sweet and tender hooligans
Apologies for two months delay in getting this fun report of a J/22 and dinghy crew transitioning to big boat one-design racing. Props to bowman Brian McEwing for the comprehensive tale and title shout out to one of the true pioneering bands of modern music, the Smiths.
My transition from the J22 to the Beneteau 36.7 started at the 2012 Annapolis NOOD. We had just bought the boat and after the sea trial it seemed a bit daunting to be able to throw a crew together and be ready for the NOOD. After a spin set during the trial I volunteered to do bow thinking that I’d probably stand the best chance on not being tossed off the boat while wrestling with the pole. We managed to gather up enough people and so it was on, with the realistic goal to just make it around the buoys.
I missed out on the first day of racing due to an accident investigation class I had to attend put on by the NJ State Police. I started my weekend stuck in traffic on I95. It was almost 3pm by the time I hit the liquor store outside of town, figuring the boat wouldn’t be at the dock when I got there I didn’t want to be stranded without regatta fuel. So I bought my Bacardi Limon and Corona and headed over to Eastport. I arrived to find the team van locked so I went to the slip and started making loaded coronas. Sitting on the dock I heard there were no races that day so I was a bit relieved knowing I hadn’t missed much. Soon I watched the J111’s start rolling in toward Jabin’s looking very sexy. A short time later Hooligan and the crew finally reached the slip and started to de-rig, a much more in-depth process than the 22 was. After that was done and several rounds on the dock the real drinking began.
We made our way over to Pussers and started drinking level 4 pain killers with a floater, I think there was some Jameson involved too. Eventually we made our way to the regatta tent where I checked out the J70 and tried haggling with the gear people for a pair of shorts and a sweatshirt, we settled on $100 for both which drunk me thought was the deal of a lifetime (I think it was a $6 savings). I woke up in the van the next morning to find a huge bottle of water next the bunk, looked like drunk me came through and was trying to take care of sober me. After some Advil and Royal Farms breakfast I got to the dock and started trying to rig. Life lines and the lingering hangover made this difficult, never had to deal with the first one coming from the 22. After the rest of the crew arrived we got underway, most of the crew in as bad of shape as I. Cowboy was still trying the scrape the ranch dressing out of his iphone, apparently he had dropped it in a bowl during the dinner that none of us really remember eating the night before.
We did a lot of practice before the first start and I began feeling pretty confident. I found having a separate guy and sheet made gybing surprisingly easy. Cowboy had my back at the mast and 8 gybes or so in we were ready to go. With my father driving and an excellent tactician/main trimmer we nailed the first start. Everyone worked together very well and I started to get a real appreciation for the bow. All major decisions that were mine to make on the 22 were now “back of the boat problems” and that quickly became our creed in front of the stays. We fed our information back and made things happen on the foredeck leaving the calls to the afterguard and I realized there was a lot less stress up front with the right crew.
We ended up 4th our first race on the boat, with a crew that mostly had sailed sunfish, lasers and 22’s. We felt really good right up until the back of the boat called for a gybe set in the final race of the day. I used the last tack on the upwind beat to prep, but something went wrong and the sheet and guy wrapped the pole locking everything up. This was now a front of the boat problem! I tried to muscle it free as was possible sometimes on the 22, but because of the immense size of the spin I quickly realized that wasn’t going to happen. After a meltdown that lasted most of the leg we were able to get the spin down and thankfully the wind had gone far enough right that we wouldn’t have been able to carry it to the mark anyway. That ended up being our worst race of the regatta.
We made it back to the dock and had a very productive debriefing with most of the crew. We took it easy for the most part on Saturday night just a few drinks at Pussers laughing about “back of the boat problems” and how terrible the gybe set turned out. The following day went fairly uneventful, typical light air Chesapeake sailing. We ended up a solid 4th out of 6 boats which we felt pretty good about being our first regatta. One of the biggest advantages of having a bigger boat is being able to share it with more friends. Our crew was made up of family, former college sailing buddies and Junior sailing friends, from Buffalo, Boston, Philly and more. We all managed to come together over some rum and racing and I look forward to more regattas and nights like these.