Saturday, September 12, 2015

Blackbeard Sailing Club, Argghhhh!

That's Pirate speak for, holy cow, what a day!

Scots down. Here are six of the nine dismasted boats waiting to get pumped out and pulled onto their trailers... photo courtesy Mike Funk

Ben and I decided at the last minute to drive to New Bern, NC, for the Atlantic Coast Championships. We had always wanted to participate in that event, one of only four national events the FSSA sanctions. Plus, we've always wanted to sail at Blackbeard, since it is near Ben's parents' home.

As you can imagine, it's a long drive. Total drive time was at least 14 hours. We pulled in Friday night and had a nice dinner with Ben's parents. This morning we were up with the birds and headed to the club to rig our boat. We were happy to catch up with several North Carolina sailors we know, including Joe Brake, Dave Safirstein, Joe Price, Charlie Buckner and several others, not to mention Rob Whittemore and John Wake from Maryland.

After the race committee meeting, Ben and I headed out. It felt strangely familiar to sail here, even though we'd only ever been on these waters with Ben's parents' motorboat. Winds were predicted out of the southwest at about 13. A gust line showed up when Ben looked this morning, but nothing to get too worried about. In fact, before the race began, the wind seemed to come down quite a bit.

Things changed after that. By the time the first race started (a four-leg race with a downwind finish), winds had picked up a bit and it looked like we had a good day of sailing ahead of us. And the first three legs were great. The fleet was really competitive, and we counted 22 boats on the line. Ben and I had a crummy start when a boat tacked right at the pin on top of us. We tacked and footed across the fleet to try to get clear air. That seemed to work okay and we were probably about 8th around the first mark. We managed to catch a few boats and lose a few boats the next couple legs. The sky off to the north started to look ominous, but we thought it would scoot by us. Unfortunately, Blackbeard had his revenge.

Just about the time Ben and I finished and dropped our chute, all hell broke lose. Even though we knew we were getting some more wind, we thought with the spinnaker down we'd be fine. Wrong! Someone said someone on the race committee boat clocked the winds at 50 mph. We thought we could outrun it, but we miscalculated and were just overpowered. Over we went. Next came storm and winds like we've never been in. We mostly just took cover on the lee side of the boat, but twice the wind picked up our mast, righted our boat and over we went the other way. Finally we were able to get our sails down, the winds and rain let up and we were able to take stock.

We were lucky. We only broke a boom. I am not exaggerating when I tell you I saw nine dismasted boats get towed in. Based on a very informal survey, I think three of the 22 boats managed to stay upright. Carnage, baby!!

Having said that, however, no one was injured. Everyone chipped in and helped everyone else. The support boats were fantastic, very experienced and extremely helpful. And I just have to give a shout out to Joe Brake, who organized a fantastic event. You can't control for Mother Nature!!!

With the amount of damage, it was decided to end the event today. Ben and I went out to dinner with his parents. We'll pack up the boat tomorrow and start our journey home.

Smooth sailing all!!

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