QCYC Open Regatta
Quentin seems to think that it’s more interesting when things break, or generally go wrong. And while I agree it makes for funnier reading, it’s nice when they go right, too…
Our “home” regatta was this past weekend at Queen City Yacht Club. Leading up to the big day, as chair of the event, I was spending so much energy in planning the day that I neglected my own crew situation a little bit and we ended up short-handed. So we sailed whitesail instead of spinnaker division.
During breakfast, a little squall passed through and had everybody wondering if they really wanted to go out at all. I got a call from Phoebe who had slept in and so now we were really short-handed: just Quentin, Frankie and me. For comparison’s sake, I think One More Time had seven people aboard.
Anyway, after that squall, it was quite calm out as we made our way to the race course, sailing on the big #1. That calm didn’t last very long and we made a sail change just before checking in with the race committee down to the #3.
Race 1: After a long delay as the mark boat seemed to be having trouble following the RC’s instructions for setting the course, we thought we had started well at the pin end and on port… only to have our bubble burst a few moments later: they called us over early so we had to go back and restart.
Other than a little bit of rain, there wasn’t too much drama in that first race. Looking back, maybe we could have done better with the #2, but the forecast was for increasing wind and I thought it safer to go with the small sail. We never made up the distance we lost on the restart, followed One More Time and Amelie around, never losing or gaining ground, and finished 10th of 15.
In between races, we lowered the jib to make things easier on us during the break. Or so we thought.
As the winds increased, the tendency was for the sail to raise itself up the forestay and/or get blown off the deck. When we thought about just raising it back up, we found that the shackle on the halyard had blown and was no longer attached. Luckily Quentin is an experienced halyard catcher and was able to snag it on one of it’s swings through the foredeck. And luckily after the RCYC Open in 2011, we have a second jib halyard.
It was also around this time that Frankie was turning a little bit green. On the way out, I had highly suggested that she take some pre-emptive ginger pills as it was her first time outside the harbour and it promised to be a wavy day… and I hate to say “I told you so”.
She took a couple then and said she would be ok. I wasn’t so sure…
Race 2: I was slipping around the web cockpit as we started a little late. The wind and waves were up, so we reefed the main to try to keep the boat flat. Panache really doesn’t seem to like big waves at all.
And I wasn’t the only thing falling down in the heavy weather: the motor fell down a couple of times during the race and had to be locked back in the upright position.
We didn’t sail a bad race, but it just wasn’t our conditions. On the final (downwind) leg, we were behind Dragonfly and I thought we could pass them if we raised the main back up. The crew pulled and grinded and pulled and grinded and finally it was back up… and we did catch and pass Dragonfly… for 10th, again.
At this point, many other boats retired from racing. It was tiring being out there and it was only getting windier. Reports after the race confirmed that it was blowing 25 knots with gusts at 35 by the end of it.
Frankie managed to hold onto her lunch, and though I offered to retire as well, she insisted that she was ok to go on.
Race 3: In the smaller group of starters, we had a perfect start ahead of the two best boats to that point: Dove and Amanzi. Dove is apparently a heavy weather boat, because they were absolutely flying all day, and the Dragon, Amazni, wasn’t far behind. On the first upwind beat, Dove did go past us but we were sailing neck-and-neck with Amanzi.
We were taking a pounding on the starboard tack though, plowing into waves. As soon as it looked like we could safely tack behind the Dragon, we tacked over… and we suffered our second shackle explosion of the day: the jib sheet let go. That was it for us. No point in trying to fix it or run new sheets as we weren’t in contention. We headed home. It was actually our best “finish” of the day: the DNF gave us an 8th.
So… not our best regatta season on record, that’s for sure. But we had a fun day – I still don’t really agree with Q that it’s more fun when things break and we lose. I think winning is the best. But we had a good sail and got a pretty good story out of it…. and then the story got more interesting:
About five or ten minutes into our return trip, we heard over the radio that there was a man overboard on the course. Then it was clarified: THREE heads in the water. What terrible turn of events could see three people all fall overboard? One goes, then another tries to catch him/her and goes too, then the third dives in to save the other two?? We couldn’t imagine. We listened intently to the radio drama as it played out.
It happened right at the windward mark though and the mark boat was right there to pluck the swimmers out of the water safe and sound.
When we got back to QCYC we heard the news that became the story for the whole regatta: Amanzi sank. The open-cockpit Dragon had been taking water over the bow and the gunnels as it crashed through the upwind waves. Her skipper, David, just didn’t realize how much water there really was. I guess when they tried to make their turn at the windward mark one last wave did them in and the boat disappeared under them in seconds. In about 200 feet of water.
If you watch the video above, those foggy, silent shots near the end are the last recorded images of Amanzi before she was lost. Really puts our couple of broken shackles into perspective. We were tired and bruised, but at least we got to sail home.