Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Arizona Birthday Regatta sailing trip log, January 2009,

Wednesday, Jan. 14 – arrived Scottsdale 5:30, checked in, dinner with Gerald at Texaz off route 51.

Thur., Jan. 15 – Gerald ran errands on campus, then we met at Chipotle east of ASU for lunch. Went by West Marine. Visited JJ and Howard in the evening in Sun City West; JJ was a very active Rio Grande Sailing Club member when she lived in New Mexico and still keeps up her associate membership. Sun City’s roads are dark and a bit confusing, but then the residents probably don’t drive a lot after dark. Got socks for Gerald at sporting goods place on Mayo Drive off Scottsdale Road near the condo.

Fri. Jan. 16 – Went to Pleasant Harbor, met Arno, Dave, and Pat B. Went with Pat to fill tanks and launch TTL pontoon boat. Event running behind schedule; waited with John at marina and race committee boat; took a quick look at John’s 30’ Chrysler TMI 1980-81 sloop. John, in spite of a short time as owner that was interrupted by a hospital visit, has been busy; he’s already re-built his first marine head. Went out and ran races; Dave as PRO, me as board flipper and general deputy and jack of all trades; part of time worked radio with support boats, helped coordinate signaler, worked with Dale to anchor and hoist anchor, etc. Three starting groups; single-hand, double-hand, and multi-hull. Morning winds were 4-8 kt. NE to NNE; mid-afternoon switch to SW but only about 2-4 kt. We noticed that the pontoon boat seemed to have only one anchor, when in the past it’s been said to be equipped with a second anchor. Dave, as a principal engineer for building the pontoon boat, filled me in on a lot of how it was designed and set up.

Gerald wound up helping unload and set up for the regatta at the big tent above Spinnaker Point and later became a beverage server, consorting with the Merit Boys. Stir fry dinner was quite good, with four different stir fries. Pat B. said kind words at the presentation.

Sat. Jan. 17 – Event running quite a bit behind schedule in morning; waited at pontoon boat at marina courtesy dock. After rest of crew arrived, and Gerald produced the magic key to start the motor and drive the boat, we went out in a good breeze of around 10-12 kts and set up. John W. was PRO with me as his co-; I again did boards, helped with wind shifts/courses/line and radio for mark boat, PA system, anchor, etc. We had a big crew of about 10 to 12 people on board with PRO, board flipper, signaler (Dale), and others doing line sighting, photography, and especially several people scoring finishes, with most scorers responsible for a couple of fleets. Eight fleets in seven starting groups at first, starting with Vipers, Buccs, Merit 25s, Spin boats, Catalina 22s, multi-hulls and Portsmouth together, PHRF non-spin (order may not be exact and changed later on in the day). Wind was nice for a couple of hours of racing but then faded to around 6 kts and then tried to shift in mid-afternoon but didn’t do a very good job of it, leaving us with only an oscillation between 0 and 3 knots. The last couple of fleets got their X course shortened at their leeward mark.

We had a couple of moderate goofs during the day, such as starting the multi-hulls when they hadn’t all finished a previous race and having to abandon their race (but the wind had fallen away to nothing, so they didn’t really mind anyway), but overall things ran quite smoothly and racers were happy with the courses we gave them. The automatic horn system on the boat worked quite well, essentially taking the place of one race committee crew member. A couple of the boards that were used as class flags need to be re-worked; one Viper board fit too tightly and needs to be shaved down and a PHRF spin board was too short and wanted to fall out of the rack. Also, several of the boards don’t fit in the slot on one segment toward the back of the courtesy rail that runs along the starboard bow. We had to re-load one mark board at the last minute and sometimes remembering to get boards in right-side-up was a challenge; it might be helpful to have something like a thin underline marked along the bottom of each board. We also found that the pontoon boat was missing some equipment for signaling course shortening and course changes; it had an S board but no flag, no C flag (with red/green and plus/minus) on board on either the pontoon boat or mark set boat, and no really easy way to signal an abandonment for only one fleet, since we’d have to hand-hold an N flag over a fleet course board.

We were in early enough that Gerald and I went into town; I dropped him off at his Jeep Cherokee so he could start moving in to his dorm room, which ASU didn’t allow until the Saturday before classes started. I took a quick dip in the pool and hot tub at the condo, then returned in time for dinner and presentations. The regatta had a fairly mellow guitar play who could play Jimmy Buffet tunes and such, which were well received; this was much better than having a loud rock band blast people out of the tent. Gerald arrived later but was introduced to the Blumms, who have a daughter who is Arizona’s youngest sailing instructor and owner of a 420 sailing dinghy. Afterward, Gerald picked up his cello and the last of his other stuff at the condo and drove to Tempe to spend the night in the dorm.

Sun. Jan. 18 – This time the committee boat kept pretty darn close to schedule; John and I arrived at 7:40 and opened the lockers to retrieve gear with the rest of the crew, including PRO David A. as well as John W., John (the Chrysler TMI owner), Janet and Eric the scorers, only seconds behind. Tad was running about 10 minutes further behind and was ferried out later on one of the other support boats. The early morning or rough weather also probably cost us some crew; we were down a couple from Saturday. For some reason, the challenge this time was opening the head door; for some reason it has two door locks and the way to open it is a bit “fiddly”. A strong NNE wind blowing at about 15 kts onto the boat’s starboard quarter hampered leaving the dock; the boat didn’t have enough power to back out so eventually we drove forward, pulling out a piece of the pontoon boat’s trim molding. Then the boat showed an oil pressure warning and had to have oil added to the reservoir adjacent to the fuel tank; there wasn’t a funnel and some got spilled on the sleeve of my fleece pullover. But, all that only set us back about 10 minutes.

Once on station, we let out lots of scope on the anchor and checked boats in. Some of the scorers had three fleets this day, and with higher winds, more noise, and boats finishing closer together, there was more of a challenge to communicate between the line sighters and the scorers to make sure that none of the boats were missed, and to make sure that times were recorded for all the handicap fleet boats. As PRO, Dave A. especially concentrated on line sighting at the forward mast and working with the scorers, especially trying to get good verbal feedback from them to make sure boat positions and times weren’t lost. John, Dale, and I covered the rest of the bases other than scoring; Dale signaled and worked with me on the anchor, while I did board flips and watched the wind and line a lot.

The wind stayed strong on Sunday, remaining at around 10-12 kts and shifting only a bit eastward, which eventually caused the pontoon boat to swing west, toward the starting pin. That left the finish line too long and the start line skewed and short, but we were so busy starting boats that we didn’t get enough of a breather to re-set the line until just before the fourth and final set of races for the stay. Previously, however, we’d had the mark boat set an A (alternate, green) mark further to the east, and move the leeward mark that was far to the south of the committee boat, so the racers always had good windward legs. (That is, except for some of the fleets, which were sent on triangles for some of their races; the multihulls, Portsmouth boats, and PHRF non-spin got in some reaching legs.) And, for the final race of the day, we sent a couple of fleets (Merit 25, PHRF spin) the long way upwind to round Horse Island as their windward mark, sending them on a big windward-leeward race that then had them round the South mark back toward the dam before finishing upwind.

We worked at a furious pace, getting off four races and starting close to 200 boats. The first two serious of starting sequences came off without interruption; 14 starts in 75 minutes. Then, there was only about a ten-minute interruption before the third sequence. And perhaps a fifteen- or twenty-minute break before the fourth – just enough time for folks to grab lunch and re-adjust settings while we re-adjusted the line and courses. Because of the heavier winds and earlier starting time, some boats didn’t race on Sunday, but we still had about ¾ of the 65 boats that had raced on Saturday. One Buccaneer did flip and we dispatched the mark set boat to help. We had two other support boats, but one of them didn’t have a good radio and the mark set boat was closest.

Aside from perhaps wanting to improve communication between the scorers and line sighters, and not being able to react as well as we’d like to the boat swinging on the long anchor line, things went very smoothly on the committee boat and the races were run efficiently. Fleets got in from five to eight races between Saturday and Sunday, so everyone got one throw-out.

We did have a couple of rules issues involving the start and finish lines, which were restricted by the sailing instructions to effectively make them an obstruction to boats racing but not starting or finishing. A couple of Buccs sailed through the finish line on the downwind leg of a windward-leeward course, causing them to be scored DNF in accordance with the SIs. And, two Merits were overlapped sailing downwind, with the outside boat not giving the inside boat room to sail outside the starting pin buoy. The inside boat then had to collect its chute, head upwind several boat lengths, and come around outside the mark to “unwind her string” (exonerated for so because she had been forced inside by the outside boat). Although the outside boat later did a 720 two-turns penalty to atone, a crew member on the inside boat thought that wasn’t enough of a penalty to make up for how far back the inside boat had been moved. But, although we made provisions to hold a protest hearing if needed, it didn’t happen; I met with some of the members of the Merit fleet after the race and we had a good discussion and resolved to clear up a couple of possible rules issues. The PRO trio on the committee boat also had a good discussion about time limits and the ability to shorten courses; perhaps a couple of refinements could be made to the SIs in the future to clarify the rules and empower the PROs/race committee in this area.

One other issue was beyond the power of the race organizers. When the regatta schedule had been set, no one knew that there would be a competing athletic event on Sunday afternoon down near where loop 101 west meets Interstate 20. I think it was some sort of American footy-ball event involving some Red Birds and Eagle Birds, but whatever it was, it made some of the race committee and sailors disappear shortly after their boats docked. As someone with an outside perspective, I made some notes for the regatta organizers and race committee folks; perhaps they’ll be of some use.

After the awards ceremony it was time for a fuel stop and the long drive home. Because I was so far north, I took the longer route through Flagstaff rather then the shorter one via Payson and stopped for dinner in Gallup at the El Rancho. It was almost 11:00 p.m. when the trip ended back in Albuquerque.

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At 4:58 PM, January 21, 2009, Blogger Jos said...

On the issue of restricting starting and finishing line (making them obstructions) we use a clause in SI to restrict protest by other boats on that. Only the RC can protest if someone breaks that SI.
That way you can always get at the boats who cause problems.

Sounds you had a good series. Your photo's make me wish it was spring already...


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