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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

March 25, The Fantastic Regatta-Banderas Bay Regatta, 2018

deborah webster image
Happy Owners

On the first race there was a moment, sudden realization, on the first part of the first beat, when I felt joy and satisfaction; when I realized we were fast. Definitely fast.

We had climbed out from underneath the Express 37 even before they were called back for being OCS and we had clear air and a lane. We had already started to put our bow out in front of the other boats and I felt it was time to make a move. The right looked to pay so I said, ‘I want to go to the right.’

Richard answered, ‘OK, we can tack when you want.’

‘I’m going…ready about.’


The crew scrambled and we tacked, and one by one the other boats followed.

The moment came after we tacked:

As we settled in on the long port tack, I got into a rhythm with the boat and the waves. I felt myself begin to rock back and forth with the motion of the boat as I worked the tiller. I glued my eyes to the tell-tales and I spoke to the crew,

‘Hike the boat.’

Twelve people moved farther out. The speedo showed 7 knots.

The water streamed past the hull and the wind was blowing through the rig, otherwise there was no sound. In the flawless blue sky the sunlight glared with a brilliance and the tell-tales on the jib danced, and the boat speed climbed to 7.47 knots. Very good.

Richard looked around.

‘We’ve got wheels on Bright Star.’ he said. The white boat was nearest and we all measured our speed against them. I took a glance. They were jogging along on our hip but I could see they were sagging down to our line and we were definitely faster. And Bright Star was faster than everyone else.

A year’s preparation had paid off. All the work and the pain, the successes along the way and the defeats, the setbacks…they were all worth it to feel the way I felt at that moment as we worked our way out in front. This was a good feeling, a very good feeling.

So Banderas Bay Regatta was underway and we were doing well.

Of course the faster boats eventually broke free but we held on and stayed close and finished close enough to win, a convincing win; minutes, not seconds.

I informed the crew. There was jubilation. Judy broke out champagne. A bit early I thought, after all it was only the first race, but it was OK. I let the crew enjoy the win.

I felt some confidence about the regatta; this was not a close race. If we could do this our prospects were good for the next two races.

Day two was tougher. Not the competition, the conditions. It blew like stink.

The course took us over to La Cruz, our old stomping ground, and the breeze was up: over 20 knots. We had the big carbon genoa on for the reach across and we stayed with it for the beat. Maybe the J-4 would have been better but the beat was short and we were ahead so I kept up the 1 not wanting to risk a change. The boat was on edge however, maybe over the edge. We were carrying too much sail. The main was flat and waving uselessly and still I needed it eased further to relieve the pressure on the helm. I called, ‘Traveler down’ and Richard pushed it down with his foot. The helm eased but the main flogged worse.

I told Richard, ‘Crank a little more runner on.’

It was already past the mark but he brought it in another inch and the main took on some shape and settled down. That was better.

The next leg was a tight, windy, reach back to Nuevo Vallarta and we set the A1 kite, like the boats ahead. The wind was too much and everyone was rounding up. The powerful sail we set began to round us up too, then it collapsed and refilled with a shocking bang. A few more times this happened then it blew with a bang louder than the rest and the boat suddenly stood up. I looked and the spinnaker was high in the sky off the side of the boat with no tack on it. That part was hanging in shreds on the bow.

‘Get the jib back up.’ It went up immediately as the blown kite was gathered in. We lost a little time, but not much.

After that we had a good run and a clean finish. We checked the times: it was closer, it had to be, but we had another win and we drank champagne again. We knew we were in good shape to win the regatta, we just had to hang in there.

The third race was more of the same. Lots of sun and wind. This time we only got a fair start, behind Bright Star but still ahead of the others, and good enough. We got clear of Bright Star who went left but as we felt the wind would go right we tacked and it paid off and we rounded the top mark first for the third time in a row.

The A1 had been hurriedly repaired overnight and we put it up. It blew again almost immediately.

Now we felt it was time to be conservative. With two wins we could ease off a bit. We had another kite but we held off and didn’t use it. We watched to see if Bright Star would make a move from behind but they didn’t threaten.

On the final run the Class A boats ahead had troubles with their spinnakers and we held off on ours. Maybe we were gun shy; maybe we just knew it didn’t matter.

This time Sirocco was ahead by enough time to beat us, though by only six seconds, but enough. So we were at least second. We watched Bright Star and all the others come in behind us, watching our clocks. We had our time on all of them so we had second place and that was enough to win the regatta.

It was a happy crew on board Wings as we sailed back to our marina.

So that was it. The race was in the bag. We’d won. We worked hard for this win, a year hard. There was money spent, plenty of it, and some long hours in boat prep, and, to be honest, maybe some hard feelings done, particularly about the ratings and class breaks on which I’d had more than a few blunt words with the race organizers and our competitors. And in crew selection. I’d made some changes, brought in some new people, changed some roles. But it all worked. And in the end, I have to say, it was worth it. Just that feeling on the first beat when I realized how fast we were made it all worth it.

I don’t know about next year, maybe we’ll never achieve this level again. I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, but this year, we did it.

lynne mazzie image
Clear Ahead

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Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz

Great Crew:
Paul Bailey and Carol Dabub, fordeck, steady, competent, always ready.
Kelly Mantis, Mast man, a tower of strength.
Carol (Bling) Dand and Robin Hirsh, Halyards, and all those ropes in the pit all got let in and out as they were needed. Great job.
Rod Dand, Dennis Mazzie, and Jimmy Roser, sail trim and grinding. These guys were awesome, grinding in the huge carbon genoa over and over and they managed the spinnakers and the lines like pros. Jimmy did his job and somehow managed to be instantly on top of every problem in time to keep it from being a problem.
Richard Hodge, Main and tactics, and runners and hydraulics, quiet and solid and called the start and every layline.
John Ryan, Navigator, coped with an extraordinarily difficult tactical computer and managed to keep it all together, called the lines, timed the starts, knew the rules and this year we never went to a wrong mark. Thanks John.
Judy and Lynne Britton, Runners, but more than that, watched the whole boat like a pair of hawks and prevented countless errors. Lynne joined Robin and repacked the kites.
A special word to John Ryan for tireless fight with the navigation computer, for his contribution, the MVP award.
And to Jimmy, for being everywhere when we needed him.
Most of all Judy, our foundation, our watchdog, our mom.
I love all of you.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

March 20, 2018-Random Leg Wednesdays

Our sailing on Wednesdays has been ‘anything goes and everything unexpected happens.’ We tell the story in four parts.

Part 1, Random Wind

I went to visit Mike on Tuesday and he asked me if I could set the race mark for Wednesday’s Beer Can Race. Not my favorite job but I said ‘OK, just get it down to my boat by 2:00PM.’

So that is how we became the Race Committee for the Beer Can Race.

Reaching in light wind, weight to leeward

When we got out of the marina we found the wind blowing straight offshore, direction 330 degrees. Setting the mark in its normal place, 2 miles up the shoreline, would result in another one of the boring reach, reach, races we get here too often in February, and with plenty of the wind holes that frustrate everyone.

I decided to change things up. I headed Wings off downwind straight away from the beach towards the deep water offshore.

I got on the radio.

‘Atttention all Beer Can Racers. This is Fred on Wings, your committee boat for today. We are going downwind to set a start line about a mile away from the marina. Please follow Wings to the new starting area.’

I thought it would be a great race: Upwind start, sail directly into the building NW breeze, round a channel marker near the marina, and turn downwind towards the start mark. Twice around would be four miles, just right for a beer can race.

Only the wind did not cooperate.

Once we got down there and set the start mark the wind totally switched around and blew from 130 degrees, making my upwind start into a downwind start.

Well time was passing and everyone had already trekked down to my fancy new starting area so we just said, ‘Screw it, we’ll have a downwind start.’

Only the wind changed again, twice more.

First it went to 180 degrees, then died entirely, and then filled in from 330 again. All in about 15 minutes.

This happened as we were all trying to sail the course. Finally, on the second downwind leg to the turning mark near the marina it came back out of the NW. On Wings we had the assym kite up, working downwind in a dying breeze. I saw the dark, wind-blown, water coming offshore again, right into our faces.

‘Drop the kite, right now, get a jib up…’ Then BAM! We had wind on the nose.

‘Paul, repack that kite, we’ll need it in a couple of minutes as soon as we round.’

We got around the mark, Paul frantically repacked the kite and got it on deck.

Now we were going downwind towards the finish, about half a mile away, and in second place. I saw that Double Take, the first place boat, didn’t have the breeze yet and there was hope for us. We finished the hook-up and re hoisted the kite.

BAM! Again, just as the sail filled, before anyone was actually settled into their positions, the wind hit us like a ton of bricks, twenty or more knots from behind, and we took off like a bat out of hell, swerving and rolling and trying to keep the boat upright and under that sail.

It was wild, briefly, and we surged across the finish line, unfortunately only in second place. Then the wind stopped again, and we had to wait 30 minutes or more for the other boats to finish. As Race Committee we were supposed to be on station to record all the finishers, so we stayed around.

It was almost dark when we finally picked up the mark and went back to the marina. I lost track of how many wind shifts we had that day, but they came randomly from almost every direction, and quite rapidly.

It was a random leg Wednesday, for sure.

Part 2: Blow Out

wingssail image-judy sawyer
Repairing the damage

The day before the Beer Can race Mike Danielson at PV Sailing again asked me if Wings could be the committee boat and to do race committee duties for the race. At least he didn’t expect me to set the mark since it was not holding air and we’d use a ‘virtual mark’ which was just a set of GPS coordinates that everyone had to go around.

Ok, we can do that, but on this Beer Can Wednesday that just added to the complications for us. We were already short four people, our Canadian contingent, who for a variety of reasons were going to miss the race. Now we had to run the race as well as sail our own boat. Well, OK, let’s go do it.

With our substitute crew on board we headed out to the race course only to find more complication: twenty knots of wind. Now, twenty knots isn’t too much wind, and we just went through a twenty knot puff last week, but it does put a premium on boat handling. Excellent boat handling without our top sailors would be unlikely. The day would be ripe for a foul-up. It gave me a case of nervous stomach. That seems to be the norm these days. I don’t know why.

In that breeze it was definitely number three weather and I called for the old Kevlar J3. Paired with the Aramid main, our mid-sized main, it would be the right call except for one problem, that old Kevlar sail didn’t have much life left in it, as we’d soon find out.

We got on the radio, organized all the other boats, and got the race off. Then we set out behind everyone else for the imaginary top mark. The boat actually felt good with the breeze up, and even with the new crew our tacks were excellent. We felt fast and we were soon passing the fleet.

I decided I would take it easy on the downwind leg. I had planned on some more practice with the symmetrical spinnaker but with new crew I knew using the asymmetrical spinnaker would be less risky.

So I called, ‘Set up the asymmetrical spinnaker.’

At the top mark we bore away, jibed onto port and hoisted the A1 asymmetrical, but not before we noticed some small tears in the Kevlar J3 jib as it came down. I made a mental note to check it out when we got back to the dock.

Now we were going downwind and flying, but the downwind leg was not without drama of its own. On our port jibe we were heading towards the shore off Point Blanco. The wind was shifting left and that pushed us ever further towards shore and the off lying rocks. I turned more downwind, away from the rocks, but it wasn’t enough. Now it was clear we needed to jibe but as much downwind as we were sailing now it was difficult to do the jibe. Time ran out, we had to go now!

‘Ready to jibe!’

We cast off the spin sheet and I turned the boat to the right. The kite collapsed into the fore triangle. The foredeck hands tried to get the sail around the front of the boat. It was slow to come and wanted to fold inside. Paul and Carol on the foredeck were struggling and I heard Paul urging the sail to come around,

‘Come on baby, come on’, he said.

I pushed the boat up a bit, back to the left, closer to the rocks, to get a little more air flow and with our speed and with the current we swept towards the jagged pinnacles. I asked Richard, ‘Are we OK here?’ He didn’t answer.

The sail popped around and filled on the new jibe and Richard threw the main over. I turned the boat away from the rocks.

Richard turned towards me, ‘You know, Fred, I don’t even swim that close to those rocks.’

‘Now you tell me.’

But we finished, and finished first. We dropped the kite and waited for the other boats to come down to the finish line, giving each boat a “horn” on the radio as they went through. Everyone agreed it was a fun day, but I knew it was also a lucky day.

Back at the dock however we took a close look at the Kevlar J3 Jib. It was a total blow out. It was ripped in dozens of places. The cloth was just weak everywhere and could not take the stress. I was surprised it held together for the whole beat.

The next night, after everyone left the clubhouse, Judy and I, with the help of two good friends, took the sail in and laid it out on the floor. Time for some major repairs. It took 5 hours and almost all of my spare Kevlar sail cloth but we patched it back together the best we could. Well, we won’t have much use for spare Kevlar once this sail is gone, and that won’t be very long from now, so I didn’t mind using the cloth. But it was hopeless. I figure we will be lucky if we can put that J3 jib up even one more time without a complete destruction.

It was a blow-out.

Part 3: Buy, Sell, Or Trade

Heard on the VHF radio net:

‘This is Fred on Wings. Wings is looking for two Barient winches, size 27 or 28. Our new main is too big and it takes two people to grind it in with our existing size 23 winches. Either we have to get a bigger mainsail trimmer or bigger winches. Since I am rather fond of Richard I’d like to keep him so we need new winches. It’s an all Barient boat so we’ll stay with Barient. Yeah, we know those winches are obsolete but so is everything else on our boat, including us.’

‘Contact Wings’

Part Four: Twenty Five Knot Winds for a Beer Can Race

We had a busy day Wednesday: Workout in the morning, a stop at the Mexorc race center, and racing in La Cruz in the afternoon, plus a few more items on the itinerary meaning we really pushed ourselves all day. In the gym, with Judy and I side by side on rowing machines, both of us going all out, I hit my best time ever and that’s going back 15 years but afterwards my body was jittery from the effort and I could feel it the rest of the day. Then we visited the Mexorc site. Mexorc is the big scene this week and we stopped by to check the results and take photos, but we didn’t hang around long. Time was short to get back to La Cruz and get the boat ready for the Wednesday Beer Can racing.

I honestly have to say that I was a tad nervous when we got out to the race course that afternoon. For the third week in a row it was windy. The wind was over 22 knots true as soon as we got out of the marina and at times it was blowing a steady 25. My plan had been to get some spinnaker practice in on the downwind leg that day but in that breeze I was doubtful that we could do it without a disaster. Even getting the sails up was going to be tense; our new main is huge.

On top of this we were acting as Race Committee again; another distraction.

But we hoisted the main without a problem and John got on the radio and announced the course and start times for the five boats which came out, and we got ready for our own start. With at least 22 knots of wind I knew the J4 was the right jib, called for it, and it too went up smoothly. So far so good.

wingssail image-Fredrick roswold
John Ryan center and from left, Paul, Dennis, and Carol
John Ryan, our navigator, ran the clock and the radio for all these races while I steered the boat and got us across the line without hitting anybody.

I should not have worried, everything went well. The boat handled perfectly with the full main and the J4 and other than a couple of niggles we had no real problems. The niggles involved the new main and included the fact that with just the main up, before we got the jib on, I could barely steer. The big roach of the main controlled the boat. I found that we had to ease the sail out a quite bit and keep our speed up. Once we got too close to the wind and got slow we couldn’t bear away and get going again without the motor. That was good to know if a bit disconcerting. We also discovered that sheeting the big main all the way in was going to take two people. Richard just couldn’t turn the winch handle by himself. With me sitting right next to him it was easy for me to put my hand on the handle with his and together we could do it. I’m going to look for a pair of bigger winches. And yeah, and we have to tack fast with this sail to avoid a lot of flogging of the leach against the backstay where it overlaps. There is a price to pay with this big new sail.

We had a perfect start and settled in for the beat. The conservative approach was to take longer boards and fewer than usual tacks as we beat up the shoreline towards Punta Mita and that is what we did. The boat was fast and pointing really well. We quickly overhauled the boats ahead. I saw the breeze lessening a little I announced to the crew, ‘If the wind goes below 20 we’ll set the kite, and it looks like it is doing that, so let’s get it ready.’ The S3 bag tumbled on deck and the foredeck crew ducked spray as they hooked up the sail. This was real sailing.

We tacked to starboard for the final approach and the wind was only 19.7 knots, so the spinnaker was a “go”.

‘Get the pole up’.

We rounded the mark.


The big sail went up fast and filled. The boat surged but handled perfectly on the broad reach with speeds showing of 8-9 knots. We were flying. Halfway to the finish line in La Cruz I called for a jibe and talked the cockpit crew through the maneuver. The jibe went very well. The crew is getting practiced at this stuff. We were all pretty pleased.

The wind speed came back up as we approached La Cruz but the boat remained in control. I turned downwind to see how that would feel and called for the pole to come back. Going dead downwind in the resurgent breeze we hit 9.7 knots with the boat starting to roll, but not outlandishly. Controlling it with steering was not difficult. Over nine knots on this boat is exciting and the crew was thrilled with the speeds we were seeing. I was having fun.

We dropped the kite at the finish and sailed into the anchored fleet, then came around under main and waited for the other boats to finish. We sailed into the marina.

It was just a beer can race but it was a good sail.

We headed out for some socializing without putting the boat away so that night, four hours later, after a party and dinner out, we got home to a trashed boat, bushed, there were sails all over the cabin and a spinnaker to pack. We got through all that and crawled into bed, not saying much but both of us going over the day in our heads.

Finally Judy said, ‘It was a long day’


‘Actually it’s been a long month.’


‘The boat can sail.’


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Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz

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