Jeff "Elvis" Thorpe from Quantum ‘frisco takes you onboard a smokin’ downwind race…
It all started by hoping there was no room for me on my friend Andy Costello’s J-125 Double trouble for this year’s Coastal Cup so I could stay home and spend a nice weekend home not sailing, as last year I did the race and we broke our rudder just before sunset off Monterey and we were glad that we did not have to go thru the night with our current spinnaker inventory as we did not have any kite small enough. If you have never raced from SF to Santa Barbara this stretch of coast line can be some of the windiest and most confused short & steep wave period waves to drive. If you can drive a boat in this I would bet you could drive anywhere in the world.
Now to last week I was on the phone with Andy reviewing that the new kite that we designed for the race would make it in time and I had to open my mouth saying thanks for the invite as I was just giving him a hard time as I really did not want to go, So next thing I know I am doing the race ?? So much for my weekend off..After reviewing the weather for the race and packing my gear seeing that the weather might be backing off a bit with winds in the low 20 knots forecasted. I still over packed warm dry gear as I showed up to the boat and Trevor gave me shit for how much gear I brought but as it turns out I wore every bit of kit and was still shivering the whole night!!
The race started at 10 am in a max ebb tide so we had a great start at the weather end of the line but could not tack over as limit was a bit late to the line and they were charging up to us at max speed we could not tack and clear them so we waited until they became over lapped with us and then gave them some encouragement on which way was favored they tacked we extended for 3 lengths then tacked and followed them towards the north Tower of the golden gate bridge. Once outside the gate with the wind a fair bit lighter which is normal for a race that starts this early in the morning we saw that there was a bit more wind to the south near mile rock so we tacked and went to the left as to pick up the left shift as limit and the Andrews 70 alchemy and most of the boats stayed right trying to get out to the northwesterly breeze as the wind got even lighter and went 50 degrees left by mile rock we were boat for boat with limit when they came out from the right could not cross us and went back to the right to pick up the north westerly. From this point we were the most left boat so we stayed on port and worked out to sea as soon as we saw a bit of northwesterly us and the SC 52 Prevail tacked and started heading down the beach on course,
As the rest of the boats stayed too long trying to get out to more wind as we decided we would rather reach down course knowing that the wind would pick up around Half-moon bay this was about the time limit about 3 miles outside of us finally passed us. So 20 miles into the race and still in contact with the leaders things were looking good! At this point we were into our new A-5 reaching down course after about a half hour with this sail we peeled to our A-3 Poly which was not packed in the correct bag and ended up being our A-2 Runner so there was a bit of a panic that we left this sail at the dock??? After searching all the kites down below we found the sail thank god as we used this sail all afternoon and evening! At this point we were running with the A-2 so really the only decisions from now on was which sail to have up and what time would we be gybing for the approach to the Santa Barbara channel ? So with ocelot to weather of us we spent the whole afternoon side by side with then which was great to have a boat so close to pace with which gave us so chances to try different kites to fine tune our crossovers at this point the wind was blowing 22 to 25 knots and we had the A-3 up just blasting along at 15 to 19 knots just great sailing conditions but we all knew with the wind blowing like this at 5 pm we knew that none of us were going to get any sleep on this boat!
Into the night!
Around 8pm prior to dark with the wind blowing 25 to 28 knots we did a bald headed peel to the A-5 so we could make sure the spin halyards were not crossed so we did not have to send Jonny G up the rig at night! I made the call for harness for everybody and to be clipped in at all times for the night at this point the boat was just ripping no way were we going to attempt to boil water for freeze dried food so it was cookies and beef jerky for dinner Yum! So without fail ripping down the course in the dark our instruments start acting crazy as our TWD went from reading 295 to 152 and our course from reading 160 to having us going true north??? So here I am stuck in the boat trying to sort out what is wrong with our instruments as it says we are running back to SF WTF….and Trevor has lost his Hand held GPS in the disaster down below! At this point I am a little concerned but I figured out that our GPS feed is correct into the expedition so I come to the conclusion that our compass must be out in the Ockham system as the TWD and Heading info is garbage, at this point I figured we better gybe as its showing we are laying conception and if we are off by a couple of degree’s we could end up over standing san Miguel island!
At this point its blowing 25 to 30 so we are all set to gybe and the wind just keeps increasing so we are in all our positions waiting to gybe and Trevor and I are waiting for one of us to say the wind had died enough so we can gybe neither one of is saying a word we must have been in position to gybe for 30 minutes before one of us said here’s a lull we can gybe in! Gybe complete and upright that’s all that matters sailing in these conditions! 11pm Now time to put a reef in the mainsail which was allot easier than any of us expected now the boat was just a joy to drive with the A-5 and reefed mainsail we could now put the bow up and drive around the waves we were lit up I am a true believer in going small sails in a blow what a difference in performance it is faster easier !!!At this point we continue on this gybe till the wind dies down to around 22 knots which is around 4 am so we do another gybe out to sea to line up our entrance to the Santa Barbara channel we stay on Starboard gybe for 7 miles then gybe back in the wind line at this point the sky is starting to show day break and the wind is now blowing steady over 30 knots we carry on with fears of not laying San Miguel island I and I tell the boys please sail higher? Needless to say they were not happy with that comment.
The channel drifting!
Now coming in the channel at 6 am was not good for us as at this time of day by the time you get deeper in the channel you are too late for the easterly breeze so you can lay SB on a Starboard fetch. So we ended up getting to the last of the easterly dyeing out around 9 am and just parked it up trying to beat into a fading away breeze line with ocelot coming in from 7 miles behind us and passing us with never having to go to a jib. From this point it took us 4:20 minutes to go 14 miles to the finish with us bringing in the building westerly the last 4 miles and almost catching Ocelot back prior to the finish.
All in all I am glad I did the race now that I am sitting home on my back deck in the sun!
I have to give Trevor a High Five for cover my ass driving while I was trying to sort out the instruments as he probably thought I was trying to stay dry and warm down below!!
Team Double trouble