Just about one time every Winter the weather conditions get in line with a major regatta here in San Diego. While this venue is known for its benign wind conditions, this past weekend proved to be the “exception” rather then “the rule”.
We raced our Etchells on the “B” course this past Friday through Sunday. While Friday did have the typical San Diego wind conditions, the NW swell preceding the weekend storm made conditions trying. With the air and water temperature in the mid-fifties (16C) keeping warm was also a challenge. Being new to the Etchells my weaknesses became glaring obvious in these conditions; besides driving rather poorly we also failed to set up the rig for the changing conditions. What I found was that a boat slightly off the pace, with an inexperienced driver soon finds its way to the back of the pack. It was a good thing it was the last race of the day, so that we did not hold up the next start!
Saturday was a completely different day, it was breeze on from the beginning, and colder! The swell had also grown to a forecasted 8-10 feet! This became a perfect test for the base-layers SLAM makes; I think I was wearing every Seamlessproduct they made. After our end to Friday we were eager to get out and prove we were worthy of being in this fleet. We were in the first bunch at the top mark, slipped a little on the run, then came back on the second beat. We were thinking we would have a solid finish on the last leg when all of a sudden we heard a great BANG as our boom vang separated. We limped to the finish with back to back DFL’s. We finished the day with two good finishes, and honestly it had to one of the best sailing days I have experienced in a long time. While I am still getting the hang of driving the boat (especially downwind), the sun was out and the breeze was on; not to mention the size of the swell going downwind. I heard someone mention it was like falling of a ten foot wall at times; there was nothing you could do to prevent the kite from being plastered to the forestay as you went screaming down the front side.
Sunday did not look so good at the start. There were thunderstorms and squalls all night long as the cold front passed through, so the beginning of the day was quite sunny and calm; with a huge NW swell left over from the prior couple of days. The breeze filled in, and we got a couple of decent races in; again I found my biggest weakness to be my downwind driving. We would get to the first top mark in good shape, but always lose a couple of boats on the downwind leg. This is something I will definitely have to figure out if I ever want to finish consistently at the top of the fleet!
All in all it was a good weekend. This was the first time I sailed the boat three days in a row, and it showed. We ended the regatta with a third by actually gaining a boat on the final downwind leg! I can not say enough about the SLAM gear we wore (and the Camet shorts with pads!), the base-layers kept us warm, and the RC Pray top and Long Johns kept us dry. The best was that feeling that I could compete in the Etchells Class if I kept working on it!