my first sailing race

I went on my first sailing race today. It was with Jim, two of his friends, Paul, and his friend Jen. I had met Jim and his two friends on the 4th of July while I was up there for a family gathering and fireworks. Jim owns a boat down towards the end of the dock and races every Wednesday. Paul has raced with him numerous times now and even joined him on a multi-day cruise out to the islands.

I was worried that we’d be late, but arrived well before Jim’s two friends. We were in fact heading to the race without them, when we saw them walking down the dock. We turned around and went up to an empty dock to pick them up, then headed out late for the race.

The winds near the start of the race were very low and we were moving quite slowly while also drifting to the side quite a bit. Though we didn’t look that far behind the other boats and even came pretty close to some, we didn’t cross the start line till 22 minutes after the start of the race. We continued moving very slowly for quite some time, and eventually found ourselves way behind.

I really had little idea of what was going on. I kinda figured out by observation. There was a motorboat at the starting point. We had to go on one side of a marker near the start, then head to a marker which we couldn’t see but had the lat long coordinates of. The GPS guided us there. We had to go around the marker on one side, then head back in to port around one side of the break wall and finish by passing a buoy.

Though close to some boats near the beginning, a few tacks put us well behind. Boats started heading back towards us, downwind, some with spinnakers, well before we were near the turnaround marker. We got pretty close to a couple of those boats as we passed and were unsure whether we’d have to turn. I’m amazed how close those boats can get and how easily they maneuver to avoid each other.

We started on the low side to force some heel to speed us up, but the winds eventually picked up and we were able to go much faster and heel a good bit with us on the high side. Still, the other boats were quite far away when we finally made it around the marker. It was getting dark quick. The last other boat rounded the break wall while we were still quite a ways away. We called in by radio, but the motor boat had gone in, told us just to call in our time when we finally passed the finish line.

The whole time I did very little to help. I sat more toward the front, as there was little room in the back. When tacking and jibing, I mostly just slid underneath the boom and later the jib, letting others do the work. I was unsure of how to help, but hopefully my observations of how things are done will help in the future.

It was quite dark well before we passed the finish line. We decided to forego the call in. We were at least 40 minutes after everybody else, probably a good bit more.

We enjoyed some appetizers in the marina restaurant afterward.