TLDR; Went dinghy racing, capsized a few times and have the bruises to prove it. Whether kaleidoscope colored bruises or just a bruised ego, i'm still charging ahead with sailing and the Pacific ocean row.
Labor day weekend was an exciting and slightly painful weekend. I raced in my first sailing regatta with the Severn Sailing Association, the Thistle Crab Regatta. Meghan and I packed up early that morning for our trip to Annapolis, MD with all my water proof gear in tow. From my SealLine Nimbus dry bag, waterproof jacket, and pants. Not much but its all I had. And we knew it was going to be a wet day, although I didn't exactly know how wet. On a personal prideful note, my Vespoli rowing neoprene booties were very out of place acting as 'water resistant' socks but they were a welcome addition compared to a basic cotton sock.
Well after we arrived, the sun rising, and meeting up with the crew, I attended the captains meeting with Bill, the boat captain. The group decision was to go ahead with the races although in the harbor vs. out further, due to the incoming weather system, a slightly telling note for my first race. We next loaded the boat, put it in the water and headed out in the light breeze but spitting rain. Fortunately, the rain felt like it was coming from behind us and I was quite warm and happy in my waterproof gear. Although it wasn't going to be a hot lunch, knowing that my lunch and personal belongings were secured away in the dry bag made me a bit more reassured.
A salt water logged and soggy PB&J sounds miserable.
Racing sail boats is definitely a new experience to me and my learning curve was especially hard with the new environment, close proximity to other boats, crew I had just met, and the wet surfaces in the boat. My footing gave out numerous times crossing the boat during a tack and like a novice, I went flying about the boat haphazardly.
My job for the day was sitting midship, controlling the jib lines and hiking out when needed. I thought things were going well. And at first they were.
From the starting line to the first tack we were in the lead group with a good point, a full sail, and room to move. Through the first tack we were ok, i stumbled a bit crossing sides over the large centerboard and low boom releasing the jib sheet from it's lee side cleat and pulling in on the windward side while starting to hike out to steady the boat back to its belly. Things move much faster during a race than they do on a Sunday practice cruise. While athleticism and spunk provide a great start, there's little substitution for experience.
Being a bit shocked at the speed and haste at which a tack is committed in a small dinghy, I prepped myself for the next tack and to move just a bit quicker. As the racing fleet staged itself in a continuing flow back and forth progressing to the next marker, we collectively tacked to be even with the ley line to ensure we could round the mark without extra unneeded zig zags down the course. It was called out that we were even with the ley line and we were going to do the final tack before aiming for the mark. As the little boat started to turn, the jib line goes slack and a not rehearsed enough dance proceeds to move bodies to the other side of the boat. As the bow transitions through pointing into the wind, the air rushes into the now slack sail and fills it quickly. However, unlike the last few tacks and in my earnest attempt to do better, I caught the lee side cleat with the jib sheet while also pulling on windward high side.
Something I've always known, fighting with yourself isn't productive and in this situation, it results in being cold and wet.
Just as the with the main sail, the jib sheet filled with air and as it was pulled taught on the low side, pulled the boat and mast towards the waves. No one else in the boat expecting me to screw up something so simple, was bracing for the sudden jolt, and the tiller slipped from the captain's hands. The tiller being pushed away acts as a lever to the stern and digs the bow into the waves. A partial capsized boat results and as all hands scramble to release the jib sheet, the captain for the tiller, the mainsheet slaps down onto the waves and we're swimming.
I'm first over the gunnel to the high side of the boat and sliding down on to the centerboard to apply weight to right the boat. Although the re-righting of a boat had been explained during my intro to sailing class, I had never done it. Waiting for the other two crew to come join me, I held on and bide the seconds that seemed to be moving much slower.
As I stood there trying to figure out, what the heck just happened, my lunch in its partially air filled dry bag appeared, floating across the main sail, away from me. My only thought was, well there goes my lunch. It was a bit of resigned fate as I couldn't leave the boat in its current state nor the crew that was steadily coming to help stand on the centerboard. As another body joined pressing up from the water, the sail moved and the lunch sack floated just slightly further away. On the wet surface as a third member joined us, I slipped and fell in again, which knocked any thought of lunch out of my mind.
Once I joined the crew on the centerboard, the boat started to rise and we clambered aboard. Luckily by that point, a safety boat had joined us and we started to bail water out one gallon full bucket at a time. It didn't help the waves and rain were steadily adding to our work. Fortunately at some point, while fully engaged on the idea of regaining control of the boat, my lunch was rescued by the safety boat. I learned many valuable lessons, first or second to not cleat the jib sheet during a tack and leash your lunch to the boat.
The first race for all its promise turned into a DNF. We however regained a small amount of pride by coming in fourth for the second race even after going for a swim. Trial by capsizing is a pretty swift way of learning, it turns out. But on this day it wasn't enough of a learning curve as in the third race of the day, we capsized the boat again. This time we know it wasn't due to the jib sheet being cleated but there was a bit of confusion exactly what happened.
After all the racing, the safety team returned my lunch once back on land. Lunch wasn't eaten until hours later when the boat had been washed, returned to its trailer, and the sails packed away. While PB&J wasn't exactly the best lunch, it was a welcomed meal.