cat’s meow

on board

cat’s meow

A report on one of the NoCal classic races from onboard the 37′ Cat Adrenaline.

Unlike past years; Delta Ditch Slog, Beat & Rain, 2012 was a Delta Ditch Run to be remembered. 67 miles downwind, shallow & narrow channels, hot sun, fast floodtide & gusts to 30 knots we figured it would possibly be a record-breaking race. While the record stands many other things were broken on this Wet & Wild Ride from San Pablo Bay to Stockton, CA.

Fouled twice by the same keelboat & caught below the line we struggled against the 5 knot flood and scrambled to get back to the starting line. (Catamarans do not tack well.) After this less than stellar beginning aboard the 37 foot modified D-cat Adrenaline we were last to start in this fleet of over a hundred. Rocket 88, our arch rival & Ditch Run record holder, was at least 7 minutes ahead of us. With this breeze and her skill she would be hard to catch.

I joked with the crew on practice day to remember the Jibe-Master Pro and after ~4 hours and 20 minutes of almost nonstop jibing I wished there were such a device. (That and a Unitizer☺) We speedily started passing boats and carnage on our quest to catch and beat the Rocket. Broaches, death-rolls, ripped sails, capsizes, grounding and even a Melges 20 de-masting were all de rigueur in this days racing.

After ~50 miles, and liters of water to stay hydrated, there were only 3 boats ahead of us: Rocket & the 2 Nacra F20 Carbon catamarans. It was with constant vigilance that we kept Adrenaline right side up through behemoth gusts. At one point I was ejected with great force from my position in the stern when the leeward bow submerged, the boat decelerated in an instant, and I was launched into the mast (which kept me from going overboard.) This was the closest we came to pitch-poling. Whew! With excellent sail trim from Mike and Chris and deft tiller work from Bill we were able to accelerate in most of these gust to a (still) goose-bump raising speed. The hum of boat and rigging was delicious and we regularly hit speeds in the mid twenties. (All you monohull sailors – come to the dark side;) We soon passed the 1st F20 then a gust took her over and quenched her hopes.

Since he hadn’t sailed this race in three years Cpt Bill Erkelens wisely toured the course pre-race on his powerboat. This proved advantages, as we were able to cut some corners we wouldn’t’ otherwise have dared. (As it is the rudders will need a little attention post race.) This came into the fore as we slowly (sometimes painfully) reeled in the Rocket. She went around some anchored barges, which we went through, gaining us some valuable real estate. Soon we were trading jibes and, I’ve got to think our additional man on board (Rocket sails with a crew of 3) gave us an edge in endurance & stamina.

Soon it was only the lead Nacra before us and we were gunning for her. At one point on port jibe with the spinnaker up we had to harden up hard to avoid a shoal. We chose to keep the kite up and let it flog so as to save time in lowering then raising it again. It didn’t flog for long but in this breeze it was enough. The old girl came down in shreds. With only a few short miles to go we were still hopeful and unfurled the reacher to increase sail area. At about a third of the way out the roller furler jammed and from that point forward we could neither furl nor unfurl that sail. We were stuck with a third of a sail to the end. As it turns out it was just enough to create a slot (and it was sure easy to jibe.) With no kite and a partial reacher we stop gaining on the F20 and started to be concerned with our arch nemesis Rocket coming from behind. She didn’t have enough miles to catch us so we were second-to-finish in my 1st Delta Ditch Run.

Bruce Edwards and Eric Willis took first-to-finish honors on a Melvin & Morrelli design called the Nacra F20 Carbon. Those curved carbon-fiber centerboards sure are sexy & what they do for performance – Yikes! Kudos to these guys who, out of all the small cats, were able to keep their mast dry in rigorous conditions.
Thanks to RYC & Stockton Sailing Club for putting on this great event. Some video here.

Anthony Abaté is a Shakespearean Actor & Solar Power Consultant from Sonoma, CA with a passion for soaring & sailing. [email protected]