Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Winds of Insanity: my first time racing

I got the chance to participate in an actual sailing race today at the Wayzata Yacht Club. Before I share about that experience, I'd like to say that belonging to a yacht club is so very not-me. I wish they called it the Wayzata Sailing Club, or The Place with Docks and Sailboats. The word yacht, paired with club, makes it sound snobbish, which I am not, nor are the members of this club from what I can tell. Serious racers, however, they are.

Today the wind held steady at around 18 knots, with gusts over 20 knots about every 5 minutes.  This was way outside of my comfort zone. Typically I enjoy sailing the most when the wind is around 6-8 knots, which allows for a leisurely pace and food and beverage aren't spilled.  With a calm wind, nobody has to make sudden shifts to account for tacking or jibing.  Conversations can be heard over a light wind, nobody has to cling for dear life to the lifelines, nobody is needed for "rail meat," and nobody is scared they will fall off the boat.
There's wasn't time for a photo today, but this was from last weekend on Mother's Day. See how the boat was pretty much flat? And how the jib (front sail) was kind of flapping in the wind? That was not the case today.

I knew what I was getting into today, and was given multiple outs, without shame and judgement (thank you Donavan).  I decided that if a whole entire sailing club with lots of rules and experienced people deemed it safe enough to be out on the lake, then it was safe.  I also trusted that Donavan would turn around if it felt like a bad idea to either one of us.  A third factor in my decision to race in the Winds of Insanity (yes that's a Princess Bride reference, thank you very much) was that we had a good friend as crew. He's experienced and calm, and exactly who you want to have as crew on a windy day. Thank you friend!

We were a little late to the starting line because the wind was bitch-slapping us around. That basically continued the entire race. The wind was really loud, and the sails slapped all over the place. I couldn't even hear half of what Donavan was saying the wind was so loud. It was a short race course, and I guess there was only about a fourth of the amount of boats racing as there normally would be if the weather was better. My job was to adjust the jib, and then to sit on the high side (rail meat) to act as ballast. I realized that I would be more effective if I weighed more, and am actively considering increasing the amount of cheese cake and ice cream I eat. There was a sprinkle of rain here and there, and mostly cloud cover, but it was warm enough. In our class, which is called PHRF II (I've asked and nobody even knows what those letters stand for), there were only four boats.  And we came in..... 4th!!!!  I was just happy that we finished.  Actually, right before we crossed the finish line, one of the race officials motored up next to us and told us that the weather was moving in, and that they were ending the race. They said they "got our time" and we should head back in immediately. Afterwards, at the dock, they explained that they added 20 seconds to the time when they told us the race was done, and called it good.

I thought I would be more scared today, given that I don't like heeling over much at all. But I seem to have gotten over that fear. Today was irritating more than anything because it wasn't relaxing or enjoyable sailing in those wind conditions. It was exhausting. Afterwards, all the club members hung out, chatted about the race, and had some beverages. I was told that today's wind was about the worst it would get, since they would cancel a race if the wind was much over what it was today.  So I'll keep racing, as long as the wind is calmer.


  1. It was great to see you guys out there. You scored better than every boat that did not show up!

  2. I agree with Clay, showing up and doing it was everything!

    PHRF = Performance Handicap Racing Fleet

    1. Thanks Troy, glad you were there!