A good night’s sleep finds us up and with an exploded trailer tire to replace. If we can get the spare resolved this morning, we won’t have to worry about it over the weekend- e.g. Sunday when we leave. I run to a couple of local places without success, and sit in a parking lot searching on my phone for not-so-local resolutions. Bill’s Trailer Parts in Ventura has a one-stop solution at a good price, and he is not far from the harbor. Yippee! I swing by Bob’s to grab the boat, and oh yeah, Cutter, and we head to the harbor to leave the boat with the resident AZ Fleet 42 folks in the dock parking lot. Our tire purchase is close and quick, so we find ourselves talking stories with the other AZ folks while we build our boats. Jonathon Magick has a new to him Prindle 19, and is curious about the stock jib block arrangement on my cat. It has been simplified on his cat, which is a common occurrence. He and Jim Tomes set to recreating it on his 19 with Amsteel and some blocks.
We raise the mast and begin to do some maintenance, setting the adjustments we cannot change on the water, for the anticipated weather- light wind. Cutter and I are about 30 pounds heavy for this catamaran, and because we are sailing in the waves, we need power from our sails. We set the mast upright to catch more wind, tighten our diamond stays to keep the mast from bending and removing draft from the sail and make a mental note to tie the battens a little tighter than usual to induce more draft in the mainsail. We reset the trapeze dog bones so that when Cutter is in the lower hole he is just above flat level with the decks/trampoline. This setting is best for maximum control, but requires that he hold the jib sheet all the time because he cannot cleat it from this position. The waves might require him to be in the upper hole to keep above getting tea-bagged by each wave (as in dunked in the water). This position also allows him to cleat the jib sheet and reach the barber-hauler. We test out the adjustable rear trap setup and realize that it requires a different technique to get out and back in. I have faired and rebuilt the tips on my rudders back to original specs (they are 25 years old…) and repaired my centerboards as well. All looks good, except for the fog that is rolling in… Who ordered that?
We hit the water about 4 PM and spend about an hour testing our settings and adjustments. Cutter exclaims that he had forgotten how much fun the trapeze is! The ocean is cold, 65° F and the waves roll by every 8 seconds. Wind speed is 6-ish knots and the waves top off at about 2.5 feet. Cutter’s borrowed short-sleeved wetsuit seems warm enough to him, and I am toasty in my drysuit. We come back in and realize that we need to go to Bob’s house in Fillmore to change clothes and meet the group at a local harbor restaurant for seafood dinner. We arrive late to find that they are adventurous and have ordered from all over the menu- calamari, shrimp, halibut and lobster. Bob Martinez and John Schwartz are also in attendance. Bob is a two-time winner of the race, on two different cats I might add, and John is the guy who talked Pierpont Bay Yacht Club into allowing beachcats (eighteen feet or longer) into the regatta seven years ago. Cutter and I opt for the cod and chips, which we know to be great.
We get up early to make breakfast at Carrows in Ventura to talk trash with/about the other multi-hullers. The camaraderie is high and the jabs fly back and forth. Lee Wickland shows, having arrived by plane the night before. His crew, David Cerdas, a high school senior, drove Lee’s boat from Galveston Texas with his sister Reesa- a 22 hour trip. Sis is going to crew for John Schwartz on his Inter 20.
We get to skipper’s meeting early and find that we will be an 11:20 start, so we plan to hit the water by 10 AM. The forecast says 5 to 8 knots of wind and fog. They are correct. We get the cat together without incident and leave the dock at 10:10. The fog is clearing to a couple miles visibility, but still thick. As we get past the harbor mouth, the wind dies. Déjà vu. Last year the same thing happened and we started 26 minutes late. This year I have a paddle and use it for the next 50 minutes, with Cutter at the tiller on the gradually increasing wind. I sit on the front crossbar, straddling the hull and paddle on the waves as they pass. We are on a close reach to fetch the staring area, and I am impressed that Cutter sails so well by the jib over the waves. We check in with the committee boat over the radio, and set our watch to the start sequence, getting to the line 9 minutes early. Yahoo!
We get our bearings on the line, and start to maneuver for position. Martinez goes over the line a minute early at the warning gun by mistake and some people start to follow him, including the Hobie 18 who has barged me from windward. I yell “Up Up Up” at the Hobie and “30 seconds” to the rest of the fleet as Martinez comes around to start again. There is some minor touching of hulls in the confusion but no one hoists any red flags. We are here to race, not argue! Almost everyone gets a decent start and the fleet begins to spread out immediately on the beam-ish reach. I give a quick glance around to see if any “rules lawyers” have popped their protest flags, and am pleased to see none. At this point, we can just make out our first mark, oil derrick Gina, through the fog in the distance. She is more of a blurry outline than an image. We stay a bit high initially to enjoy the clear air and notice that the wind is building.
Over the next 30 minutes it goes from the forecast 5 knots to about 15 and single trapeze. Some try to use their howler/second foresail (sorry, don’t have one and don’t know what to call it!). But the wind oscillates to nearly close reach and back, and it is interesting to see crews come out and back in and sails do the same. Jonathon and Scott on the P19 get it right and start to blow by us all with their new square top sail. We hoot at them as they pass. Cutter and I round Gina way to close, and we stop in its lee air like we have been hit by a truck. I was watching the other boats and not paying attention to our course. Pretty dumb considering how big Gina is. We lose three minutes drifting through the derrick’s shadow, and discover that the wind is continuing to build. I’m glad to have tightened all the shackles vise-grip tight. I learned that from Brian “Finger Tight” Heffernan.
We are now on a close reach to Anacapa Island and I am thinking about double trap. As I ponder this, Cutter gets his feet wiped off the boat by a rouge wave and flies around and behind me to the back of the boat between the hulls. He is still on the wire and climbs aboard over the tiller and rear crossbar. The look on his face is sheer amazement. I steer down wind for a few moments in the trough of a wave to allow him to regain his position up front and get reorganized. The wind is now 18 knots, the waves have white caps and most of them seem to end up in my face. $190 for a Gath helmet with a retractable visor will become a point of conversation a number of times today. We are excited to have such great racing conditions, and talk constantly about the other boats and possible tactics. Rounding Anacapa, we see a lot of cats in close to the island, as we were last year. But there is considerably more pressure on the water about 500 meters out. Here is the quandary of this race- close to the island or not. The monohulls go way out, a mile or more, but the cats usually bite the bullet and go in close. There are risks! The island edge is cliffs, rocks and crashing waves, there are kelp beds so large that a local university tracks them, and the wind close to the island can disappear for hours.
Monohulls want nothing of the crashing waves and rocks in no wind conditions, but the more maneuverable catamarans hang in close. Cutter and I went to the higher pressure area and it petered out 20 minutes later. We then spent an hour and 20 minutes chasing little puffs, tacking crazily a few times and ending up within thirty feet of where we were a half hour ago (verified by GPS later). During the doldrums, Cutter and I talk about the changes we will make for the down-wind light air run when we round the island; pull up the centerboards, bag out the sails, crew up front and alee to keep the bows down… We are checking in with the Safety Boat every hour on the radio and catch news that John Schwartz and Reesa have capsized a second time and have left the race. Having chosen our own course, we find ourselves watching the boats really close to the island find the wind and begin to leave us around Cat Point on the third part of the island. Within minutes we get the breeze too, and just barely squeak around the point behind them. As we make for the end of the island the wind builds rapidly, and we change our thoughts on tactics again.
As we tack onto our last reach of the race, it is blowing 18 knots with gusts well above 20. The Speed Puck has been diligently awaiting our arrival on the port side of the boom the entire race and is giving us speed and heading info. I don’t care how fast we are at this point, what I need is direction, so I set it to give us the heading and have Cutter try the trap as we trim big for a broad reach. My face is slapped with cold salt water about every 6 seconds and I take some in each time as I am breathing through my mouth with the exertion. We hit the potato patch and Cutter comes in off the trap. The Patch is about a mile of confused and chaotic sea (on this course) caused by currents converging around large Santa Cruz Island to windward, and Cutter is taking a beating. When we are back to sort of regular waves, I begin to surf as best I can, as we are about 50° off the wave’s vector trying for the harbor 20 miles away. This gives us an s-shaped course down and up the waves to allow the water to help our VMG. At least I hope so. My paddling arm from before the race is now my aching tiller arm, and I am constantly pulling against the waves and weather helm to steer us over the 5-foot waves.
Head’s up! We stuff the leeward hull into the back of a wave up to the front crossbar. Eight feet of knife-shaped fiberglass disappears, stabbing into the green water. I crack the mainsheet and watch for the result. The hull pops up immediately through the wave and we keep driving. Wahoo! On my old Prindle 16, I once did that and pitch-poled so fast that my trapeze shock cord parted and I landed about 15 feet beyond the tip of the mast. Not so on this catamaran. I can’t tell you how relieved I was. We stuffed it another two or three times with the same amazing result. I am smiling right now writing this. We decide we are doing well enough siting on the back crossbar, that we don’t use the trap any more. We have made no adjustments to the boat as planned during the light air and have more than enough power. We are gaining on the three sails that we see in front of us and we focus on that. I tell Cutter to stop apologizing about spitting salt water on me. I have been spitting on me all morning. He shudders from the cold during the entire run. Next year, longer wetsuit.
We talk constantly about our trim and the other boats actions as we slowly gain on them over the next hour. I am trying my best to use the waves, sailing up the back and down the face to use the speed boost they offer. The relentless pounding of the waves on the underside of the trampoline breaks the fold-up paddle out of its bungee and dacron mount to float away. We get within 200 meters of two cats and realize that one is Bob Martinez and the other is Pete Begle, from Big Bear Lake, CA. They are fighting it out and we are chasing them, but now we are all in the same wind and its going to take something drastic to change our relative positions. As we get closer to the harbor, a fourth cat appears from higher than us toward the harbor. It is Jonathon and Scott on the P19, and boy do they have speed. Pete and his crew, on a P18-2 like us, have moved forward on their hulls to level out the boat and get their transoms clear of cavitation. They have pulled out all the stops to catch Robert and it looks to be working!
Disaster! Pete pitchpoles- the front of his leeward hull submarines and the boat smacks the water face first, and then rolls over on its side. I crack my mainsheet to slow a bit and check their situation. One of them is already on the hull and the other is only a few feet away swimming to the hull. They are OK and I have just gained a place in the standings! I sheet in and we take off. It looks like we have passed Martinez too, but the wind lightens toward the harbor and Bob is on a beam reach to our broad one and his crew is on trapeze, which we cannot due in this lighter wind. They are driving hard and they drop in behind Jonathon and Scott who have sailed so well.
We finish 23 seconds behind Bob and are all smiles! This is great racing no matter what the final stats are! Pete and crew cross the line a few minutes after us and we all converge on the docks. Cutter and I are elated! It was exciting, fun and more wind than I have ever completed a race in. We hug and hoot and holler for a bit before we realize how soaked we are and how close the restroom is. The two super fast cats have finished 35 minutes ahead of us, and with the handicap I think that we might overall be forth or fifth. I had already decided that if we trophied, I would give it to Cutter, because I couldn’t have done it without him.
We get the cat broken down and on the trailer, and as we are cleaning up John Schwartz drives by. He had capsized and withdrawn from the race and he is walking on a sore hip from the crash. He has unofficial times and places to share. Bob Martinez has won for the third year in a row. Cutter and I have finished second.
That so rocks! I make John repeat it, and Cutter rounds the van to pound my fist! I haven’t won a sailing trophy in this century (of course this is only my second race in this century…)! I’m so excited that I am speechless. This is Cutter’s second regatta ever, and only the forth time he has sailed in the ocean. We get cleaned up, find dry clothes and head to the Yacht Club for some vittles.
Pierpont Bay Yacht Club has put on this regatta for over thirty years. It is well organized, well run and a pleasure to participate in. There is a hot meal awaiting us at the YC and cold drinks. The beachcat folks wander in and eat, and Richard comes around to double-check the fleet’s DP-N ratings in my binder before announcing the race results. Richard and Su begin the trophy presentations, and are very excited that we had 10 multi-hulls in the race. We were the biggest of all the classes that raced today. Five boats came from AZ, one trailered from east Texas. They have a surprise for us- dual trophies for each place. Both the skipper and crew get a trophy! This is unexpected and very thoughtful. Most of the crews on the beachcats are not family but friends, and the trophies are much appreciated. So is the Safety Boat.
It is real- we are called to accept second place trophies! It is fantastic to stand up with Cutter and be honored for our performance, with such great competition and hairy weather. I will not forget this moment. Later, we go to McDonalds to use free WiFi to video chat with our girls at home and share the news of our success. We celebrate with Oreo McFlurries. And for one night there are five Tri-Point trophies in Bob Martinez’ house!
Sunday morning Bob helps us remove the twin to the exploded tire on the trailer, and replace it with the new one. I’m taking no chances and want an uneventful ride home. We get one, with the same 113° F desert temperatures and the A/C turning on and off. Until we get about an hour out of Phoenix, and the plastic panel just under our radiator comes loose and drops to being ground down by the asphalt as we travel. We stop to investigate, and I tie it back into place with some extra batten ties I have handy. Cutter laughs, having been the driver for nearly the entire trip, and pulls out to get up to speed. I have to remind him that I have TIED the car together, and he should take it easy until we get home.
Kids. [head shaking]