Short Staff, Tell Tails and Tall Tales

Racer Patrick Perigaud spied this special moment at the South Beach Yacht Club Island Fever Series race.

Racer Patrick Perigaud spied this special moment at the South Beach Yacht Club Island Fever Series race.

Turns out this was strategic brilliance
The crew on BREAKOUT, Santana 35 owned by Lloyd Ritchey, is ready for a photo.

The crew on BREAKOUT, Santana 35 owned by Lloyd Ritchey, is ready for a photo.

Joan Byrne's Olson 911s Heart of Gold crew soaking up the sun pre-race.

Joan Byrne's Olson 911s Heart of Gold crew soaking up the sun pre-race.

Blue skies and big fluffy white clouds. Lots of water ebb from recent rains. Just a whisper of wind. Saturday, February 25 just before 12 noon. Today I am riding with Lewis Lanier and crew on Stratocaster, a J/32, at the South Beach Yacht Club Island Fever series.

An Afternoon with the Boys
Aside from enjoying the view (San Francisco just below the Bay Bridge), I am spending my afternoon with the boys-only again, including that tall hunky Frenchman Patrick who, despite having lived in the U.S. for a number of years, still retains that thick accent. I single out Patrick because he’s ‘hep to the attention and I know his male counterparts give him props as a talented racer. Also sailing with was Bob, owner of pHatJack the Express 37. Bob is a talented mechanic with expertise in British sports car maintenance. He was also a professional motorcycle racer. We plopped Bob on the bow. Then there’s skipper Lewis. For a professor and Chair of the Microbiology and Immunology at UCSF School of Medicine he’s pretty cool. He’s got lots of big wavy hair and tries not to swear too much in the heat of the moment. And yes, there’s a large guitar with wings on both his spinnaker and crew shirts. I sailed with Jim too. Jim is a criminal lawyer. Jim says he handles those awful kinds of cases with murder and such. Jim and I scrambled between trim and pit ops—headsail, pole, raise and lower chute, downhaul, topper…you know the drill. And I cannot leave out Jordan, new to sailing who volunteered to act as rodent and deck slider.

We’re on the water early to practice some spinnaker sets. All goes well, handled like a breeze in no winds. Race committee is out but they’ve dropped something in the water. No problem, Strat will scoop it up. We surrender the dropped flag to RC and bargain that course 5 be designated for race 1. More boats milling about now and we’re looking at the muck in the water, flow of ebb and tall ships Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain over near Alameda.

Postponement plus Chickpeas
We are now officially in postponement and Patrick quips, “Winds at 0 MPH with gusts of 1 knot.” To that, skipper remarks, “There are chips and beer down below.” Patrick exits and returns with salt and pepper kettle munchies. The snacking must have reminded him about dips. He asks permission to tell an ‘ugly joke’ about Trump, chickpeas and garbanzo beans.

I’ve told the local sailing magazine Latitude 38 that I would be racing and could report. Thing is, no race = no story, so time to get creative. I ask skipper to trail a cool boat so I can do an over-the-water interview; BREAKOUT is always fun. I fetch my notebook. The crew of nine is already lined up on deck and smiling as I call out a first question. No one is replying. Seems they want the photo first. Dive down to camera bag, check settings, emerge, stand on cabin top, snap, snap. Ok, questions. I ask, “What did you do to prepare for the day?” I hear: “get ice” and “put on pants,” then a male voice says, “spend 45 minutes in front of the mirror.”

It’s all a Blur
Eventually the wind fills in and RC calls for race 1. From there it’s a blur—funny how you forget a lot of things when you’re busting your chops. You start sweating under the layers and layers that you cannot reduce because your hands and body don’t stop moving once the action starts on an under-staffed race boat. I know we ran two races. I did wonder why the other boats were rounding the first mark on port, I did pre-feed, and on occasion we did fight to move the pole back because the downhaul was not eased. The chutes went up ok, but the gybes were kinda sucky. The headsail did not always smoothly roll through the furler. The guy on main had to make a few dashes forward, and there was the instance after the chute was dropped and headsail was out that skipper yelled, “just roll in the headsail” even before we were to the mark. Turns out this was strategic brilliance—he opted to let the ebb move us (and bought time for the crew to correct a misled sheet).

With four weekends into the series, and only one of those days actually logging a completed race due to all our lousy weather, we were content to get in two races last Saturday. I was off the boat at 3:55pm and dashing to the street to add more money—just beating the meter man.