Dave, Chuck, Andrew and I from MBYC made the trip up to San Francisco to race the 2014 Delta Ditch this past Saturday. Dave was kind enough to pull our boats double stacked to Richmond, and the rest of us flew up Thursday night. We spent Friday at the Richmond YC rigging our boats and pulling gear together for Saturday’s 11:10 am start. We even found some time to apply a couple coats of McLube’s speedkote to the banana hammock for added speed! More on that later.
The plan was to get on the water for some practice around noon, but Dave’s boat required some work. A broken tiller / rudder tendon had Dave and Chuck scrambling to find a repair. After locating a machine shop, the part was manufactured and things were looking good for Dave’s Falcon.
Meanwhile, as the Falcon was still be rigged, Andrew and I took to the waters just outside of Richmond in about 15-20mph of wind. We spent an hour on the water validating and ensuring everything was tuned and just right. Speaking of Just Right, we were happy to see Dave and Chuck on the docks, rigged and ready upon our return.
Our fleet start was at 11:10AM and most multi’s pushed off the docks around 10. There were about 15 boats on the starting line in the multi division and a huge turnout in the monohulls (150+). In the multi division, a few F18’s, Hobie 20’s, Marstom 32’s, D-Class, and an extreme 40. We had the only Nacra 20. As the race got under way, the wind picked up to a steady 15-18mph. It was awesome sailing, reaching with the kite up toward Vallejo. The water was a choppy mess, but the boat speed enabled us to push through most of it. As we made our way east toward the first bridge, we were leading the Marstrom 32’s and even the extreme 40. It was a crazy feeling to look over my shoulder and see the D-class chasing us down. Just before the bridge, the D-class and the Marstorm 32 both healed up and came within inches of wiping out. Epic sight!
We’d been sailing for about 2-hours and we were playing a cat-and-mouse game of gibes with the Marstom 32. As we sailed under the first bridge, it was none other than Skip Elliot riding on the Marstrom 32’s chase boat cheering us on!
But all great things had to come to an end
As we jibed back to port, Andrew reached for the spin sheet and leaned into it as we came around. Unfortunately, as he through his weight, anticipating pressure on the sheet, nothing but slack was on the other end of the line. His balance and momentum sent him, ass over tea kettle, off the boat. With instinct setting in, he grasped onto the…now taught…spin sheet….as to not separate from the boat. This predicament, as you are starting to gather, didn’t end well. The boat quickly rounded up, Andrew dragging behind, spin sheet tight, and sails full. A final gasp of air, exit-strategy visualized, departure position assumed, ejection complete.
With Andrew and I now in the water, our lead quickly was assumed. We worked to stow the kite, loosen sheets and prep the righting line. If you recall, we applied two coats of speedkote to our boat the day before? Horrible idea!
Not only were our dagger boards sliding out of the trunks, we couldn’t get footing on the side of our speedkoted boat to leverage the righting line?! This was painful! We managed to right the boat once, but the wind quickly sent it capsizing in the opposite direction. Both of our boards were now afloat and exhaustion was setting in. With one board floating close, I snagged it and inserted it from the bottom side of the trunk. We grabbed the righting line again and leaned into it…..SNAP!
The g-d damn board snapped. Are you fu*king kidding me?!?! I just replaced this dagger board 3-weeks ago!
Fast forward ten minutes; I’ve wrangled the other floating dagger board and this time, inserted it correctly from the topside of the boat. With little grip strength, Andrew and I managed to get the boat back onto her feet. I handed off the broken board to the extreme 40’s chase boat, and we got back underway. The wind was still pumping and we hit our top speed of 23.3mph!
We inched our way back up into the channel. After about 30 minutes from our initial capsize, I was in the trap working the boat back to the fleet. In a blink of an eye, I stuff the bows and jettison myself to the bow. With the Kite up, I yell, “Andrew…grab the tiller and turn the boat down!!!” He leaned back and pulled, trying to keep the boat from flipping. FAIL. We had a split second to save it, but the chance was lost. To make matters worse, as the boat was tipping over, my position on the bows provided less trap wire and I couldn’t sit down. I looked both ways and leaped. My goal – land between the mast and the foot of the jib. The outcome – landed on…and went through the jib. Could it get any worse?!? Yes.
The boat immediately turtled and our sole dagger, yet again, floated away.
We manage to grab the board and a little help from a passerby. The boat was righted and we dropped our two piece jib for the remainder of the race. With one dagger board and no jib, we were visibly frustrated. Luckily, Andrew was up to the challenge and we spent the next 6 hours jibing downwind, swapping the dagger board side-to-side.
We finished the race at 8pm and the feeling was awesome. This was our second attempt at this race and realistically, our goal was to finish the race before dark. We accomplished our mission, and somehow, regained a lot of the time we lost. The leader finished only an hour before we crossed the line.
All-in all…a great experience and one I’m sure we’ll do again in years to come…just not next year! – Austin Bleier.