Sunday, February 15, 2009

Update: Team Chute-Out Weekend at Elephant Butte Lake

Sometimes the message gets garbled...

The plan for the Rio Grande Sailing Club team chute-out on Valentine's Day had been for a hybrid between regular fleet racing and team and match racing. Pairs of matched boats would race each other, with each boat representing either a north team or a south team. We would have two pairs of J/24s, two pairs of Etchells, and two pairs of cruising boats. The J/24s and Etchells would race level one design, whereas the cruising boats would race on base Portsmouth handicap.

Originally we'd planned to send each pair of boats off to start separately, but with the prospect of a short-handed race committee, the plan changed to start the racing boats together, followed five minutes later by the cruisers. Numerous e-mails went out and I met with two of the folks who'd be on the committee boat in the middle of the week before the event.

However, the composition of the on-the-water race committee changed, and one of the members was late getting to the skippers' meeting, so some of the plans got garbled.

In addition, brisk winds were forecast, and some last-minute boat substitutions came and went, including one boat being told to go ahead and race by a club member, but without anyone telling the race committee chair or event organizers. Then, some crew were late showing up as well, so there was a bit of last-minute confusion.

The day before, Friday, Carol Anne and I had launched her Etchells and I'd sailed the boat north from Marina del Sur to Rock Canyon Marina, mostly in nice breezes of 4 to 6 mph. En route I'd encountered "Zorro" on his Etchells, and we traded some tacks and maneuvers on the way north.

As a result of the weather, crew showing up late or not at all, and consolidation of boats and crews, I wound up on Zorro's boat and "Applegal" wound up helming Carol Anne's Black Magic. Coordination on Constellation wasn't quite seamless, especially on spinnaker sets and douses, and the rough conditions and reach-leg courses made controlling the chute a real challenge, with the boat trying to broach a couple of times and Zorro teaching me to pump the guy line as a means of getting control back.

Still, despite all the hard work and mutterings from aft, it was a pretty good day on the water with lots of good sailing action. Although the fetches and reaches prevented the sailing from being very tactical, the 20-30 mph winds kept crews working hard.

And, between ferrying Black Magic north on Friday and racing on Saturday, that makes for 11 days of sailing so far in 2009 -- not bad for February in the northern hemisphere.

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