Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Racing from Castine to Camden

The most impressive feature of the Castine to Camden race was the fog. Visibility was down to a couple hundred feet at times and as we short tacked along the shoreline to stay out of the current and in the breeze. Boats and rocky shorelines loomed out of the mist. We were crossing tacks with several of our competitors, glad to see we were holding our own with much larger and more “modern” boats. For the most part the breeze was light, we carried half of our rather large crew to leeward much of the time, though occasionally it would breeze up and we got everyone up and out on the windward rail. We were all in foul weather gear and those on navigation were glad enough of the below decks nav station.
The great thing about displacement boats that use the crew as ballast is they sail with large crews when the wind is up. When it is down much of the crew may be relegated to the chase boat but it happens with surprising rarity. Often this is because we prefer a convivial atmosphere to whatever edge fewer people might give.  The downside to this is it is best to replace dead weight with live, movable weight. Prior to every race the boat is emptied of her contents. Most of the things that make a cruise safe and comfortable have to go, cookware, food, luggage, anchors, spare parts. Everything not essential to winning a race is packed up and moved off the boat to be replaced with crew.  In this way a catboat can be sailed flat which significantly reduces weather helm which in turn increases speed. So these very social boats are also fast boats when they carry a large crew.  When Silent Maid arrives at a race location there is a good deal of work to be done as the boat gets a new sail and is emptied out. Preparing for the next passage takes the same amount of work as the process is reversed. There isn’t much time for tourism as we campaign this boat.  Keeping track of all the stuff is the most difficult aspect of the whole thing.
Silent Maid was racing with 16 aboard. There were seasoned sailors who gravitated to specific jobs ranging from the tactician at the top end of the experience scale to the rail meat who may be neophytes or simply glad of any spot on board. All are important to the success of the enterprise. All have something to contribute. All are aware of the unique opportunity they are experiencing as the stunning yachts and landscapes appear and disappear in the mist. That they are functioning as an efficient pick up team is evidenced by the sound of the gun at the finish. Silent Maid is the first boat in her class to finish.  She would also be the first boat when the handicap system was applied.

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