2013 Tri Point recap;
Lucky for me, I had David and Reesa Cerdas more than willing to drive the boat to Ventura, all the way from Texas. That whole family has been more than supportive in so many of our sailing events, I can’t even begin to repay their generosity. Without them, I’d not be able to do even half the events we get to do. Thanks David, Reesa and Mom and Dad!
Most good regatta adventures start with the road trip there. This one was no different. David was giving me updates from the road so I didn’t worry. At the California border, he sent me a picture of the trailer tire with a nice bubble in it. It was a pretty new tire but these things happen. In the spirit of competition, I suggested he keep going so we could see how far it would make it in that condition and placed bets accordingly. I bet he’d make it the remaining 300 miles. Others weren’t so optimistic. I won, he made it.
I flew into Burbank on Friday night and took a nice pungent Supershuttle ride to Ventura. Upon stepping into the van, I was immediately (mentally) transported to the Middle East by the aroma of rancid curry and body odor. Oh, well, it’s all part of the adventure that was under way. One smelly hour later, I arrived in Ventura and was greeted by some of my long lost Fleet 42 brothers and sisters. That alone was a big part of why I wanted to do this race with David in the first place. Fleet 42 was the first group I met when I started my sailing adventures and I wanted David to see what a special group they were. I don’t mean helmet wearing, window licking special (maybe some) but true friend special. I was handed a bottle of Sailor Jerry Rum and a can of Gingerale and the trash talking started! This is what I came for. David had the boat rigged with help from Reesa and the gang. I did next to nothing but drink (which I am a true champion at). The next morning, we had our traditional breakfast/trash talk session at the local Carrow’s restaurant that John “Nazi” Schwartz and I started over 7 years ago. It was great. We then got registered at PBYC and were greeted by Richard and Suzan Countess. It was great to see their smiling faces again. They are the backbone of the racing at PBYC and we are all so thankful for the effort they put into helping the beachcat class be a reality in their racing series.
The weather report called for light winds, which is unusual for August around the Channel Islands. We launched and started the 2 mile sail to the start line without any issues. The boat felt good. We set the mast rake for light wind and everything seemed to respond well. We crossed tacks with AFTERBURNER on the way out of the harbor and received nice greetings from some familiar faces like Bill Gibbs and Mark McNulty which was adding to our already fun experience.
The Beachcat start is always the last start after all the bigger boats. This makes it nice since we don’t have any traffic but our own to worry about on the line. We all got a great start. It was great to see everyone being so aggressive at the line and even one boat over early. I think, just by luck, we got in the best position and nailed it right at the horn.
We were off beam reaching to the first mark, Off Shore Drilling/Production Platform GINA (I’ve done a lot of welding on that monstrosity) with great boat speed. We were watching the other boats getting settled into their proper trim and seeing who was going to jump out and make us worry. The P-19’s and P18-2’s are basically a scaled down version of a Tornado Cat, so we knew not to take them for granted in these reaching conditions. They all settled into a fantastic pace. John Schwartz and Reesa Cerdas were on the only F18 and were easy to keep track of with the day glow yellow sails. With the pace everyone had, we knew there was no room for mistakes and we weren’t going to have an easy race. This is what I was hoping for and wasn’t disappointed. Now for the even more exciting part. We decided to throw the chute out and do some power reaching and try to put some distance on the fleet. Once we had it up and got out on the wire for some double trapping, we noticed the other Nacra 20 in the fleet did the same and were driving down on us pretty hard. This was Manny and Brett. I wasn’t sure what to expect from them since I knew Brett was a little new to the N20 but not new to sailing catamarans. As far as Manny, well I think he’s just plain crazy and will find a way to make anything go fast. Together, they made a hell of a team that pushed us as hard as any top catamaran team has in the last few years.
When we got closer to Platform Gina, we dropped the chute and prepared for a closer reach to the East End of Anacapa Island. Once we got out of the wind shadow of it, we were close reaching to the Island with Brett and Manny slowly gaining on us. By this time, we definitely had entered “Windy Lane”. This is a wind lane that is a few miles wide and is channeled down from Point Conception to Point Dume on the inside of the Channel Islands. Sometimes you can see it before you get into it just by the condition of the waves. It was a fantastic ride but we were having a hard time finding our groove and properly de powering the rig. This is due to the fact that we stood our mast rake up a little too much in anticipation for the light wind forecast. We worked on other avenues to de power including mast rotation and as much downhaul as we could get on that mast. By now the wind was in the 17 to 19 knot range. We expected 5-7 knots! Oh well, deal with it, this is distance racing and it’s what we live for. One by one we had passed most of the bigger boats by now that started as much as 20 minutes ahead of us. On the horizon, we saw AFTERBURNER take a huge left turn and new they had trouble. We later found out it was a rig problem and they had to drop out of the race. I was disappointed to see this but half the battle in ocean racing is having a rig in perfect shape. Sometimes you just can’t foresee these things. A couple of glances back revealed to us Brett and Manny had us in their sights and were gaining on us….fast! We made other adjustments but nothing was going to change. The mast rake was killing us. In higher winds, a little more mast rake can help with keeping the boat under more control…more control=more speed. They finally rolled us like a couple of fish tacos but the race wasn’t over yet. It was just starting and I hadn’t run out of tricks in my sleeve yet. We were coming to the wind shadow of Anacapa Island and now the race was going to turn into a chess game on the water. By this time we both passed the big FARR 400’s and one FARR 40 which were leading the race since ‘BURNER was out. We drifted in and out of wind shadows for about an hour or two on the back side trading positions with Brett and Manny the whole time. I knew the only thing that was going to help us was the time proven tactic of hugging the inside lane. By this time, the big FARR 400’s had managed to squeak by us since their weight and momentum carried them through the lulls better than we could. As we approached the West End, we had a spectacular view of Santa Cruze Island through the patchy fog. It was amazing. The wind was filling back in and the big FARR’s were about a mile or so ahead of us already leaning hard and leaving spray. We could tell it was going to get frisky in a hurry. We set the chute and held a course of about 225 degrees on the digital compass. Usually this time of year we can see the Ventura coast line and have the huge oak tree on the mountain to aim for but not today. It was fogged in enough that we couldn’t see squat. I asked David to set a way point on his GPS as we were leaving the harbor. He pulled it up and we could see what we needed and adjusted accordingly. By this time, we were full on in the wind channel and had to drop some sail area (the chute) so we could hold the course we needed. The wind piped back up to around 17-21 knots and made it a fun beam reach back. David called out mileage to the finish and we began clicking them off and running down the three big FARR 400’s. One by one we drove past them in our own wall of spray. By this time I was really kicking myself for not bringing my goggles. I could barely see anything. All the crew on the FARR400’s were waving and I’m sure enjoying the show of a 20’ open dingy screaming past them doing 20 knots in 6’ seas. We were literally getting air born off about ¼ of the waves. They waved and must have thought we were snubbing them for not waving back but the fact was, we couldn’t without falling off the boat. It was all we could do to hang on and still work the controls. One particularly big wave hit David so hard, it knocked him into me as we got air born and launched me off the deck. I was hanging onto the rudder arm and took it with me as I flew up, which unlocked the rudder. Big fun, though. Time to drop speed and lock it back down, then get back under way. The most difficult part was trying to keep from grinning and laughing as much as we did because in doing so, we found too much sea water would enter our mouths, making it difficult to breathe normally. Laughter always finds a way out.
After getting past the big boats now, we were back in the lead and had to only concentrate on not making a mistake. Our goal was to finish first. We couldn’t do that if we flipped or one of us got washed over board. We were leading but not out of the woods yet. We could see the skyline of the city and knew we were sitting good. We couldn’t back off because I knew Brett and Manny were out there somewhere and could easily capitalize on even the smallest mistake we made. We had to keep sailing smart. We didn’t fully relax until we entered the break wall in Ventura Harbor and crossed the finish line. We got the horn and slugged each other in the arm for our own way of congratulating each other. These boats take team work and it’s only going to go as fast as the slowest person on the boat. David and I both know this and that’s probably why we do well together when things get rough. We loaded the boat on the trailer and enjoyed watching the other cats come in with everyone having their own expression of relief and victory on their faces. Those are the trophy’s that we get that make this type of racing worth while.
Lee Wicklund/Team Chums