ditch digger

Rock star Melges racer, kiteboarder, skiffie, TP52 tactician, and Moth stud Jonny Goldsberry talks about taking the first-ever Moth up the Delta Ditch.  Keep an eye on this cat, and for those that don’t know the SF area, here’s a Google Earth flythrough of the entire DD course.

Our New England Ropes/West Marine Rigging Melges 24 crew was sitting around enjoying a hard-earned victory dinner at Detroit’s Bayview One-Design regatta when we hatched the idea.  It was a moth-centric event, with six of us out playing on the river, entertaining the huge crowd on the BYC lawn after racing on both Friday and Saturday.  As we tossed back victory drinks, I was reminded that the classic Delta Ditch was the next weekend, and I posted up on Facebook:  “Anyone want to dare me to race the Moth up the Ditch?”  It blew up quickly with dozens of ‘darers’, and I signed up Bora and Bear to jump in the truck and head west.  The boys couldn’t pull it together in time, so I hitched up the trailer, jumped in the van, and pointed the big beast to the West.

This wasn’t my first Ditch (and I wouldn’t have gone if it was), and I’ve had some success;  I’ve done it on an 11-meter, a Melges 24, and an Express 27, and last year we were the first monohull across the line in the Melges 20 with Sid Gorham and Pat Whitmarsh.   That year it started in 15-20 and ended in 25-30. It was full-on, and with two other 20s losing their rigs in ’12, we felt pretty lucky, kissing the ground when we arrived.  So I’ve seen it all:  Upwind reaches, downwind nukes, and no wind at all.

With all this in mind, I’m driving alone across the country with the Samba Melges in tow, checking the forecast along the way and doing research with Ditch skiff vets like Morgan and Dougie; they gave me some great tips.

“You gotta go bro; it’s a life experience.”  True dat.

“If you run into weeds you’ve gone the wrong way.”  That one would help.

I arrived Thursday night at RYC and got straight into rigging my Mach 2.  Friday I sailed for a few hours to make sure the boat was ready for the ditch…and it was on.

I left the RYC Saturday morning pumped and ready.  The Camelbak filled with icewater, my 11th Hour Racing water bottles filled with Gatorade, and my headphones plugged in and rocking for the day.  At 10:30 I’m sailing 20 knots to the start, expecting the run of a lifetime.

Nope.  Passing the San Rafael Bridges it started easing off, with a soft 6 knots into a nasty flood – no foiling…I struggled for a bit, starting with the cats at around 11 and rolling around with the back of the pack.  A few lucky puffs was enough to smash me through the fleet…only to stop in another hole around Vallejo.  Not a lull; a hole – at one point I was aiming back at RYC for a few minutes…that ain’t fast.   In fact it was so bad that I pulled my main foil out of the boat and gave it to my tender driving dad just to keep the boat moving in no wind.

After that it was a big of a cat-and-mouse game with the fleet; puff on and I brought the pressure through the fleet, passing dozens of boats to cheers and whistles; just awesome!  I only capsized once; finding middle ground in some nice puffs.  I looked down into the water and saw terra firma just a few inches down, and with no pressure to gybe I found myself in a full car-wreck endo, with even more sailors cheering from back in the channel.  Looking over the boat to make sure all was well, I checked it over my shoulder in the ankle-deep water and walked to the channel.   Other than that navigational flip, I stopped about 15 times near the end of the race to clear errant weed off the foils.

How do you know you’re on the right direction to Stockton?  When you make your first hard left and run into dozens of jet skis and wakeboarding boats.   I’m doing 18 knots high on the foils; the moth is black, makes no wake or sound, and isn’t easy to see; if I didn’t avoid a few cigarette boats, I’d be on a windshield right now!

So now I’m being chased down by all sorts asking about the moth.  “Is that a UFO or a windsurfer?” one guy asked.  “Look honey – it’s magic!” another told his wife.  These folks were half in some kind of techno-shock, half cheering me on; it helped me pump up the intensity just when I needed it – I had to gybe every 6-10 seconds down this channel.  And up came the wind shadow, and I’m stuck wallowing to the finish.

You can replay pretty much my entire race at this Garmin link, plus check out all kinds of stats on my trip.  It’s not quite complete; I missed the first few minutes and it runs for about 30 minutes after the finish, but there’s still plenty to play with at the link.

Will I do it again next year?  Screw that: I’m doing it again this summer!    It was everything I love about sailing, and it was AWESOME; the best challenge I’ve undertaken in a while.  And when 20 of my bros get here to train for the October Moth Worlds in Hawaii, we’re going up there and it is going to be one hell of a scene.  We’ll welcome everyone too; run what ya brung, with a big yacht coming up behind to pick up all the bits and pieces you leave behind.

I want to give a huge thank you to RYC and Stockton Sailing Club for another great race;  let’s figure out how to rate the little bugs and skiffs that want to race this one!  Also a huge thanks to MARLOW ROPES , SPY, 11th Hour Racing, One Design Services, Team Detroit, and Dad.

Finally, I wanted to give a what’s up to a great friend and sailor Noe Goodman, tragically lost to us after a late night accident in Stockton.  He was from both Stockton and Richmond will be missed by all and loved forever.  We will all remember you as one of us, and we will always keep you close. This race has an all new meaning now and next year it’s on, and it’s in your name.  RIP Sailor.

-Jonny G

“Always send it and never look back!!!!!”