Sunday, July 31, 2016

Getting Squirrely

This weekend we took a break from the 49er and opted for something a little bit bigger and with more buttons. We got a ride on The Secret Squirrel, a canting keel Schock 40 out of Richmond Yacht Club, for the YRA 2nd Half Opener Regatta. Two races over two days and two bullets makes for a good weekend either way, but we had an especially good time on The Squirrel. It was our  first time on something with a keel like that and we geeked out over the hydraulics for longer than we'd like to admit. The boat has some other fun stuff going on too, like a bow rudder and some pretty serious runners. Besides being tutorial is sweet big boat systems, this weekend of racing was great for us insofar as it gave us alternative perspectives on how top level sailors are talking in the boat, what they're talking about, and what they're thinking about around the track. In sailed angles The Squirrel isn' that different from our 49er, so hearing discussion about the current in the bay and what is meant for lay-lines was especially helpful for us. Hearing a bunch of pros talk about the shape of a flat head mainsail (same style as the 49erFX) isn't a bad way to spend an afternoon either. Off the water too, the conversation about boat tune and maintenance really opened our eyes to the level of fine tuning and organization we can bring to our own program. Finally, sailing The Squirrel reminded us of just how much fun a boat full of sailors can be. We get a bit lonely sometimes with just the two of us so being around such a smart, funny, and happy crew was awesome. Thank you so much to Zach Anderson and Will Paxton for having us on board! We loved it.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Time off the Water...

reattaching batten plates on our practice sail
Another major component of sailing and racing the 49erFX is fixing the 49erFX. We are lucky, our boat here on the west coast is a solid one and we have had very few "fix it" days (knock on wood), but we still have ours. Today we had a solid off the water day in the boat yard patching, filling, drilling, and Dremeling. We were both pre-disposed to arts and crafts as children, and we consider this an extension of that early passion. Our projects for the day: patching and reenforcing the luff of the main where the bolt rope had started to rip through, drilling some nicer holes in the wing for our control lines to run through, and making a set of tiller extensions. Thank you to Quantum Sails in Richmond for your expert help with project number one, and thank you to Whale Point Hardware for having an unusually complete selection of West Systems Epoxy; it was just the thing for project number two.

Paging Doctor Boat-Work....
We estimate that for every four hours of sailing we put in an hour of boat-work, and when we compare the two our boat-work learning curve about matches our sailing learning curve. At this point we have the skills to fix almost anything that we can break, and that gives us the confidence to really send it on the water. We can also make the additions and modifications necessary to have a fast and competitive boat, which is a big part of racing in this fleet. From splicing all of our own sheets and control lines to patching our sails to doing fiberglass and carbon repairs we'd say we have come pretty far from our square-knot tying opti days. We still have a ton to learn, off the water and on, but today was good proof of progress for us.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Time on the Water

One of the messages from our coaches that really resonated with us last week was the need for time on the water. This boat is a trip to sail, just making it go forwards requires an incredible about of concentration, but we're looking to do more than just sail. We're looking to race. To that end we need to log those hours sailing now so that when we get to the race course we can think about racing while knowing that the boat is still going forward and turning as it should. This part of training, this logging of hours, this is the grind. Don't get us wrong, we love sailing, but somewhere around figure eight 45 of the day we don't love it with the excitement and bliss of our junior sailing days. We love it for the sweat dampening our wetsuits from the inside out, for the the holes we rip in our knees from falling again and again, for the minute of breathless silence in between sets that we spend doubled over and panting, boat head to wind. We love it for the 9:00 bed times we keep because we can't stay up any longer, and we love it for the aching shoulders we squeeze back into our trap harnesses the next morning, ready to get back to the grind. This isn't the glamorous part of skiff sailing. It's the part that they would make into a montage if they ever made a realistic movie about sailing. But in the boat we don't get the montage. We live every hoist and rounding in real time and sometimes have to remind ourselves that we love it. We do.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Gorge Gorge Gorge

      Sorry for the radio silence. We've been somewhat off the grid camping out (literally) in Cascade Locks, OR at the Colombia Gorge Racing Association (CGRA). But, now we're back in the tech capitol of the world with plenty of wifi and will be posting up a storm, starting with a recap of Gorge 2016. 
Sticking the bear away and going for the kite halyard
         The Gorge is one of the best sailing venues in the country. It's a broad stretch of river half way between the sea and the desert. It's a beautiful place and also happens to be perfectly situated to get one of the sweetest thermals in the country. A typical summer day at CGRA sees 18-35 knots on flat, warm water so it's no mystery that sailors from all over make the pilgrimage up there as often as they can. We made the trip, along with 8 other 49ers and around 30 29ers. While we were the only 49erFX sailing this past week we were definitely in good skiff company, and that provided us with an awesome opportunity to compare our boat handling to others'. Over the course of the week we worked with Zack Maxam, Grant "Fuzz" Spanhake and Morgan Larson on maximizing our speed potential. Thank you so much US Sailing for lining up these awesome coaches. 
hoist, hoist, hoist!
         The week was divided into two parts, a three day clinic first and then a three day regatta. As we were the only FX we trained and raced against the boys in the full rig 49er for both, but with a coaching line up like we had that was hardly a detriment. The Gorge delivered its usual 18-35 every day on the water. During the clinic we worked on fine tuning our upper wind range rig tune with a lot of video and photo feedback from our coaches. We also had the opportunity to practice starting with a full start line, which was huge for us. During the regatta we put that tuned rig and spruced up starts to good use. Racing in conditions ranging from 12 to 35 knots (more wind than we have ever sailed in in this boat) we sailed three hard, rewarding days coming out 5th overall. Considering that our FX mast is about a meter shorter than any of our competitors' (the boys in the 49er full rigs) we are pretty happy with that result. Our week of San Francisco Bay training prior to the Gorge definitely helped us stay upright in Oregon and that was a huge factor in the racing. We had our moments of swimming, but overall we were one of the more upright teams on the water and our results reflected it. 
got that kite up and are ripping downwind in 25 knots of breeze
          Thank you so much to all of our coaches this past week, the US Sailing for organizing a fantastic clinic, to CGRA for running a fantastic regatta, to Kate's parents for showing up to our campsite with food halfway through the week, and to all of the men's teams who pushed us over the past several days. We are back in the Bay now for more training and are feeling motivated and ready to take what we learned in the Gorge and apply it to our every day sailing

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Traveling Skiff Circus

Trying to explain what exactly this boat is to the Oregon trailer authority....
We made it! Yesterday we towed three boats and a truck load of camping gear from Richmond Callifornia to Cascade Locks, Oregon. We arrived late and had to unload and set up tents in the rain but waking up to this place made it all worth it. We love the Gorge. It's a hot, windy, freshwater venue, which is all great, but beyond that the Gorge has this awesome vibe of fast boats and good friends about it and that's the true magic of the place. The camping is another added layer of fun too... at least we think so. We are lucky enough to have a pit crew and a welcome party here as well. James Clappier drove up with us and brought enough tools and chemicals to fix anything and everything we might break here. Kate's parents also came with groceries and a very happy dog; provisions and moral support are key in this game.
After rigging this morning we got on the water for a quick sail before the US Sailing clinic started tomorrow. The conditions were mint and we are also sailing around other 49ers for a change, so we are learning a lot by watching and talking to the other guys. US sailing lined up an awesome coaching staff for the clinic here and we are really looking forward to picking all their brains as well. Monday is day one of the clinic and we are feeling happy, fast, and ready to go.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

And on the third day in Richmond the Skiff Sailing Foundation gave to me....

   A trailer so we can get ourselves and the boat to the next adventure!
a nice day for a picnic in the (boat) park

After some boat work (and breakfast) in the boatyard this morning we got on the water for a short sail in what started out as big breeze. We are feeling better and better in the heavy air and spent a lot of time today focusing on heavy air maneuvers with circle drills and figure eight drills. We also logged a good bit of straight line time working on our steering through waves.

As the wind tapered off we came in and got to planning the next step of Operation West Coast Adventure: getting everything to the Colombia River Gorge. Once again, the Skiff Sailing Foundation is helping us out, this time with a trailer. A couple other skiffs are making the pilgrimage to the Gorge with us on Saturday, so we opted for a big trailer designed for a Marstrom32 and retrofitted with some very high tech 2x4s. Thank you to David Liebenberg and James Clappier for really getting that project going, including replacing all the trailer lights and wires. Tomorrow is our last day in The Bay for a while but we will be back. In the mean time we are looking forward to road trip shenanigans and great sailing with great people in the Gorge.

And so it begins....

After four years of dipping our toes into the 49er FX fleet, we have finally got our show on the road.
We set out last Sunday from Seattle and drove down the coast to San Francisco based on the promise of a boat and breeze. Happy to say the Bay delivered.

Our west coast car, an aging Ford Ranger named Franz, protested through the mountains and around sharp corners but made it safely to Tiburon in good time. Thank you to our Bay Area hosts, the Moody family for your wonderful hospitality. 

The next morning we headed to Richmond Yacht Club to find our boat and Chad. Chad, along with the Skiff Sailing Foundation, is like the fairy god mother of skiffs, and he's been granting our wishes left and right. He hooked us up with a sweet ride and after a day of rigging we got on the water for what we came for: the breeze and waves of San Francisco Bay. We were not prepared.

Day one on the water of our west coast adventure was spent mostly upside-down in the channel. On the plus side we didn't get run over by any barges, all boat parts are in one piece, and we were still smiling coming into the dock. We also got in a pretty sweet run before all the flipping.

On day two The Bay was much gentler to us. We spent the morning tracking down the perfect line for a new main sheet (the one we had on the boat was short and a probable cause of the previous day's upside-down adventures). We found it at Easom Rigging and could not be happier with the line or the guys at Easom. If you are in the area and in need of rigging wisdom, those guys can hook you up. Day two also brought our first race of the summer, Richmond Yacht Club's Wednesday night Beercan race.  And we won! woohoo! With a little bit less breeze than the day before our evening race was the kind of sail that keeps us coming back for more. Thank you so much to Richmond Yacht Club for letting us join your series, we had an awesome time and are feeling so welcomed by everyone at the club. Also, thank you for the bottle of wine trophy and thank you to all our new friends who helped us drink it! We have a few more days here in the Bay before heading up to the Columbia River Gorge for the first stop on US Sailing's Summer Skiff Tour but we will be back.

We are looking forward to all the big air practice to come!
Send it,
Kate and Caroline