Midnight Rider- Soverel 33 out of York River Yacht Club, PHRF 90 rating. Symmetrical spin/no roller furling
A typical ride over from Williamsburg to Midnight Rider. No wind from the colonial parkway. Get to the dock early, start setting up the boat and the wind fills in 10-15 knots from the SE in front of approaching and building thunderheads. Rest of crew gets there 6 total, it’s optimum to sail the boat with 8.
I choose to not drive tonight because I need to practice my crew work for the weekend ahead. I elect for mastman to get the best of both worlds (the pit vs. pointy end). This post will have a defined focus on crew work and how the little things go…or don’t. The bigger picture is put aside for scrambling, fixing fuck-ups, and general agony. Aside from the fun of course.
Overall we go for a the Helm, Trimmer, Trimmer, Grinder, Mast, Bowman format, which is quite an unconventional format. In retrospect why did we need three trimmers…we didn’t. We needed a pit, somebody to tie the pointy end to the other less savory end.
Going out to the course might seem like a boring time to talk and catch up…and it is, but it’s a better time to set the boat up for the wind and the course. For instance…when we were going out it was around 15knots so we were between sail decisions. The number 1 or the number 2? The .5oz or the heavier chute? We’ll see how this comes into play later.
Being on the pointy end is important and it’s very important for the pointy end personnel to be always thinking ahead and set and re-setting as things change. In those short moments of not setting up for on jibe or another the bow should be checking and re-checking.
As we sailing out to the course we pondered what could the course be…should we preset for a port or starboard pole, and what chute should we hook up/bring near the hatch. We asked a received none of these answers so we preset everything somewhere in between all of those things.
So we finally figure out the course a few minutes before the warning. Not our fault though. The wind laid down a few knots by this point so we go with the #1. Still no word on the chute, but that was our fault we didn’t ask till half way up the weather leg.
Start was fine…clear air on time but not where we should have been. Either way, still in the top three immediately after the start. Long starboard tack to a short 2 minutes port tack then round to starboard…so a hot reach down to the bottom mark.
A note for the weather leg…as soon as you’re no longer needed at the start get your ass on the rail…the first 30 seconds after any start should be focused on beating the boats around you…during our first 30 seconds I was the only one of the rail. When all on the rail it’s important to have a hiking captain to encourage and/or force everybody to watch for breeze…alert the driver and most importantly put some extra effort into it as much as possible.
Once we found out it was a starboard rounding we set up the halyard and sheets for a port pole, bear away set. We knew it was going to be the .5oz chute because the wind continued to lay down (Sheets run under the pole on deck and halyard too). But what were they attached to? Well once we tacked for the layline I realized….the chute was not attached. Not much time remained…I threw myself in the cabin and grabbed the chute bag…wait…where…but then it was found! 15 seconds…Then I found the clews and hastily attached them to the sheets hanging down the hatch…but where was the head….another 15 seconds….the snap shackle pull line was inside the shackle preventing me from attaching the head to the shackle, but I worked through it…another 15 seconds. At this time I had no idea what was happening in terms of the layline and rounding so I popped myself out of the hatch and made ready to hoist.
We hoisted away everything was going well…until…some damn thing right under the halyard sheave at the masthead caught the halyard. So the foot was in the water…the half full spinnaker was flying as best it could. I had to much tension on the halyard for it to unsnag. Hindsight being better of course I should have let slack the halyard to shake it off whatever it is. haunting the mast head. I did that eventually but not before we lost 2 boats. We get it all the way up.
Lets get the jib down! I’m on the leech the bowman is on the luff ready to pull…nobody is releasing…”lets get the jib down” ….nothing. I run back to the cockpit unlock it and take it off the winch…luckily it still had some air so it didn’t come wildly down…I collect the leech and bring it in. This relates to those position conversations and job designations we were having on the way out to the race course….nobody was doing PIT!!!!!!!!! Pit ties the whole boat together…or is at least a translator between the ungainly end and the pointy end.
Now everything is better….but where the hell do I put my weight in terms of fore and aft…I know it shouldn’t be forward of the mast…maybe back on the windward side (slight heel at the time) by the cabintop? Who knows, but another important tidbit for pointy end people is to stay off the damn pointy end. It slows everybody down and blocks views of many important things…like waves, wind, and telltales, not to mention slows the boat down. Pointy enders need to strategize and plan their set ups when it will affect the boat least…like when sailing out to the course…or during the start….but minimal contact with bow afterwards.
coming up to the mark….dousing way to early…a crew should leave it up to the pointy people to decide when to douse…only they have an idea of how long it will take them to take things down and get ready…so communicate the maneuver and let them make the call for timing.
ok…the plan is douse the spin then jibe with the main and jib to round the starboard. So it’s important to get the pole down in time for a clean jib jibe. All goes well…the guys has been blown the foot collected, the halyard controllably released, the chute in hatch…the pole of mast…”the topping lift.” Again no pit….no topping lift. Finally the topping lift is eased…as we jibe…so that doesn’t go well….fixing the fuck up. I guess we could have either anticipated this by
1. putting the sheet over and in front of the topping lift
2. just holding the pole up and taking off the topping lift when we didn’t get a response or action.
It’s all about anticipation. Personally I can anticipate some of my mistakes, but I’m having trouble anticipating other people’s mistakes in other positions.
The race was then abandoned because of lightening.
So in short.
1. Double check
3. Communicate with everybody more
4. Time management (using time wisely)
Overall mood: feeling good…but frustrated that things always go awry.