11 o’clock tick tock

on board

11 o’clock tick tock

Earlier in the week we had a great onboard report from the second place overall J/125 on the breezy and wild-ass Coastal Cup. Here’s the report from the overall winner. Great stuff!

Turn left! Left! No time except to grab the helmsman’s shoulder and yank back. The white bulbous head careens down the side of the boat at twelve knots. "What was thaaat?" Elliott shouts. What are the chances of sailing ninety miles from San Francisco and having a "head-on" collision with a dead, nine foot, four hundred pound Rissos Dolphin? Apparently pretty good.

It’s the Coastal Cup and blowing twenty plus knots, were jammin’ down waves with the big kite up, and it’s a gorgeous afternoon–just what the brochure said it would be. Five o’ clock happy hour– time for Pink Drinks. Pink Drink is a Charles James concoction of Vodka, Simply Limeade, squeezed orange juice, and pomegranate juice. It’s basically adult cool aid and quite refreshing.

"Whale off the starboard bow!" A spout geysers a hundred yards away at 1 o’ clock off the Starboard bow. "Look for more, look for babies." Two spouts later a BIG old Humpback surfaces off our starboard beam. We get to see half his head, the crown around his blow hole, and his back up close and personal. What a beauty. Now off our quarter, he gives us one more look; his massive broad tail rises out of the water, goes vertical and then sets into the depths. Old soul. The whale trackers would have loved that shot.

Six thirty. Time for dinner. Pre-made pasta. However, the waves are getting bigger and the wind is building. An assessment is made. Between now and dark, we’ve got to get the crew fed, the boat put away, and the crew geared up for night fighting. Crew casts a vote–it’s not worth the time and effort to heat up the pasta so we have it cold. Still darn good though.

Eightish. More whale spouts off in the distance. Thank God. If things truly do come in threes then we’ve got the whales out of our system. A decade earlier sailing a Henderson CSR 33 in a`Santa Barbara Coastal Cup we had a close encounter of the whale kind.

It was two a.m. in the morning and we were carving a particularly juicy wave down deep. Near the bottom a whale stuck its head out in front of our bow. Oh sh#%! We turned hard left. It lunged hard right, pivoted, tomahawked it’s flipper six feet over our heads down the side of our boat, pet a girl sitting in the stern pulpit and stole our speaker. But that’s another story. Still sticks in the back of your mind though.

Ten o’ clock. Lifted. Blowing thirty knots, plenty of breeze. We decide to gybe and possibly sail a shorter course down the coast. All hands on deck. We pick a wave and gybe. It’s like the first pancake, not very good. We make the turn, botch the sheet rotation, save it once, just in the middle of saying" you guys want to… (die) when WHAM! round down. High side weight, vang off, drop kite, gybe back re-set kite. That got our attention. We’d been sailing flawlessly to that point. A little while later someone notices a spreader poke in the main. Must have happened in the round down. We sail for awhile until lighter breeze(twenty-five knots) and gybe back. That main won’t hold to Santa Barbara. One of our bowmen, Keith Love–not a porn star but a surly midget some of you may know as Panda volunteers to go aloft and tape it. We bump him to the second spreaders where he spends the next ten minutes taping up the tear on both sides of the main. He definitely ge ts the Kahone award for while we adjusted our angles to throttle back and make it as smooth as possible, we’re still a 30′ ultralight hurtling down waves and flicked him around a couple times pretty good.

Midnight. I awake to the boat doing the driver getting tired rolls. Net–fourty minutes of sleep this two hour offwatch.. Sleep in full gear in case something happens. Listen to the boat sounds. She’s hauling a$$. Four minutes later get the "Chewie" call. I come up on deck. It’s pitch black. Someone turned out the lights. When I’d gone below to "the land of mini me"(Bloom County is a flush deck ULDB) there’d been a sliver of a moon. I get the rundown. Nate, Charles and Elliot had seen these clouds ripping past the moon and decided "let’s go over there." They’d found the BIG breeze in a cloud entity. It’s blowing thirty plus knots and we still have the big kite up. I acclimate and take the helm. I’m impressed Nate has been driving in this stuff but you can’t tell him that for his heads big enough as it is. The boats ripping off sustained high teens, but it’s jittery and getting limited on where you can put it. And you NEED to be able to place it for you can’t see f+!&all. It’s Haunted House dark. The closest I can describe it is the sensation you get when you harness into a roller coaster and it accelerates down a pitch black, twisting, winding tunnel. Only the tunnel is four hours long. We’re far offshore and you have to be able to finish a race to win it, so we switch to the fractional kite. Good move. We’re still hitting high teens, but we can now put Bloom County where we need to. While Bloom County is a little undercanvased by modern standards, she’s perfect in this stuff.

One a.m. Neck and shoulders tight and right buttock burning from point loading for an hour on the corner of the cockpit. But this was the most effective position to steer from. Wedged in. I ask Panda to flip out the little cockpit seat. Runners blocking it. I attempt to stand up and drive like earlier in the day. Wrong!. I pull the boat right down into a round down. Panda and I are on the low side doing the dead ant. I see the kite off to my right do two big whacks and hear a loud pop. Damn, there goes the kite I think. I pump the tiller skyward. Miraculously the rudder catches and the boat pivots and gybes back.(wave assist). The kite fills and we take off planing at sixteen knots. Kite ok. My bad. Hey, no harm no foul. Nah, stupid, stupid, stupid. Sorry Bloomie, you deserve better. Bet that woke the guys up down below. Does your Panda Bite? No, he pops and stinks when wet. Turns out half the collar on his life jacket inflated when we submerged him doi ng the dead ant. He looks like Quasimoto. Good for a crew belly laugh. After ten minutes of unbalance, he wonders out loud how he can deflate the thing. Pop! The other half inflates before he can finish his sentence. Good for another crew belly laugh. Ahh, you had to be there.

Two a.m. It’s nuking. The wind has built to forty knots, the seas have gotten even bigger, and the little kites starting to feel like the big kite did. We drop into a wave and keep going, still dropping, going and going, going and going for three times longer than any other wave out there. That was a really big wave but we’ll never know–we couldn’t see it. We’re in the Haunted House and the bioluminescence are flying off our bow like welder’s sparks. Safety scenarios are popping into my head… if we break the mast what to do, if we break the rudder what to do, if we hit something what to do. The ISAF qualification seminar from four days ago was kicking in.

Two-thirty a.m. The wind has dropped back down to the thirties, but I’m getting baked. I’d been driving two and a half hours. I do the math–three more hours until daylight. Could I do it? Luke, use the force Luke. Do… there is no try. Ten minutes later time to punt, not worthy of the force yet. Nate gets the call.

Dawn. We made it! We’re out of the Haunted House. Rippin’ it all night long. Only two round downs–both self induced. The Bloomie did goood! Thank You Mr. Mancebo(the designer and builder). The wind has dropped to twenty-five so we shift up to the big kite. Piece of cake after last nights wild ride. We pass some big boat two-sailing it. It’s a good sign that we’re up with some big boats but no little boats in sight. Big boat sets it’s kite. Cold pizza for breakfast.

Mid morning. Heating it up more and more to stay on course. We’ve had twenty plus knots of breeze all morning. Now tight reaching with big kite up. After heating it up for hours, we’re still over thirty degrees low. Did we swing too wide? Will it lift as expected? We switch to a jib because big kite ain’t workin’. Now on course but boat speed has dropped to seven knots. Eta has jumped from 5pm to like 10pm. Arrive in the Land of Girls well after a Joe’s steak dinner? Inconceivable! Put up the fractional kite. We’re way low, but Bloom County is rippin off fourteens again on a tight reach and eta has dropped back down again. It’s supposed to lift right? Wind builds to over thirty and the wind is clocking aft. Max speed sailing angle, big waves. Bloom County is struttin’ her stuff in the high teens again. We’re passing waves and busting through them like a little Volvo 60 for hours and hours. While last night was one of the wildest rides, this is one of t he best rides. Pure joy.

Four p.m. The wind has clocked, the breeze is twenty knots, were squared back with the big kite up. Time for pink drinks.

Five p.m. There’s a big boat ahead of us. Turns out to be Javelin. He came from the inside. We came from out past the oil rigs. Santa Barbara is so close we can taste it. Not good Goose, the big boat parks. We swing wider. Forty minutes later we park. The next five minutes ain’t pretty. Basically the whole crew comes unglued. There’s no wind, yet plenty of swell throwing you around. The yacht club is right there, but you can’t get there from here. We think we’re doing extremely well overall in fleet, but the possibility of losing it all right here is kicking in. It takes about five minutes to adjust to the mind f=+! of planing to zenning. Finally, we break out the matches, check which way the smokes blowing and go to work. Light air. Not Bloom County’s forte. She gets sticky under six knots of breeze. After an hour an easterly starts forming and finally gets to us. Gotta finish before dark becomes the mantra; before everything shuts down. After anothe r hour of light air beating and tacking, it looks like we’re going to make it.
7:49:36 p.m. Finish 2010 costal cup overall winner.

The Crew:

  • Bloom County Maxi Midget Ocean Racer from the 80’s MVP AWARD
  • Jon "Chewie" Stewart Driver/Tactician
  • Charles James Navigator/Trimmer/Driver
  • Nate Ballard Driver/Trimmer
  • Panda Love Bowman/Driver/Trimmer Kahone Award
  • Elliott James Bowman/Grinder/Trimmer/Driver
  • WHAT A RIDE! –
    Jon Stewart.

Apologies to a very young U2 for using their live version of 11 O’Clock Tick Tock, it seemed a good passionate 80’s tune by them for this 80’s win!. Long live the 80’s…