Wednesday night racing and Swiftshore 2016!

So I’ve been doing some racing recently, mainly as an attempt to learn more about sail trim beyond ‘the white things are up in the air and not flapping’

I started around a month ago after Phil invited me onto a team of people from work. There are four of us, racing a martin 242 which is a very zippy little 24 foot race boat with a big mainsail and spinnaker.

Photo from sailboatdata

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Anyway, it’s been quite the change.

On my own boat, if I suspect I need to change something it involves a lot of staring at the windex, maybe with some clucking and thoughtful stroking of my beard. After a couple of minutes I may venture to adjust something. Right after I finish eating my sandwich. Racing, it’s more me frantically pulling at a mess of lines while sobbing and stepping on everyone else’s lines while the boat barrels through a mess of other boats while at various angles of heel, ranging from ‘pretty far over’ to ‘oh jesus christ’.

Needless to say, it’s been an experience. The biggest thing to get used to (aside from how small the cockpit can be with 3/4 people crammed in it) was how close to other boats you come, often inches away and no-one seems to get nervous about it. Again, on my own boat, if I get closer than 100 foot to another boat I’m basically on the verge of breaking out the flares and bracing for impact. Anyway, the races have varied between virtually no wind and tweaking everything to catch any gusts, to 20+ knot winds and storming along.

It’s been a total blast and I’ve learnt so much!

And with that, Swiftshore 2016. Last wed night, one of the other crew mentioned I should sign up on the crew bank for Swiftshore and see if I could get a boat.

Swiftshore is a pretty famous offshorish race, consisting of 4 long distance races and one short one. The longest and original one leaves from Victoria and rounds swiftshore bank in the Pacific ocean, around a 140 nautical mile course.

Anyway, I put my name on the crew bank and forgot about it, until I got an email Friday asking if I wanted a spot on a boat doing the longest course! It was on Korina Korina, a 42 foot long Joubert Nivert (no, I’d never heard of it either). So I agreed, and met the crew that evening… it turns out they were short one still, and did I know anyone? So I called Emma and she agreed to also come along! This made me less nervous,  as I’d never done anything like this before and having an equally clueless buddy would be great.

The next morning we arrived, and loitered while the people who knew what they were doing rigged the boat.

We motored out and we were off!

The start was kinda chaotic

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Here is me and Emma. 12 people on the boat!

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Lots more really great pictures can be found here by Jan.

The race for us took around 32 hours – we started at 9am Sat and finished at 5ish Sunday.

Here is a quick diagram of our route (may have to click on the pic to read the annotations)

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The first few hours we managed to sail into a huge ‘hole’ (an area without wind) and got stuck there as the entire rest of the fleet, including the smaller boats that started later, sailed past us. Very frustrating!

Eventually, we got a bit of wind and started a close reach.

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At this point it also started pissing it down with rain

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I also started to feel a bit seasick… no worries, I’ll just take some pills. No pills. SHIT! (I left them on the table at home). I strapped myself in and tried not to think about it. At this point I wasn’t feeling particularly happy about joining swiftshore!

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A beautiful sunset helped though!

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Night fell. I tried to go into the cabin for some sleep but I couldn’t figure out what bunks were free – and being down there made me feel even worse so I went back on deck and strapped myself in and dozed in the rain. We heard a number of whales blowholes, and a big swirl 20 foot off the side of the boat which was cool.

At least until we had to tack. Then I woke up – briefly admiring the clear night stars and the phosphorescence, before hurling up over the side. And I am NOT a quiet vomiter! BLERRRRRRRGHHHHHHHHHHHHH etc etc. Ugh. Right around this time we reached the ‘mark’ (a Canadian Forces frigate, lit up). At this point we were in the pacific proper and man, those swells KILLED me!

Eventually, I stopped puking long enough to go back to sleep in the drizzle. Long distance racing, it’s all about the glamour.

The next morning, the rain mostly stopped and we were treated to the sight of a pod of humpbacks all around! One came around a boat length away from the boat, and everywhere we could see tails and huge backs. So cool.

Later on, the rain stopped completely, the whales went away and my seasickness came back. BLAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRHGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH. Sigh.

Once we got into the shelter of the Juan de Fuca again my tum started to behave. At this point were flying a spinny in ~15 knots of wind and flying along, the sun was shining and I was drying out. This is more like it!

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We had a few hours of this with enjoyable gybes and the discovery we’d managed to overhaul almost all our competition during the night. And then the wind picked up even more….

At this point we were flying along at around 12 knots in 25 knots of wind. I’m not gonna lie, I am a huge coward and this scared the piss out of me!

It was all fine until a wave caught our stern, swung us around a bit, and then the person sitting behind the helmsman fell down the boat, knocking him out of position so the spinnaker caught with wind on the wrong angle and pulled the boat sideways into a broach. It then filled with water, pinning us there. Like this. (Image from Google Images)

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This… was a new experience for me. I was sat on the high side, and looking vertically down at Emma whose butt was now in the ocean was a strange experience. I managed not to soil myself or start screeching and eventually the boat picked itself up… and then immediately broached again. And then again. The third time I had managed to straddle a winch so I perched there like some weird kind of terrified garden gnome and kept an eye on the low side guys to make sure they didn’t float away.

The boat righted itself and off we shot again, through race passage – though the spinny was bundled away (much to my relief) and out came the genoa again.

Eventually we reached the finish line ahead of everyone else in our division… except the 2nd place boat finished 7 minutes after us, and due to the handicap system we owed them 14 minutes so they came in before us! By seven minutes! Drat!

Overall the whole thing was a ton of fun and a great learning experience – I especially learnt a LOT about spinnaker use. The crew and skipper were great and I got some experience with ocean swells.

And whales. Love whales.

I also get to casually drop that I was in a offshore sailboat race if anyone asks me what I did that weekend. Or even if they don’t ask.

 

Matt

4 Comments

  1. I have yet to participate in this race but know that you will cherish this for ever as the first is the most exciting. Well done

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