Friday, February 29, 2008

Pre-Start at the Chute-Out, Rio Grande Sailing Club

Wind Rush and Erebus sail along before the start of the Chute-Out Regatta.

Wind Rush and Constellation pass by the start area during pre-start sailing.
Later on, winds would get boisterous at times, cycling between 6 and 20 mph,
with somewhat higher puffs.

Scenes from before the start of the Chute-Out

Constellation (left, background) and the Freedom 21, Wind Rush (right) maneuver before the start of the Chute-Out at Elephant Butte Lake. Behind can be seen the Elephant Butte, Rattlesnake Island, and Caballo and Turtleback mountains to the south.

The J/24, Kachina, begins to raise sail; behind are Constellation and Wind Rush along with some gorgeous New Mexico scenery. The topography of Elephant Butte Lake creates several large interconnected basins and combines with unpredictable mountain lake winds to make for interesting sailing opportunities. Sailing at Elephant Butte Lake is an almost year-round sport.

Kachina under spinnaker, Chute-Out Regatta

The J/24 Kachina enjoys fine weather for sailing during February's Chute-Out Regatta in southern New Mexico.

Constellation at the Chute-Out, February 23, 2008

Constellation (Etchells USA 38) powers along at Elephant Butte Lake in southern New Mexico, en route to winning its class in the Chute-Out regatta.

Erebus at the Chute Out Regatta, Elephant Butte Lake

William's Hunter 28, Erebus, bounds along in a puff.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bounding over the waves, Kachina and Constellation

Kachina and Constellation pass into some fresh winds in between races during the Chute-out Regatta at Elephant Butte Lake.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Penultimate Photos from the Chute-Out: Kachina in profile

Kachina powers along in a nice breeze on Saturday afternoon. Seven boats registered for the Chute-Out Regatta, but that number was whittled down somewhat by the end of the day as strong winds were a stern test for out-of-shape beginning-of-season muscles on board the boats.
The Rio Grande Sailing Club hosts regattas at Elephant Butte Lake in southern New Mexico.

Final batch of pictures from the Chute-out

In this series, the J24 "Kachina" powers along the racecourse at Elephant Butte Lake in southern New Mexico, during the Chute-Out Regatta on January 23, 2008.

In the distance, behind Kachina, can be seen a portion of the Rock Canyon Marina.

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

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

quickie update

and then sometimes life becomes busy...

Anyone know where we can get a good deal on a daggerboard, rudder, mainsail, and chute for a Laser II?

The Chute-Out Regatta has been postponed to this coming weekend, Saturday and Sunday February 23-24, 2008. Skipper/crew meeting will be 10:00 a.m. Saturday at Hodge's Corner.

Weather prediction for Saturday is for 65 F high temp., 07% chance precipitation, winds from the West at 9 to 18 mph, partly cloudy skies.

Weather prediction for Sunday is for 68 F high temp., 05% chance precipitation, winds from the WSW at 10 to 20 mph, partly to mostly sunny skies.

Elephant Butte Lake is at 4,338.38 feet above benchmark elevation with 483,725 acre feet of water; it has risen almost six inches in the past three days.

Heron Lake is at elevation 7,144.61 feet, with 197,790 acro fee. The marina is locked in ice with a depth of about 19 feet of water and ice below the surface.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Doldrums of January and Day Three

Wind Rush eases along on a quiet winter day in New Mexico's Elephant Butte Lake.

The good news is that we sailed during three days in January. The other news is that we haven't seen much good wind and we now have even more boat projects to do. Last weekend, the auxiliary engine, which we use occasionally, quit running while giving us a great deal of aggravation. Because of its misbehaviors and a bad gasket we had to drag it through the water during Saturday's Frostbite Race (which was entirely mild and lacking in frostbite -- and which saw the wind fizzle out to nothing). The topping lift for the spinnaker pole broke and then went hiding in the mast. And we still have lots of other boat projects that need to be done.

At least, if we can sail more during February than we did in January, and so on, we'll be off to a good start on the sailing year. So far in January, we had a nice Saturday afternoon sail on Zorro's Constellation on January 5th, followed by a frustrating day of trying to race in light air on last Saturday, January 26th.

Then, on Sunday, the 27th, Carol Anne and I sailed out at noon in modest breeze, which after a while became more promising, leading us to sail from Marina del Sur and around Rattlesnake Island. But, just as be sailed around the west side of the island, the breeze vanished and it was my turn to paddle 4/10 of a mile back to the ramp. Stormy conditions had been forecast but never really appeared; a few 10 to 15 mph gusts finally showed up a couple of hours after we'd put the boat away.

I also got in a small bit of accidental sailing that won't be a part of the official count; on Friday, when I was trying to motor from Marina del Sur's boat ramp to the Rock Canyon Marina, the motor quit and I wound up fishing the mainsail out, bending it on and hoisting it, and sailing a short distance to Marina del Sur in quite light air.

Last Saturday night (January 26, 2008), a group of Rio Grande Sailing Club members got together to do a good bit of planning for hosting the Clifford D. Mallory men's sailing championship eliminations for our sailing association. The Sailing Association of Intermountain Lakes comprises sailors from Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, and western Nebraska. With the Texas Sailing Association and the Central States Sailing Association, it forms one of US Sailing's geographic areas, Area F.

The championship eliminations will be sailed by teams of four on J24 sailboats provided by the Paseo del Rio J24 Fleet 141. We hope that at least a couple of J24 teams will show up from Colorado, Wyoming, or Nebraska to give us some excitement and sailing fellowship and enjoy a bit of what for them would be early-season sailing on the first weekend of May.