Sailing: Wednesday Night Races

Drena has made a couple of Facebook posts about it, but I wanted to tell everyone a little more about my recent sailboat racing experiences. Last year I registered on Spinsheet’s website to be contacted for any racing crew opportunities. I figured this would give me more opportunities to gain as much on-the-water sailing experience as possible, especially with other, more seasoned sailors. It is totally free and easy to sign up if there is anyone out there interested in trying it themselves! For the most part I think the skippers (the guys who own and usually drive the boats) are looking for people with some familiarity with sailboats, but there are definitely other skippers that are just looking to have fun and just need the extra hands. Some of the boats need like a dozen people!

THALASSA

Upwind leg to the finish. I’m in the blue shirt and Woodwind is in the background.

I was contacted one time last year, but the boat was south of Annapolis and kind of far enough away that I didn’t think I could commit to making it there on time every Wednesday evening with the work schedule that I had. Then I was contacted this year and since I really wanted the extra experience (and who isn’t looking for a reason to go sailing for free?), I was able to work my office job schedule around so that I could make the regular Wednesday Night Race on time. It helps that I just get picked up near the start and do not have to make it to Annapolis too early since the drive from my house is about 45-60 minutes when there is evening traffic. The races are organized by the Annapolis Yacht Club, and start at 6:00 pm on the Severn River just off Horn Point in Eastport. My race boat’s name is THALASSA, named after a Greek sea goddess, and she is a Catalina 27. At first, I thought that the race boat would be very similar to my old boat Jacinta, a Catalina 25, but I was pretty wrong about that. All the lines to control the sails are in a different place than what I was used to since she is geared for racing, so it was just like learning any other different boat. A couple of times we raced, there were 5 of us aboard, but lately it has only been a crew of 4.

Granted, it has probably been the most stressful time I have ever had on a sailboat, but I have already gained so much experience with things I had previously never dealt with. Since starting my crew position in the beginning of June, I have learned how to fly a spinnaker (the big, usually colorful, balloon-like sail in the front) and way more things about sail shape than I have ever even come across in books or online. In addition, I have learned how to change sails quickly in the middle of a race because one ripped and what to do when the spinnaker gets blown into the water and quickly becomes too heavy to pull out. I have also had experiences like never before, like being caught in the middle of a downpour and dealing with crazy changes in wind speed and direction, trying to race a thunderstorm with lightning that was reported to have struck and killed a guy not too far from the race course that we were still near, and was even involved in a collision right in front of the race committee boat at the start (totally not our fault, except for some possible over-confidence). Sounds kinda crazy, right?! It is sort of, but still mostly under control. I guess that is what makes it fun. I figure at least I have had these learning experiences on someone else’s boat and I don’t have to pay to fix any damage!

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