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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

September 28, 2005-Racing The Years Away

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Racing The Years Away, Part 1

One part of our life which we thought we had lost touch with, and now have found again, has been serious sailboat racing.

To be honest about it, Hong Kong has been a bit of a mixed bag for this couple of old cruisers. We needed a break from cruising when we got here, having just spent two years in the third world, spending a lot of the time pretty stressed out, either by being way out of our comfort zone beyond the edge of the civilized world, or by the very challenging sailing conditions we encountered on a few too many black squally nights.

So the stability, peace, and safety of liveaboard life in Hong Kong has been good for us; a time to recharge our batteries. And we’ve enjoyed the exotic environment of Hong Kong, Asia’s World City. On the other hand we’re back into big city life and the pressure of the working world.

Back in Seattle we maintained our sanity only by the weekends we spent immersed in sailboat racing. There is nothing like a windy day spent on the water, horsing a big powerful race boat around a rough salt water race course with a hard working crew of eight of your best friends, competing against a dozen or more of other friends, all of whom are focused on nothing else but kicking your ass, to wipe your mind clean of everything else, including the stress of the office. Back then we loved it.

But that was twelve years ago.

Since then we’ve had some fun racing in various South Pacific locations, usually with pick-up crew, in races which were not considered to be “serious”, though we always approached them with the same high level of intensity we had in Seattle. And we did fine in those fun races in the South Pacific.

But they didn’t mean much.

In Hong Kong there is real racing. We decided to give it a try. We’ve joined a yacht club, got a local rating, trained some crew, and signed up for a number of races. And while most of these can’t really be considered “serious” either, they are a lot more so than the pick-up racing we did in Fiji, for example.

We have done OK racing in Hong Kong.

Take the ABC Opening Day Regatta:

This was a challenging day in anybody’s book. We had to motor through blinding torrential rain and 30 knot squalls for two hours just to get to race course, set in the South China Sea off Aberdeen. Then the wind and slop and rain squalls in the race area was a bit much for even the race committee, and the racing wound up being delayed for over an hour while we sat out there getting soaked, cold, and sea sick. Even waiting for the start was not a time to relax, since we had to be alert for the upside-down dingys and multi-hulls which littered the race area, as well as all the rescue boats speeding around and other race boats reaching back and forth close to the committee boat trying to catch the sound signal which would indicate that the countdown to the start had finally come.

But come it did, and we got our act together and had a good start, coming in on port and tacking into a hole, then hardening up fast enough to squeeze off the 50 footer in our class that started to weather. It warmed my heart to hear Judy say in my ear, “He’s tacking away.” We never saw them again, all day. Wings is happy in 20-25 knots of wind, and even against modern boats, and in our “liveaboard” trim, we are still fast. The seas were big, and the boat was leaping around, so just hanging on was a chore, but with our #3 and a full main we made the most of the good start and boisterous conditions, charging upwind, and we tacked on a good shift to lay the mark. Second boat to the top mark, well ahead of our fleet and ahead of all but one of the IRC boats. We felt pretty good. Love those windward legs!

Well, several more of the IRC boats flew by on the reach, but that was OK, they should, and we delayed setting the kite, partly out of cowardice, and partly because nobody in the fleet, including ourselves, seemed to know where the jibe mark was. Mandrake finally dropped their chute to reach back to the mark, thereby establishing its position for the rest of us. Thank you.

The wind had shifted and the reach was now a dead downwind run; that was why nobody knew where the mark was, I guess. Probably the other navigators were as busy on deck as ours’ was, (me) and they hadn’t figured out the tactical situation any better than we did. So we were all were lost for a while, bouncing around in big, confused seas, not knowing where to go. But now that we had the mark it was OK. After a bit of discussion onboard, which I won, up went our 1.5 oz kite and off we went, typical IOR fashion, digging a huge hole in the water and loading up every line and winch on the boat, and our hull speed limiting us to nine knots despite the overwhelming pull of the huge sail. But God, I love the spinnaker runs too.

Click Here for all the Hong Kong photos

Fred & Judy, SV WINGS, Hong Kong

Part 2, Read More

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