Last Saturday Paul Harris and I took a little trip out to the Farallones, and I, at least, got my ass kicked.
It started innocently enough. It was my first BAMA DH Farallones race. The forecast was moderate, as these things go, it was only supposed to blow no more than 25 kts outside, and for only the late afternoon hours. The start was a drifter, with the real surprise being the tide. Instead of a 3 kt ebb, we found we had about a 2 kt flood, setting due East. For once I was on the ball at the start, and we aggressively motored up to the start line with the #1 and spin ready to go, cutting the engine 30 seconds short of the deadline. We noted Green Buffalo doing the same, while most of the fleet was moving backwards, if at all, having set sails too early. So we were in a good position as we crossed the line, perhaps less than a minute after our 0820 starting signal.
Looking back at the fleet at the start. Almost everyone was suckered by the huge flood counter-current at the beach.
A small group of boats made the call to head North to intercept the ebb that must be out there somewhere. We were moving, slowly, in the direction of the South Tower, and we hoped that we would either get a good puff or cross out of the counter current eventually. This strategy did not pay off as well as the northerly one, as some of that portion of the fleet first reached the ebb and then a wind line came down from the North. Meanwhile the bulk of the fleet was still milling around in the start area. We cleared the bridge, and the wind picked up. We were making good time out to Pt. Bonita on starboard tack under the #1, when it really started to blow and so we peeled to the #3. The first real excitement of the day occurred as we lost a jib sheet, had to tack back onto port to re-attach it. By this time the exposed reef at Bonita was looking pretty close and pretty mean. We tacked away with only a few boatlengths to spare. We settled in on starboard, aiming more or less at the Farallones, parallel and about a mile north of the shipping channel. The seas were short and steep, and the wind piped up to 20 – 25 kts true. I could hear down below as various objects were crashing and breaking. We were also taking a lot of water onto the deck, and we scooped up one big wave with the bow that sent a mass of water over the cabin top and dumped into the open hatch. Oh well.
Our track. Unfortunately, the GPS ran out of memory and overwrote the start of the race, which was the most interesting tactically.
About 10 nm outside the Gate a problem developed. The #1 jib had not been secured well enough to the foredeck, and the waves coming across the deck had partially washed it through the baby strainer and into the sea, where it performed a creditable imitation of a sea anchor. It was hard to see what was happening, and the #3 was sheeted in very hard, and some portion of the #1 was under the boat on the leeward side. I offered to go fetch it back and Paul did not object. I clipped in to the jacklines and started crawling forward, hanging on to dear life as Temerity bucked her way through the waves. I clung to the spin pole and mast, and started hauling the sail back on board. This proved to be incredibly difficult, as the boat was doing 4+ kts through the water and the sail was acting like a big scoop. The middle of the sail had gotten wedged down into a corner where the lifeline, stanchion, and strainer line formed a noose, and as soon as I had tugged a few feet of the damn genoa back aboard the sea would pull it back. This happened again and again and again. I tried to brace with my legs, but I needed at least half an arm to use as well to hang on. While twisting my body and pulling as hard as I could, I suddenly heard and felt a tearing sound from my chest. “Oh shit,” I thought, “this will start hurting pretty soon.” I had pulled a muscle in my upper abdomen, badly. Paul shouted words of encouragement, but my mental state was not good. “What the hell are you doing out here, you are just not cut out for this!” I berated myself. But my fear of losing the sail and having it jam under the boat, perhaps fouling the rudder, was greater than my fear of falling overboard or the pain and exhaustion I was feeling. I was also wet to the skin at this point, having ventured forward without my foulie jacket on. I got even more scared when I saw that in groveling around on deck my tether quick release had triggered, leaving me unsecured for some unknown amount of time. I reattached it with shaking hands, and at this point Paul eased off the jib sheet enough for me to actually make some progress in getting the sail back on board. Finally I had done it, and I bundled it up and put on two bungees to hold it down. I had not brought any sail ties forward with me, which was quite an oversight. By the time I made it back to the cockpit, I felt completely drained, and my torn muscle was stabbing me with pain with every breath.
Not 15 minutes later, it happened again. The wimpy-ass bungees were just not enough the keep the waves from knocking the sail off the deck. I told Paul I just couldn’t do it, and that it was his turn. He suited up and ventured forward. I let the sails flog like crazy and slowed the boat to 2 kts to make it easier for him. Not as much of the sail had gone overboard as in the first instance, so he was able to recover it a bit more easily, and this time we stuffed the soaking thing down through the hatch. I never wanted to see it again.
We were both beat, I had lost my fancy new Myerchin knife, and Paul’s VHF had also been launched into the sea at some point. But we only had about 8 nm to go to the island, and all we had to do to get there was steer. We knew we should reef as we were still overpowered, but figured we would want the full main back as soon as we rounded the Farallones.
It was clear and beautiful at the island, but neither of us had the energy or time to fetch the camera. The famous great whites and orcas were not to be seen, as it was far too rough. The waves smashed most impressively against the rocky shore. We had converged with Nancy, Express 37 Escapade, and 1D35 Zha Zha. The ride back was fun — a deep reach (still with full main and #3) on a straight line course back to the Gate. The wind was still blowing around 25 kts, and we were seeing 10’s, 11’s, and 12’s on the fun meter sliding down the steep waves. Paul got an especially good ride on one, setting a boatspeed all-time record of 16.2 kts!
The wind stayed strong all the way to the finish, again defying the forecast. We had a nice view of E-27 Great White doing multiple spin crashes, while Dianne under white sails only edged past to beat her by 2 minutes.
Temerity crossing the finish line at the X buoy. The #3 sheeted to the stern fairlead proved fortuitous. We were way too beat to change to the #2 reacher.
We were crushed by the Cal 40s in our Division and edged out by Ay Caliente (oh there but for the dragging jib!). The Wyliecats crushed us and their Division as well. All the Moore 24s that finished beat us as did the entire Express 27 fleet. Moores took the overall 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th places on corrected time. On the other hand, we beat (on corrected time) all the Express 37s, a 1D35, and the Open 50. The Olson 34 Redsky, the Mini, and the mighty Double Trouble dropped out. And in a race where 4 out of 10 starters retired in the face of the wind and waves, just getting home in one piece feels like an accomplishment.
Some other write-ups:
Cal 40 Shaman (winner of our Division)
Video from SC-27 Don Quixote
Photo gallery from the race deck, by Slackwater
More stories, official results, and links at the SF BAMA site.
19 April 2011 Edit: I was interested in how participation in this race has changed over time, so I made up this plot.
Under her former name (OZONE) and owner, Temerity did this race only once before, in 1998.