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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

March 22, 2016-Catching Up

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Working the Beach in BBR
We've been busy the last few weeks with races, practices, sail repair and work on the salvage of our friend's boat. Now we're catching up with four new stories.

Click here to read about the loss of Rage, Barry Ruff's beautiful Wylie 39. A sad day.

Click here for a report of our intense practice days.

Click here to read about the end of our great old golden racing sails.

Click here for an 'end of season' racing report.

We'll try to keep up with the news this summer.

moonshadow images-john rogers
Fred & Judy

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huanacaxtle

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

March 17, 2016-Season Finisher: Banderas Bay Regatta

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Working the Beach in BBR

The racing season is over in Banderas Bay and we’ve done very well. We sailed in three regattas and won two of them and got second in the third which was Banderas Bay Regatta, last weekend. There were also several Wednesday night beer can races this season of which we won several.

Even though we didn’t win that last race we are thrilled with the season. Since last year we’ve made gains in several areas including crew work, tactics, starts, sail shape, and even our efforts to improve the rating situation has helped.

The Banderas Bay Regatta was interesting. We sailed hard but the competition was tough and the courses didn’t suit us. However, after two days the fleet was totally scrambled. There were five boats which were tied for first place, all with 7 points. Wings was one of them.

It came down to the last day. Whoever won that final race would take the regatta. A friend was talking to us before the race and he said, “Well, when you are up against really good competition it makes you better, you have to up your game.”

I despaired. I wondered what I could do to “up our game”. Our starts had been perfect, our tactics had been flawless, and our boat speed was already the best it had ever been. What else could we do? We had no more rabbits to pull out of the hat.

There was one chance. Maybe the race committee would set Course 7. Part of Course 7 went up the La Cruz shoreline, which is a tricky little place, and we were masters of it. If they set Course 7, and if we could stay close until we got there, maybe we could pull out the win.

Well, they set course 7. We had a chance.

But things don’t always go as planned. After getting the course I wanted we blew the start of the race. We blew it bad. Worst start all year. Then the radio got switched off and we missed the announcement of the bearing to the first mark, consequently went the wrong way and wound up over-standing. When we got to the La Cruz coast we were in fifth place.

But there was still that beat up the coast. It’s only 1.7 miles but we knew how to make the most of it and we did. The four boats ahead were clueless; when they tacked out in search of better breeze I just thought, “YES!” Outside there was a lovely wind, and the four boats ahead found that wind and heeled over and accelerated. They didn’t notice that the tide was strongly against them.

They didn’t notice the lifted breeze in on the shore. They didn’t realize that even though they were going fast they were falling back.

We stayed inside, close to the shore, and worked our magic. Our wind was lighter and came in fits and puffs. There were nerve wracking lulls. Sometimes we just barely coasted ahead to the next little puff. Often we seemed just yards off the rocks and the surf, but we moved. We knew when we had to tack and when we could hold on a little longer. We worked the beach. The other four boats romped outside in the nice breeze which had lured them there, and they got screwed. When they finally tacked back towards the mark they had a bad course, well below the mark. We got one last puff which took us speeding in on a big lift. We rounded the mark in second, close behind the first boat. We had passed three boats and closed up with the fourth boat in that short 1.7 mile leg. Fantastic, what a comeback!

Now we just had a spinnaker run to the finish and it was a drag race. The crew was excellent and we closed in more on the first boat. The wind shifted on that run and we changed spinnakers, a tricky move, but we did it and it helped even more.

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Racing to the Finish

At the finish we checked our time and saw that we had corrected out over the first boat. That was good, but one boat behind us had maintained their position and they, in turn, corrected out over us. The difference was a little over a minute. They won. Winning the race also won them the first place in the regatta. We got a second place in the race and second for the regatta.

So that was the way we ended up, a good race and a great season. We drank three bottles of Champagne on the way home.

Click here for more photos.

You can also see more photos of the Banderas Bay Regatta on John Pounder's web site.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huancaxtle.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

March 16, 2016-Sail Damage

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Mainsail Repair

Racing sails have a limited lifetime. We know that. It’s been said they will last three years, and ours are eight years old, a long time for a Kevlar/Mylar sail even if they haven’t been used much over 5 seasons. Last season I wasn’t happy with the shape but I thought the cloth was OK. The problem is that the Mylar shrinks and gets brittle. But still, we’ve been hoping ours would hang in there. The replacement cost is prohibitive. New laminated racing sails go for $5,000 to $10,000 each. We can’t even think about that.

Boy was I wrong about them lasting. We had them in the loft for a couple of months and did some reshaping, and that’s when we noticed the Mylar was breaking down. We slapped a bunch of high tech tape on and wondered if we’d get through the season.

Well, the reshaping worked. Those old sails were faster than ever, but right away this season we started to have failures: holes appeared in the panels, cracks showed up on the edges, and seams started to pull out. I was repairing sails after almost every race. The handwriting was on the wall, we’d need new sails, sooner rather than later, at least a mainsail and a genoa.

I got a lot of quotes for new sails. No surprise, we couldn’t afford them. We bought more repair material and spent more time patching them.

No dice, they were toast.

The genoa and the main got to where they looked like they would blow up the next time we used them. I saw a used genoa sail listed at Minney’s, a used sail store in California. It was 18 years old but barely used and the price was right, $347.00. A sail maker went over there and checked it out. “Nice sail”, he said, and it would fit Wings. Surprisingly the Mylar was still good. We bought it and had it shipped to La Cruz and put away the old genoa we’ve had since 2007. Then the #3 jib blew up, disastrously; tore in half with a pop. That was a shocker since that sail was barely used, but I had been worried about it; the cloth seemed tired. We got it fixed but we have no faith in it. Finally the mainsail, shown here, completely disintegrated. We had already started using the Dacron cruising main for practices but we wanted the racing main for the Banderas Bay Regatta. I spent another evening slapping tape on it and sewing. We went out for the first day of Banderas Bay Regatta flying that main. It lasted to the end of the race, and then ten minutes later it disintegrated.

Well, that’s racing.

We will somehow find some replacement sails and be ready for next year.

I wonder how many times we’ll have to go through this.

john pounder - jldigitalmedia
Remembering the golden sails We won races in Singapore, Thailand (King's Cup), the Caribbean, and Mexico with these sails. They have been great.

Click here for a couple more shots of the sail repairs.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

March 15, 2016-Practice Makes Perfect

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Practicing Jibes

The crew is good, we’d already won a few races this year but we’ve had some turnover and if we wanted to be hot in the Banderas Bay Regatta we needed some practice time.

The Beer Can Races on Weds nights make good practices and to get more time on the water we went out on a Saturday as well.

They didn’t all go well.

One night the wind blew like stink and we put up the #3 jib, only to have it blow exactly in half. The #4 was in the storage locker and it was too windy for the #2, so that was it. We sailed around with the mainsail alone and drank beer. We decided that on race day we’d better carry the #4.

Another night, after we’d gotten the #3 jib repaired (and it looked like shit) we did a little better, at least we got as far as the weather mark. The wind was strong, in the mid-twenties. I wanted some heavy weather spinnaker work so I called for the ¾ kite and the crew had it ready when we rounded. The kite up fast despite the waves, flying spray and tilting deck. OK, this is good, I thought.

But the sheet did not come on. The big sail luffed and flapped like some big white angry bird.

“Get the sheet in.” I yelled. But it didn’t come. Then we realized the sheet wasn’t even on the sail, it was lying on the foredeck.
The longer that sail flagged the more worried I got about it. “Pull it in with the afterguy.” For a second nobody knew what that meant. Then John found the winch and the afterguy started to come back, but it was snagged by a loose sail tie on the bag and we couldn’t pull it in without ripping the bag in half.

“Kelly, get that sail tie off.” He gave me a confused look, “What?” I pointed and by now everyone on the boat was focused on getting that sail under control and three other people yelled at him and he yanked the tie off the afterguy and John ground it in. The sail came filled. It filled with a bang.

The worst was yet to come. The minute that sail filled we rolled suddenly to windward and I saw the spinnaker pole head for the surface of the water, the boat was going into a hard round down. Even without the spinnaker filled we’d already been doing 8 knots. If that pole hit the water going that speed we’d have some serious damage.

I pulled hard on the tiller and gave the boat a big swerve to the right which stopped the roll before the pole hit. But just then Carol fell backwards over the traveler and into the aft cockpit. I saw her hand on the mainsheet but it was loose and gave her no support. Actually I guess the main had jibed and maybe that tossed her. Apparently the windward runner stopped the jibing mainsail because I hadn’t even noticed the jibe.

Instead I was thinking about Carol, “What she doing?” But she was as startled as I was. The trouble was that we were still turning right and the boat would soon roll the other way. I needed to push the tiller back to the left and steady the boat but Carol was right in the way; I couldn’t push the tiller anywhere. Somebody grabbed her arm and yanked her out of there and I corrected the course. The main flew back to leeward.

“Man, I am glad this rudder works” I thought.

The wind wasn’t through with us yet. Once I got the boat straight it slammed right back into another windward roll and the pole headed back towards the ocean. Another yank on the helm straightened us out again and this time nobody fell in the way of the tiller so I was able to regain control quickly. But now several people had fallen down. The main cockpit was filled with fallen bodies! About four people tumbled around on the cockpit floor trying to regain their footing.

“OK, folks, I don’t want to play this game anymore, get the kite down.”

We struck the spinnaker and sailed to the finish with no headsail. If it was a real race I’d have probably tried to keep going, but this was all new to this crew, and I thought that they’d had enough. I had. Besides, when things happen so fast, things you aren’t expecting and aren’t ready for, you get behind the curve. If I pushed these folks further at this rate somebody could get hurt, or something broken.

But the value of that session, those two sessions really, was that we had now been exposed to heavy air sailing. They had a taste of it. Let them absorb it a bit before we do it again. Next time we get into 24 knots they’ll know what it’s going to feel like. They will be ready. Not totally practiced in it, but ready.

The next practice, on Saturday, went perfectly. I pushed the team hard for two hours. We did sail changes, spinnaker sets and jibes and takedowns, asymmetrical and symmetrical, rounding’s upwind and down, everything, and it went well; very well. Everyone was bushed but happy. Their faces were flushed. We couldn’t stop talking about how much fun it was.

I thought “Who needs racing if we can get practice sailing like that?”

Click here to see more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, la Cruz Huancaxtle.

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Monday, March 14, 2016

Febuary 14, 2016-Loss of the Sailing Vessel “Rage”

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JLDigitalMedia: Vallarta Cup Jan 24 2015 &emdash; Rage

We came face to face with Connie. She was distraught.

“Fred, Fred, Can you help us? It’s Barry, he’s aground!”

“Where is he?” I wasn’t overly concerned, after all lots of boats touch bottom once in a while.

“Just outside the marina, next to the channel”.

“Ok I’ll see what I can do.” Connie ran off.

I walked, in no particular hurry, down to dock 11 where I could see the entrance channel. What I saw then struck me in the heart like an ice cold knife blade. There was Rage, in plain sight, completely on her side in the surf to the east of the channel. This was not a grounding, it was a wreck.

Now I moved. I whirled around. Nikk was there. I said, “We have to get out there, Barry needs help.”
“We can take the electric dingy,” he said.

Better than nothing. We ran to his dock and took off in the little Avon with the electric fishing motor on the back. It was painfully slow. In 5 minutes, 5 very long minutes, we got to the scene. Rage was in the surf. Two Mexican boys were on the bow trying to get lines attached and two fishing pangas were standing by to try to tow it off. There were three of four other dinghies hovering around, outside of the surf line. I could not see Barry on board his boat.

“I’ve got to get in there but not in this Avon,” I said. No way could it negotiate the surf with its pitiful little electric motor. “There’s Eddie, take me to Eddie.”

“Eddie, Eddie,” I yelled, “how is that motor? Is it strong?”

“Yeah, it’s good.” He asked, “Why?”

“Eddie, I have to get to that boat, will you take me?”

Eddie looked skeptical, but he said, “Well, I have to get rid of this anchor.”

There was a 75lb plow and about 500 feet of heavy line in his dingy. We transferred it to Nikk’s boat, and I gave Nikk my phone and wallet, and Eddie and I and headed into the surf.

“Do you think we can make it Fred?” Eddie was looking at the white water.

“Yes, we can do it.” The force of my will was irresistible; there was no way Eddie could stop me from going there. It was as if my intensity moved his hand on the tiller. All I could think of was Barry on that boat, in trouble.

“Wait until a wave goes past then gun it in there, just don’t get caught sideways to one. If a wave comes, turn into it.” We roared off toward Rage.

We got along side Rage between waves and I jumped onto the foredeck. I turned to Eddie said, “Now get out of here and if a wave catches you, jump onto the bow tube.”

Just then a good sized breaker came rolling in and as his boat stood on its end I saw Eddie leap to the front tube and he got his boat over it then floored the engine. Before the next wave came he was well out past the breakers waves and going like hell.

But I’d already turned away.

Rage was grounded on its side and moving in the waves, there were rocks, big rocks everywhere. Things didn’t look good, but I didn’t see Barry. The boat was unmanned except me and the Mexicans who were soon to scamper off. (Once the cavalry had arrived they were happy to depart, anyhow, it was clear that no pangas were towing this boat anywhere.) Then Barry came wading out through the surf and climbed aboard. He couldn’t row his Redcrest through the surf. Tomiko, from the yacht Landfall, was right behind him. Barry unlocked the door and he dropped into the leaning boat’s interior. Tomiko followed him. There was sea-water inside and it rushed in and out with each wave.

“She’s a goner,” Barry said.

I asked, “Is it holed?“ Of course it was.

Tomiko looked up at me and said, “I’m standing on a couple of big rocks, there is no side here.”

She handed me her handheld radio and I climbed to the top of the overturned boat and keyed the mic.

“This is Fred on Rage. All you boats in the vicinity who can get here we need a lot of help.” By now more people were wading out. Mike Ferguson came in through the surf with his kayak.

I said, “Watch out for that rock,” and he swerved just in time to avoid getting dashed on a big boulder which was next to Rage. Then he climbed aboard.

Mike Danielson, of PV Sailing showed up on the beach and came up on the radio, asking for any boats that could help to come to the beach.

“Mike, this is Fred. I’m on Rage, I’ll coordinate from here on the radio.”

Then I turned back to Barry, “Barry, you have to start thinking about what you need to get out of this boat before it breaks up.”
Barry just muttered, “Shit, shit, shit.”

“Mike, we need people out here to carry stuff off, maybe buckets to put things in.”

Mike relayed that. Now there were several people making their way out through the surf. It was about waist deep, but the waves were two feet higher than that.

“Barry, we have to get stuff off the boat.”

“I heard you the last time!” He shouted, but it was like he was paralyzed. All he was doing was turning this way and that, looking at the destruction.

Barry’s big red kayak was on the foredeck and Ferguson launched it. Somebody threw some bedding into the kayak. I realized that was a good idea.

“Form a line, like a bucket brigade, and pass that kayak to shore then send it back out.”

“Mike, we need more kayaks, see if you can get some kayaks here.”

“Right, Fred.”

Soon there were four kayaks being passed back and forth and piles of stuff from Rage were accumulating on the beach. Nobody though was even thinking that there was any way we could save the boat. It was two hundred feet from shore and two hundred feet inside the surf line the other way. You couldn’t get to it with a barge or a land based crane. Dragging it across the rock would pulverize it even further.

But we worked hard, probably 50 people were helping and a few trucks and ATV’s were on the shore, having come down through the resort properties. Mike D was sending loads of stuff offsite. I stayed on Rage working the radio. I kept looking down inside to see how people were doing. They were in the gloom, standing in the surging sea water, pulling things out of drawers and cabinets, which they passed out the hatches into the waiting kayaks. Ferguson was unscrewing electronics. Barry was working now, harder than anybody.

One of the dinghies offshore rigged a long line and a big kedge anchor to hold the boat. Barry’s anchor was already there but obviously it was fouled in its own chain and wasn’t going to hold anything. That was how the boat got here in the first place. Somehow, on what was a pretty normal day with winds under 15 knots, Rage’s anchor just let go and she just took off down wind. It’s happened to me; they go fast when they go like that. Nobody got to it before it was in the surf. We didn’t know what happened. The anchor was good, the chain new, there was plenty of scope for 20 feet of water, and Barry was on the boat most days checking it and he re-set the anchor often. On the day it was lost his friend Ferguson had been there 30 minutes before it started to drag. It was fine.

Then it was gone. The chain must have wrapped around the flukes.

This anchorage is bad, the holding isn’t particularly good and the wind shifts direction about 180 degrees twice a day. Every month somebody’s boat drags here, but someone always grabs them before they get shore. Not today.

By 7:00PM the light was starting to fade, I radioed Mike, “Mike, we’ve got to start getting people off this boat, it will be dark soon.” A few kept working but mostly people started to turn away and wade back to shore.

I had been there since 4:30, I was the first guy on the boat, and now I was the last to leave at 7:30, after everyone else got off. I had to drag Mike Ferguson out of the interior where he was still removing electronic equipment.

In my bare feet I could not walk across the boulders and rocks. Somebody grabbed each of my arms and helped me ashore. Barry was already gone, I didn’t know where, but Barry was shattered, I was to find, and he could not face this scene. He left that night and was not to come back to the beach where Rage lay wrecked. I guess I understand that, after all, he built the boat by hand and it was his home. It would take Barry a lot of time to come to grips with this loss.

Over the next few days we had several work parties and removed all of Rage’s equipment, everything, including the engine, and finally, after the surf had washed the hulk all the way up to the sand, we got a crane close to it, and after we removed the keel and mast, the hull was lifted up the beach and dropped gently onto the sand in front of a house. It was still precious.

Finally one day we went back to carry the mast away, 12 men hoisted it onto our shoulders and carried it the mile down the beach to the road. That was when the tragedy of this loss finally struck me.

I walked through the hole in the side of Rage. It was like a cut-out for some kind of morbid display, her bones open for inspection. I looked in the forward cabin; it was littered with sand and debris. I’ve seen wrecks before, you look at them and they seem so ruined and discarded. It is usually hard to imagine them in better times. But this was different. I knew this boat. Rage was, just a few days before, a beautiful, living, creature, all varnish and shining wood. It danced lightly at its mooring, ready to go sailing, wanting to go sailing. Now it was just bones in the sand.

I cried.

magic carpet images-greg
JLDigitalMedia: Vallarta Cup Jan 24 2015 &emdash; I cried

Click here for more photos.

Fred Roswold, SV Wings, La Cruz Huanacaxtle

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