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good grace

The onboard report From Phillip Infelise, owner of the Flying Tiger Mile High Klub, which broke its rudder on the same night as the C 32 Uncontrollable Urge, but with far less consequences.

In retrospect, my words will not be perfect, but I will give it a shot. Our sympathies go out to Jungle Jim and the crew of Uncontrollable Urge and mostly for the loss of a racing brethren, Craig Williams.

But for the grace of God… you may recall that Mile High Klub lost it’s rudder momentarily in the 2011 Islands Race, approximately half way between Urge and MHK on the track you see above. Miracle it could be considered that we could get the rudder re-installed with that one in a million shot of lining up all the pieces and pushing that pin in a rocking seaway about a mile off the lees shore. Went on the finish the race and now I make sure I install the rudder and the containment piece myself.

A strangely fluky start and the perfect use of the Code got us a big lead and we exited Long Beach gate in perfect conditions for the start of a normal race to the Island. As we made our final tack off the LA breakwater predicting an Arrow Point landing and a West End rounding at 6PM, I realized that we know every inch of the front and backside as I had been sailing to the west end and beyond for 47 years now.

Yes, I am getting old. Moreover, Pete and I had been sailing Islands races of every sort for 39 years together (including Transpacs). Tacking the shoreline to the West End, Pete’s fall square on his back onto the center cockpit foot rest was bad. As Payson said, if Pete says it hurt 8/9 on a 10 scale, then it is probably 12 for the rest of us, as tough as Pete is. In true fashion, he continues trimming through the tacks till we round and then retires to the weather bunk for the rest of the race. We considered serious kidney injury and kept a close eye.

Yes, the conditions for that long jib reach to the east end of Clemente with 22-28 knots of breeze and 12 foot beaming seas were far from ideal for a sporty (if the wind was behind us we would have been screaming with delight trying to set an all time Tiger speed threshold) , but the Tiger is stout and performed well (whoever posted with doubts hasn’t sailed on one for sure and should reconsider the ill-informed SA posts that are unfortunate standard fare) particularly with excellent helming skills of Payson and Chris Winnard. The fire hose conditions on the rail were surely not pleasant, but the Nuihi ladies protected the old man from the brunt of it and I owe them dinner and more.

At about 3:30 AM about 30 miles off Point Loma and a class win in hand (not yet knowing what transpired behind us), the rudder exploded and the call went immediately for all sails down. We briefly consider trying to sail on with main and jib for steerage, but the confused sea state and big breeze foiled that fleeting notion. Our first call on 16 was to 4 boats in sight of us and Race Committee, but no response there. We put the call out to inform the Coast Guard of our position and situation and the spotter plane picked us up within the hour. A brief confrontation with a water spout heading our way sent all seven of us down below with battened down hatches. Passed us by without incident. The Coast Guard cutter out of Oregon was in the area and came to us about sun up and put their rescue inflatable with crew of three and the Corpsman over board to us.

Their first concern was Pete’s condition and “Doc” took care to administer to Pete and Doc was told to stay with us for the next few hours to monitor Pete. We started laying plans for the tow in. San Diego Station dispatched one of the new “45s” to tow us in. The cutter dispatched medications for Pete, hot breakfast and coffee for the rest of us. Wise minds on board realized that tow without a any rudder, our ride would be beyond an E-Ticket and call went out to our Tiger friends ashore now that we had drifted to within cell range.

Casey immediately responded and put his hands on the old cassette/rudder from Neils’ Occam’s Razor and other calls to friends at Southwestern Yacht Club for a boat to transport it out to us. The logistics became a ballet of sorts. Unnamed friends show up with rudder assembly, handed it off to the Coasties on the 45, who rig floats and heaving line and get the whole thing over to us. Within five minutes we are rudder endowed and the motor fired. Coasties say they are committed to escorting us in and they do so until we are in sight of Point Loma and they turn us over to SD Station who monitors our situation all the way to the docks at SWYC (Ironic that this was our “delivery” race for MHK to her new home at SWYC – quite the unexpected welcome)

OK, the rudder. All Tiger owners thought we had the solution with the new rudder, obviously proven perfect for inshore conditions. Maybe not so for the stresses of 100 miles of reaching into confused beaming seas. We have some work to do there and the owners and builders will put together a solution to what has proven to be the only long-term flaw in the Tiger program. In miles of inshore and offshore racing, MHK has had no other issues in 6 years.

But for the grace of god… the timing of two broken rudders at two very different places on the race course. We were the one’s graced this time.

My personal thanks to the crew of Mile High Klub – Payson, Chris Winnard, Sean Kelley, Pete Hambrick, Melissa Carter, Terrie Cannon. Their professionalism in handling the tough conditions and the communications with the Coasties and friends ashore was exemplary displays of seaman and seawoman-ship. Thanks to the over-the-top help from the US Coast Guard who took such good care of us. I need to find the names of those unnamed friends from Southwestern who dropped everything to offer their assistance. I will have large bar tab by the time I have made my rounds of thanks.

We will all learn from these events and be better for it.

Of course, our deepest sympathies to Craig Williams family. For Jungle Jim and the crew of Uncontrollable Urge, losing a boat is tragic enough. Losing a member of the racing family is beyond words. Godspeed. Thread here.