Sunday, February 24, 2008

Chute-Out Weekend and Day 4

The Rio Grande Sailing Club's Chute-Out Regatta was postponed to this past weekend, February 23 and 24, after uncertain winter weather was predicted for the previous weekend. Even though the predicted winter storm was mostly a bust, the wait was worthwhile because it gave us warmer weather and (mostly) more wind. The one bad thing on Friday night was that people in the next motel room had their television on too loud and we faced Saturday morning without having slept.

Saturday morning, seven crews showed up at the skipper/crew meeting and breakfast at Hodge's Corner restaurant in Elephant Butte. Represented were an Etchells, a J24, Hunter 28, Freedom 21, S2 34, and two M scows. I had race committee duty, but without a boat with an engine at the moment, had arranged to borrow a powerboat that had been kindly made available to the club.

Unfortunately, the powerboat wasn't quite ready to go in the water, since the drain plug couldn't be found and the outdrive tilt mechanism wouldn't let the outdrive tilt up. So, we made emergency arrangements to borrow another powerboat, which arrived at the boat launch ramp a half hour before our scheduled first warning signal. I wound up by myself, so it was a mad scramble for me to throw gear aboard, drive out to the center of the racing area, set the pin buoy, and then anchor, hoist anchor, re-anchor, hoist anchor, and re-re anchor to come up with a decent starting line angle and length.

Then it was time to break out the flags, pump up the air horn, and start the sequence. Holding a watch, air horn, and two flags up in coordinated fashion with split-second timing on a bouncing boat was interesting. To add to the interest, we had a few over-earlies, of which a couple responded to the X flag and radio hail to re-start correctly.

I ran three races, each about two to three miles long, in good conditions, with winds ranging from 6 to 18 knots with a few stronger gusts. By mountain lake standards, the winds were relatively predictable and almost steady, with an almost periodic cycling between moderate and stronger winds. Temperatures were mild for February, reaching the mid-sixties (F). We could have completed yet another race and still gotten boats home to the marinas before sundown. But, one boat sustained damage to mainsail slugs, the scows decided things were a bit too fresh to stay around for long, and a couple of cruising boats eventually dropped out of the racing, so we packed up around 4:00 p.m.

Saturday night we got together with "Husker" and "Bassmaster" for dinner at the Big Food Express and also visited with folks at the fleet 141 compound. Winds for Sunday were predicted to be in the 10 mph range by late morning, peaking around 20 mph by mid-afternoon.

Sunday we awoke slowly, but winds had not yet materialized and phone calls revealed that only one boat was out on the water, with conditions almost flat calm. In town, lightweight flags stirred, but heavier flags were motionless. On the lake, some stretches showed light ripples on the water, but most of the lake was a glassy mirror surface.

So, we joined some sailors again at Hodges for the Sunday brunch buffet, enjoying the roast from the carving station (manned by the proprietor, Ray), and all the other goodies, including a white cake with a pudding-like thick chocolate frosting for dessert.

More than satisfied, we drove to the Rock Canyon Marina, where at last a little bit of breeze was feeling as if it would stick around. Carol Anne, exhausted from the previous day’s exertion, Friday night’s lack of sleep, and still not recovered from a lingering cough brought on by the flu, rested ashore. Mother remained in her lakeshore cabin, sewing up pockets for a signal flag holder. So, Gerald, Wind Rush, and Dumbledore took out the J24, “Kachina”, following Zorro, Penzance, and me in the Etchells, “Constellation”.

We did a mock race out east ¾ of a mile and then back, but found the going very slow near our windward mark, buoy 25B with very little air. However, we were able to get the spinnaker filled after a bit, and then the wind began to fill in. By the time we finished that race, the wind was steady and looking to build some more, and clocking from the east to the south.

By the time we began another mock race, the wind was building up quite a bit, coming in from the SSW and throwing up whitecaps (“white horses”) in some abundance. Eventually, we gave up on the mock racing idea and headed for port, managing a good docking in spite of some pretty stiff crosswinds. The J24 completed its planned course, running into some heavy winds that impeded boat handling, preventing them from gybing at one point near the windward mark. By this time, conditions were getting quite rugged; Lance, the assistant manager of the marina, saw a gust of 46.5 mph that hit right after we’d docked Constellation. We helped the J24 crew dock Kachina, which got a bit exciting when it almost hit a moored houseboat, then put away gear and visited at the fleet 141 compound.

Magnum and Mrs. Magnum joined us all there, and we had some nice visiting. I also left a bunch of race management books there, to be used for race committee training. After the winds subsided, Gerald joined some of the guys in loading Kachina onto her trailer and then we headed for Socorro. There we stopped at Socorro Springs to enjoy a nice little dinner and to fill Carol Anne’s growler jug with some brown ale.

After getting to sail three times in January (beginning January 5th and then continuing with the Frostbite Regatta on January 26 (where the wind died) and a sail on January 27th (where the wind died after a couple of hours and I paddled a half mile to shore), this Sunday’s sailing was quite a bit more exciting. But, the Etchells felt under good control at all times and the wind didn’t seem all that bad while we were out there.

Snug lines, Pat


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