in the work party, due perhaps in part to a forecast of wet and windy weather. Luckily for us, the bad weather held off until about two or three in the afternoon, when we finally got wind, rain, sleet, and snow.

Sunday, I returned to put a bit of gravel on the bottom of the trail and bolt up most of the finger piers on the north side of C dock. I also got in a bit of yardwork at our cabin and cleaned up some debris that had been floating around in the marina, including bits of wood washed down by spring runoff. Then it was time to return home and catch up with Tadpole and learn of his adventures.

During the week, we started a loan application for debt consolidation and were without Tad on Monday night because of his orchestra trip to Glorieta for two days of intensive music rehearsals. Wednesday night we attended Tad's concert at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, where he played in the cello, combined, and honors ensembles.

Thursday, after Tad's string bass lesson, we all attended the Rio Grande Sailing Club fleet social at a home near UNM, and enjoyed a potluck dinner with bbq brisket and many other delights.

Friday early afternoon, Carol Anne drove south to the Butte and went sailing with Zorro. After sailing, while they were putting away their boats at the marina, a passing thunderstorm generated powerful micro-burst winds for several minutes, with peak gust strengths exceeding sixty mph. Both Etchells were heeled way over, in spite of being under bare poles. I think they were glad not to have been sailing on the lake when the burst hit.

After school and work on Friday, Tad and I drove north in the "fun car". At the beginning of the week, Carol Anne's brother had left his Miata in our garage before he took the train to San Diego and returned to Prague, leaving instructions to run it every couple of weeks or so. So, we put the top down, bought a tank of petrol, and enjoyed the run up to El Dorado, near Santa Fe, and attended the meeting of the New Mexico Sailing Club.

We had a potluck dinner and concluded with a presentation of a member couple's catamaran charter in Belize. In between, the club and board voted to spend more money on buying parts for the marina, approved a plan to add outriggers and floats to upgrade the lifting power of the work barge, and discussed support for youth sailing. One of our members, Cherokee, also volunteered to chair the race committee for the NMSC for this summer's season.

Tad and then returned that night to Albuquerque, switched vehicles, and drove Babe south into the dark night to Truth or Consequences, arriving at nearly 1 in the morning and not getting to sleep until quite a bit later, just hours before the RGSC final spring series and club championships regatta.

Saturday, April 28, was predicted to become cloudy, windy, and wet. Starting our calm, with some sun, the day eventually lived up quite well to the forecast. Nonetheless, we had ten boats show up on the race course; 4 Etchells, 3 J24s, 2 J22s, and a Catalina 25 from the B fleet. As the weather moved in and became rougher, with some lighting and thunder, one of the Etchells withdrew, still leaving nine boats to brave the elements. Because we had lost some of our regular crew, we had a new crew member, who had previously sailed in the Pacific northwest and west coast. Zorro expected the winds to moderate or fail, but they didn't, instead building up to exceed the forecasts.

The weekend was not to see our best sailing of the year, what with some crew and equipment issues and the heavy conditions. We broke our vang and tangled our spinnaker a couple of times in the stiff conditions, as well as surviving a very close duck of another Etchells and generally getting ourselves soaked. (Have I mentioned lately how I hate rain- and lake-water-soaked eyeglasses that make it hard to see r.c. flags, course buoys, and what other boats are doing!?)

Two races were run on Saturday; a full-loop/paperclip "G" course and a "K" course which was sort of an old Olympic style course with a triangle and a loop. However, the way the course for the second race was set caused a lot of confusion, because the race committee had previously flown another course signal, then quickly lowered the old course flags and raised the new course flags, immediately sounding the horn for the warning signal. With the rain, waves, and strong wind, many of the boats were too far away from the committee boat, and then too busy avoiding other boats during the five-minute-sequence, to get a good look at the flag or even realize that the course had been changed.

So, we played follow the leader, and had to guess which leader was correct at one point when the two boats ahead of us chose differently. Fortunately, at least we figured out the course as we went, which was good for the boats behind us as well as our crew. We had great difficulty with pointing, and sagged quite far to leeward on the last big upwind leg, which was more of a reach than a beat. As a result, even though the fleet leader had at one point gone the wrong way and fallen behind us, he was able to pass us rather easily.

We survived the race, and had a good sail back to the marina. This sail back, we kept both jib and main up in spite of stiff conditions, which gave us a better balanced boat than if we'd only sailed under one sail. With four crew, we were close enough to maximum crew weight to be able to keep the boat flat enough for comfort and control.

Afterwards we critiqued our errors. We also learned that our distorted/spread apart tuning gage was nearly useless; when our shrouds were checked by Zorro, he found that our tensions were far off where we'd set them; one upper shroud measured at 15, which is not even sufficient for light air sailing, when our crew thought the shroud had been set at 22. And, when we realized the wind was going to stay stiff, we should have re-tuned the upper shrouds to 25 or moreand brought the lowers from 5 to something like 15. This likely accounted for a lot of trouble we had in pointing.

That night we had dinner at Casa Taco and then went home for a desperately needed rest. Unfortunately for our health and sanity, the rat pack had other plans and we finally had to shoo them out after they noisily invaded us after closing down one of the local taverns. That left us awfully blearly eyed and running behind on Sunday morning.

Sunday still had rain in the forecast, but much less wind. All four Etchells started on Sunday, along with 2 J24s and a J22. One of the J24s, a J22, and the Catalina did not race. (The Catalina showed up but didn't race and Scirocco's Song and the NM Tech J-24 never appeared.) We got a tow out until the wind came up enough for sailing. A "G" full-loop course to the north was set. We had worked out a good starting plan, but a boat got in our way and we conservatively tacked behind her and wound up being a little late for the line at the gun for the first race. We had a tolerably decent run in spite of having suffered some issues with pointing, and rounded ahead of several boats, including one of the other Etchells. The winds continued to shift and do strange things, so all in all it was rather frustrating. The downwind run had practically no air and we barely ghosted along. Random wind shifts and disappearances put us in almost windless zones and let some boats pass us. We rounded the leeward mark in rain, in a very frustrating last place.

The second race was a short-course half-loop to the east-northeast and back. Our start was slowed by interference from another boat, though if we'd had more confidence in our crew response, we likely could have tacked in front of that other boat. After the start, the winds shifted aft, and we set our chute and had an opportunity to overtake a couple of boats. Unfortunately for us, though, our jib and spinnaker trimmer was having a very bad day and we never were able to catch boats that we should have been passing. Our chute trim looked awful, the chute was seldom inflated, and the big fat spin sheet spent most of its time being dragged through the water. We rounded next-to-last and barely avoided being last across the finish line after being headed approaching the finish.

Carol Anne was furious with her jib/spinnaker trimmer and with his lack of attentiveness to trim or to her orders, so we didn't exactly come off the water in a happy mood. And, to rub it in, another Etchells arrived in the slip next to ours with "the lads" whooping and hollering their exuberant joy in having just barely won the weekend championship, as well as clinching the series championship.

Where to go from here? Well, we know that "Black Magic" has a lot of, em, unrealized potential ... i.e., her sails, rigging, and hardware are still rather old and worn out and well below the standard of the other Etchells in our area. Once our finances are better, we'll order more gear. And, some crew changes are being made. And, some of the remaining crew -- me -- need plenty more training and seasoning.

But, we did learn more about our abilities and shortcomings, and what the boat needs, and what we need to learn to compete at a higher level, especially in a one-design fleet with good sailors. We learned some work we need to do on starting line and close-order maneuvering. And, we did run spinnaker in the heaviest air we'd tried so far. And, we learned the hard way how critical it is that the trimmers be of one mind with the helmsperson.

Update: Zorro snuck up to the lake on Tuesday and found that Black Magic's shroud tension was still wrong for the uppers, with the securing nuts not tightened against the turnbuckles. Either Carol Anne's bow crew didn't adjust the tension as instructed, or forgot to re-engage the nuts, or someone else has been sabotaging the boat. Sigh.


At 8:13 PM, April 30, 2007, Blogger Carol Anne said...

A couple of corrections ...

The B fleet boat that showed up was a Catalina 25, not a Hunter.

The second start on Sunday was decidedly NOT "not so bad" -- it was our worst start in either this regatta or the previous one, and it took us a good minute or more after the starting horn to make the line. One of the other boats got in our way and forced us to bear away from the line and then tack, instead of being able to go straight for the line.


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