Santa Barbara Island Race 2014

That sole green bow light on Janina haunts my dreams ever since the 2012 night drifting match down the backside of Catalina. In the 3am drizzle, a green bow light ever so slowly got closer…and closer. The Green Eye that never sleeps! By dawn I learn it belonged to the Tartan Ten hunter, Janina correcting out over Slacker for the win. Back to Janina in a moment…

Conventional thinking for this year’s Santa Barbara Island race is go west on port as the wind was expected to veer west that afternoon. Once having done so, you would flop over to starboard and fetch the island. After the start, the fleet largely proceeded west. Then reality set in. Starboard tack became ever more tempting: continue 70 degrees off-course on port, or 30 degrees on starboard and expect to get lifted to the island? The choice was obvious, and most boats flopped over to starboard.
Most, except for Janina.  Early in the race Janina found a wind line off Malibu and pulling a horizon job on the fleet. Meanwhile, on Slacker the singlehander was busy arguing with himself. “Surely we’ll get lifted.” He tacked to starboard. “Wait, wasn’t the forecast for more wind to the west?” He tacked to port. For some reason, John Petit aboard Challenge decided to take a flyer with Slacker.
With dusk bringing 30 minutes of drifting conditions complete with spinnaker folly with brief easterlies, the wind filled in and the three of us were off to the island. Janinawisely changed down to a small jib and Slacker passed her, carrying her No. 1 into the darkness.
With the failing light the green bow light appeared. Aaaaaaaggghhhh! 40 miles though the night: It’s getting closer! Or is it? I’m so tired! It’s only a mile back! Surely I’ll be passed! As we tacked our way back to Catalina, the Green Eye caught up to Slacker. Then Slacker got just plain lucky and was lifted to the West End and the breeze held long enough to the finish.

Radio Chat

Some light banter before the race on Ch. 72:
Challenge (John Petit): We haven’t seen much of you out here lately.
Slacker: Yes, I’ve been practicing the art of husbandry.
Challenge: That’s a life sentence, my friend.
Slacker: At least some of us know why we come out here singlehanding…

Catalina to Port

Teaser about to pass Slacker

Teaser about to pass Slacker

Another tough drifting race, but with a few good moments as the above scene aboard the crewed boat Teaser. Nearly 20 boats started, about half finished. A great result as the wind completely shut down on the fleet as we were making our way down the backside of Catalina. There was some entertainment with the myriad dolphin and whale sighings. We even had 2 whales breaching, and one whale surfaced within 2 boat lengths of Slacker. A long night ensued, however as we chased our lights trying to find wind. Slacker finished at 7 am, taking 20 hours to sail 41 miles, correcting out to 2nd place. Congratulations to Janina! Mark Keller worked hard through the night to earn the win.

Rubicon III Approaching West End

Rubicon III Approaching West End


Cortez Bank

The  spectacle and wonder of the Cortez Bank was exposed for those few who ventured briefly there. Intense and glorious with power, tall breaking waves hurled boats and stomachs with glee. Such conditions Slacker had not seen, suffering a mild knock down to ensure a cold wet misery. Racing turned to staying warm and getting home.

Reason does not abide such recklessness. Yet within some burns the spirit to experience and accomplish the unusual. My friend and fellow PSSA Board Member Ed Webber passed away last week.   I am deeply saddened that Ed did not get to have the glory of the Cortez Bank in his wake.

Grace on her way South

Grace on her way South



Bishop Rock Race

Bishop Rock Race starts tomorrow, 3pm. 165 miles, weather looks decent: no hail or waterspouts in the forecast, but probably pretty lumpy. Really looking forward to it. You can keep up with the race at as 10 of the 12 boats will have trackers. Slacker’s tracking page is also available. Slacker may decide to slack over on Catalina for an extra day on Monday.

Slacker Tracker

Tomorrow’s Ship Rock & Return Race tomorrow will have 15 boats, including some very fast ones: Airwaves, a Beneteau 50, and Foregiveness, a J/124. Surprisingly 10 are singlehanded, a large turnout for this class. The weather is not cooperating, though. it will be in very light air and maybe some rain showers. Likely a late finish tomorrow night. Many boats will have trackers, including Slacker, so you can follow the race via the Kattack system here.

I’ll get some photos while I’m out there.

By the way, Slacker’s Tracking page will always be available here.

Santa Barbara Island Race

Slacker had a slow time off the start. Conducting Rabbit duties, I stayed to the right in lighter air as the fleet stayed on the favored tack. Then I noticed the kelp trailing off my rudder. A few boat languished in the back, including Tenacity who also had kelp, Grace, and Slow Poke who also decided to go right. I climbed down the stern to do what I could about the kelp, but Slacker never felt quite right beating out to the island. Tenacity backed down and took off, soon out of sight. As I approached the island, Thriller and Rubicon were dueling it out well ahead, while the Pogo2’s and Grace were in my neighborhood.

I struggled to tack cleanly with my 150 genoa and did a few doughnuts near the island, but eventually made it around with Grace close behind. It was good to crack off down the backside! Gybing off Sutil, it took maybe 20 minutes to finally get the spinnaker up and get going to the West End. For the first time, I paid attention to the T-Ten polars in the fluctuating winds. As the wind lightened, I reached up and trimmed the chute in, and then as the wind increased, I reached off below course and worked the sheet and guy most of the way back, until the wind nearly died and went to the North. I dropped the chute and proceeded under genoa for the last few miles, finishing well after midnight. Picked up a mooring at Emerald around 2:30am. Had a lovely morning with Team Open Sailing, Slow Poke and Tenacity at Emerald, then sailed home in 4.5 hours with 15-20 knots on the beam. Of course, Jerome did it in 4 hours.

Emerald Bay, Catalina the Next Morning

PSSA’s Catalina To Port Race

Normally a benign day on the water, PSSA’s 41 mile Catalina to Port race around the backside of Catalina Island this year was anything but. The wind was 25 knots at the start, but the waves were a short period 12 feet. The Committee Boat turned back due to waves up to their bridgedeck. Slacker tried to run a rabbit start, but the conditions were too rough, so the start was: “sail within 100 yards of PV10 after 11:00am.” Of the 24 boats planning to do the race, 6 started, 5 finished. One boat had her dodger damaged by a breaking wave, another boat sustained keel-hull joint damage severe enough to require the Coast Guard to drop a pump so she could make it back to port.

Here is Slacker’s video of the race:

Jerome on Team Open Sailing also had some video:

Ship Rock & Return

Slacker and I had VERY light air for the first 2/3rds of the Ship Rock & Return race. Even Ragtime threw in the towel to go watch the NFL Playoffs. With 14 starters, only 3 finished. Patience was duly rewarded though, and a lovely breeze came up from the East after midnight, and Slacker finished just after 5 am.

Sunset during the Ship Rock & Return Race

Begg Rock 2011

Nine shorthanded boats gathered off the MDR Breakwater on Friday afternoon, March 18, to race 71 miles upwind around Begg Rock, just north of San Nicholas Island and back 60 miles to Cat Harbor.

Conditions were forecast to be moderate Friday night and Saturday, but a storm was looming for Sunday. Onboard my Slacker, I was enjoying the 10 knot conditions on Friday afternoon as the fleet tacked upwind, playing the shifts. Then a distress call alert on my VHF fired off, displaying the lat/long of the vessel in distress. Surely this must be a hoax. A more lovely afternoon was rarely seen. Then Santiago Reyero onboard Koh Samia came up on Channel 16, reporting water was coming in faster through his keelbox than he could manage.

The reactions were swift and impressive. Two PSSA boats, Tenacity and Voice of Reason, diverted course and were on scene in minutes. Slacker, Thriller, and Team Open Sailing also stopped racing and diverted course. First boat on-scene, James McCone onboard Voice of Reason hailed Los Angeles Coast Guard to assist Santi with status updates. Gil McGuire aboard Tenacity recovered some of Koh Samia’s supplies. Within 15 minutes there was a helicopter buzzing past Slacker enroute. The Harbor Patrol and Coast Guard on scene within 30 minutes of the distress call, had Santi off Koh Samia, and were towing the vessel back to MDR. Santi had only gotten his feet wet.

Realizing that Slacker would be late to the event and be superfluous, I headed back upwind towards Begg Rock with my #3 and full main. The wind became quite shifty, causing the autopilot alarms to fire off every 20 minutes. At one point near Santa Barbara Island I was on Port Tack heading straight for Begg Rock, and a minute later I was on Starboard tack heading straight for Begg Rock. By the midnight check-in, 3 boats remained in the race: Runaway, Voice of Reason, and Slacker. The events of the afternoon with Koh Samia and the daunting forecast for Sunday had exercised Skipper discretion. Thriller and Tenacity had decided to seek safe harbor at Catalina to ride out the coming storm, but that is another story.

Daybreak brought light conditions off San Nicholas Island with the three racers in sight of one another. After breakfast & coffee, looking astern I noted several long trails of kelp off Slacker’s rudder, so I backed down twice to no effect. Plan B was stepping down on the transom and pulling. Kelp had wedged between the hull and rudder, but I pulled out what I could. A wonderful morning of sailing ensued. Rounding Begg Rock in light air as the long swells crashed over the reef was mesmerizing.

After rounding the Rock it was an idyllic sail back, close reaching in maybe 10 knots of breeze all day in flat water. Watched probably 100 dolphin on and off, 10 under the bow at a time. The day was only marred by NOAA Weather Radio broadcasting “frequent gusts to 55 knots” on Sunday, and “seek safe harbor.” Runaway as usual was ahead and planned to finish. At the noon check-in, Voice of Reason, a few miles behind Slacker, decided to not finish the course, but to head straight for King Harbor. It was one of those lovely sailing days not soon forgotten as Slacker slipped past Cat Head and the finish line around 8:30pm.

Not wanting to get ride out the storm in Cat Harbor, I decided to return to MDR that night despite my lack of sleep. The last third of the crossing ended up being incredible sailing as Slacker was doing steady 8s and 9s under full main & No. 3 in the increasing rain. A little too much drama after so little sleep. Voice of Reason had made a judicious call. Slacker was safely in her slip by 3am, only 36 hours after the start. I fell asleep listening to the rain patter on deck.