Monday, January 11, 2010
I love winter.
Yesterday in Miami the Etchells sailors were whining because it was 39 degrees F and twenty racers went home early. Oh the horror! 39 degrees!
In Fort Lauderdale the wind chill was in the 20's and they canceled the last day of the USSTAG Qualifier, whatever that is, but it appears to be something to do with girls on keelboats.
In Rhode Island the temperature never got out of the 20's, the wind chill was in the teens... so we went Laser sailing. About twenty of us turned up for frostbite racing at Newport and we had a terrific day.
Some of the guys had a little boat work to do before we launched. Chipping frozen snow off the hull for anyone who had left their boat upside down without a cover. Spraying de-icer into the mast step and chipping ice out of there for others. I had my snow shovel in the car... just in case I needed to dig the boat out... but my boat was fine apart from a slab of ice in the cockpit.
We launched a little later than usual... some problem with the RC boat it seemed... but then the RC did a superb job, cracking off seven short windward-leeward races one after the other with the minimum of hanging around between races. It's not the racing that makes you cold in these conditions; it's the waiting around.
I think that when you write about racing you're supposed to describe the sailing conditions but I'm hopeless at estimating wind speeds. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that it started around 12-14 knots and dropped to about 8-10 knots by the time we finished, and the direction was NW-ish. What do you care anyway?
After the first race it felt like the tips of my fingers had died. No, they couldn't be dead or they wouldn't be feeling that excruciating pain. I looked around the fleet and saw that several of the other guys were furiously shaking their hands or slapping their shoulders or otherwise performing contortions apparently aimed at restoring blood flow to their extremities. So I started waving my hands around too and after a couple of minutes the pain had changed from "They should use this torture at Guantanamo" to "I may be able to just about stand to do one more race if it doesn't get any worse."
After the second race I felt fine. My brain or heart must have realised that it really did need to send some blood to my fingertips and the pain went away. In fact I felt positively toasty all over. Thank you all you scientists who invented Goretex drysuits with latex booties, and wicking underwear, and hats made out of Windstopper fleece with DWR finish and contoured ear band wraps with Elastane trim. (No, I don't understand half of that marketing babble about the hat either but it sounded good when I bought it.)
My race results were nothing to write home about so I won't write home about them.
I generally tried to stay to the right of the fleet because I have a morbid fear of reaching the port tack layline and then approaching a crowded starboard tack layline with no gaps and nowhere to go. Must be something to do with that traumatic experience I had in my youth. To make things easier for me, 90% of the fleet seemed to favor the left side of the course.
90% of a 20 boat fleet? You do the math.
I expect I will get an email in a day or two with "Words of Wisdom" from Sunday's winner which will explain why the left side of the course was obviously favored because of a tidal differential or a coastal wind veer or some other similar gobbledygook which I never understand. Be that as it may I generally arrived at the windward mark with the tail-enders. But that's OK. I was having fun... and these guys are all faster than me anyway so I don't think it would have mattered a lot which side of the course I sailed the beat.
Actually I did bang the left corner in one race. Never could find a lane to tack into and the corner comes up much faster than you think on these short courses. So I sailed up the port-tack layline only to discover a solid wall of starboard-tackers at the mark, bore away for a promising gap only to see someone else tack into it, tried to tack below the crowd, fouled someone, did my penalty turn... and was last to round the mark behind some dude in a Radial. Hmmm.
The runs were a lot of fun. Pretty decent waves to hook rides on early in the afternoon. A bit less lumpy later. Always a nice crowd at the leeward mark where I could demonstrate my amazing talent at shouting a lot for room and occasionally even managing to pick up a place or two.
As the afternoon progressed I improved from my initial mindset of "oh shit it's frigging cold... I do hope I don't capsize... I do hope my fingers stop hurting... it's bloody crowded... I'd better be careful I don't hit anybody" to the much more constructive "some of these people really aren't any faster than me... I can overtake them on the run or pick them off by playing the shifts better on the final beat."
At the start of this frostbiting season when we had 50-60 boats on the line I was thinking, "It would be really cool if I could break into the top 20 in this fleet." I'm pretty sure I achieved that ambition yesterday.
No sign of Larry yet...
I love winter.