Monday, July 16, 2007

Summer series racing

Earlier this year I decided to sail our club's summer series with my wife and two kids as crew. Allison raced on our other boat last year, has some experience, and is good with a spinnaker sheet, but this was to be the first real round of racing for the kids. For those that don't know us, Amanda is 11 and Jonathan is 8. While they have both been sailing for the last 5 years, this would involve the kids having real jobs on the boat. After all, that was one of the primary reasons for buying the Rocket - get a fun, fast boat that the entire family could actively sail.

We sail on an inland lake in the Dallas-Fort Worth area out of the Grapevine Sailing Club, a smaller club on Lake Grapevine. You won't see Pyewacket or Trader here, but we do have a bunch of good people who are good sailers, a fairly active program, and even a number of anarchists. We are slotted in our club's Fleet 1 which is comprised of several J80s, two Santana 30/30 GPs, a Wavelength 24, two Olson 30s, an Olson 25, and anything else with a handicap of less than 190. All of the boats in our fleet are fully crewed by adult crews, and most are typically well sailed. We are the only boat with kids as crew!

We are now midway through our series with 4 races run. The first day the winds were averaging 15. During the first race we only flew the chute the last of three downwind legs, but in the second race we flew it on every downwind leg. We were pleased since that was our first real day to race as a team. Our positions were Allison on jib and spinnaker trim, Amanda on foredeck and furler, Jonathan on sprit, tack, and cleanup, and me on helm, main, and spin halyard. Despite some slow points while we went through maneuvers, we scored a third and second.

Our second race day was this past Saturday. Winds were a little calmer at 5 to 10, perfect for us. The first race was a little rocky - we were over early right at the committee boat so we had to find a lane back down, we had some delays at the first chute hoist due to my bad driving while hoisting the spinnaker, we shrimped the chute at a leeward mark during a douse, and made some bad tactical decisions - all of which led to a fourth out of six boats.

Here we sailed through a S30/30 to leeward in the first race, not a good decision, but the little guy got through:

The start of the second race:

The second race started out looking like we would have the same bad luck. During the pre-start we decided to head right after the start because the wind looked better on that side. It was a short W2 with a mid-line finish to weather, so we knew we had to do a good job to get a good finish. At the start, we were last across the line and were behind a Santana 30/30 and getting gassed. Shortly after the start, the S30/30 tacked to head to the right. After getting clear of his air, we tacked to the right as well and rolled him. We played the right side following the puffs, and surprisingly found ourselves at the weather mark first with no other boat close. We rounded, had a good hoist, sailed cleanly downwind with some good jibes, had a clean douse this time, and rounded the leeward mark still in first. The kids were excited, but we had to remind them not to ruin the mojo with talk before the finish. We headed on a short tack to the right, tacked onto starboard, caught a lift and rode it to the finish for our first FIRST!

The battle flag came out, beers and water were popped, and Jonathan helmed as we sailed triumphantly back to the dock.

At the dock, our crew was met by several crew members from other boats asking the kids in disbelief, "Was that you on Shark!?" I could hear my kids respond proudly, "Yeah, and we won!" knowing they beat the big guys.