Two weeks ago we took 4th place in the Annapolis-Newport Race, sailing on Sleijride in PHRF II. It’s the first time I’ve done an ocean race at all. John Gorski, a friend and former neighbor at Sarles Boatyard in Annapolis, took Mia and I along as skipper and mate for a race that’s been on his bucket list for a while now. He attempted it in 2009 when he owned the Swan 39 Kathryn , but they hd to bail in Atlantic City. I promised him this time we’d make it at least.
Newport Race, by Rory Finneren
The goal was to sail the boat as hard as we could without breaking anything. Rounding out the crew were Mike Meer, from Southbound Rigging, Rory Finneren from DC (whom I had never met – he simply responded to my ad on Facebook…my record of taking inexperienced crew offshore is now 3-for-3), Dennis Jud, who’d sailed in the Caribbean 1500 in 2010 on his Shearwater 39 Centime (which is now in Panama awaiting to cross to the Pacific), and John. None of us had ever sailed together before, Mia has never raced (at all) and Rory had never been offshore.
Long story made sort of short: we bombed down the Bay under spinnaker, dousing it just before dark around 9pm when the wind got up, and made the Bridge Tunnel in 20 hours, where we sat becalmed for another two within 200 yards of it, narrowly avoiding having to fire up the engine and retire when a small freighter tried to come in the channel; then we bombed out the Bay again towards Chesapeake Light, the first turning mark, under spinnaker again ahead of a nasty little squall line, before dousing it just in time to watch a Swan behind us who’d waited a tad too long and broached 3 times under asymmetrical, his masthead awfully near the water. We rounded Chesapeake Light in 10th place out of 10 in our class, and spent the next day and half kicking ass on the offshore leg, mostly to windward, and climbing up into 4th. We crossed the finish in heavy fog, with visibility limited to less than 200 yards, and a boat appearing out of the fog to our port on starboard tack, gybing only metres behind us as we beat him across the line. But we got 4th in PHRF II – 4th! – and 12th our of 30-something overall in PHRF. I think I’m hooked on ocean racing. It was effing awesome. Biggest lesson learned? Despite not being racers, and sailing on a J/37 ‘C’ cruising model boat with a shallow draft keel and ‘normal’ (read Dacron) sails (albeit new), I think we had a distinct advantage in that all of us (save for Rory) were experience ocean sailors. There is a big difference between round-the-buoys racing and ocean sailing, particularly at night and in heavy weather, which we had for some of the trip. And we stuck to the rhumb line, not overcomplicating things. Maybe we just got lucky. But I like my theory.
There was only a couple days to spare between driving home from Newport and heading back out on my dad’s Sojourner for the DelMarVa Rally, sponsored and organized in part by Spinsheet, the magazine that gave me my start in writing. In the meantime, Mia flew off to Sweden for Midsummer with a couple of her girlfriends (the post she wrote is in Swedish, but you’ve got to check this out if only for the photos, and there are lots of them – they went to Sandhamn, the big sailing island outside Stockholm where the Royal Swedish Yacht Club (KSSS) has a summer base. The photos at dusk were actually taken at 0230 in the morning…)
Mia installing a Hi-Mod fitting on Sojourner’s rigging.
Dad, Mia and I, prior to the Newport Race, had been spending most of the spring following Atlantic Cup (newly renamed ARC USA by the way) refitting Sojourner . Mike and the guys at Southbound had pulled the rig just before we left for Bermuda, and had it laying on the mast rack at Port A when we returned. Casey Alexander, the dude who delivered Saudade from St. Thomas to Bermuda with me drove up from DC to help build the new Harken furler, and my dad and I spent the next couple of weeks redoing the standing and running rigging. Matt at Southbound swaged the top of the shrouds and dad, Mia and I installed Hi-Mod compression fittings at deck level, both for added strength and to save on rigging labor. We converted the rig from continuous to discontinuous (meaning the intermediate shrouds terminate at the lower spreaders with a turnbuckle, the added load taken up by the vertical (V1) shroud going from there to deck level. Upside? Cleaner at the deck. Downside? You’ve got to go aloft to tune them). I taught Mia and my dad how to install a Hi-Mod, and we’d do three-at-a-time together in the yard, which was good fun. I also taught them how to do a core-to-core splice, and we did three-at-a-time halyards with VPC in the rig shop.
Matt had spliced up the new lifelines, which we tension with lashings rather than turnbuckles (way cheaper! and pretty cool too!), and he’d finished them only about 10 minutes before we picked up my friend Ryan and his girlfriend Kristen in Ego Alley in town in Annapolis. Ryan (the other ‘Inspired Guy’ from the podcast, which is returning soon by the way after a lengthy hiatus) had hatched a plan to propose to Kristen on the boat that he and I had been discussing for a couple months, and it went off without a hitch. We met them for drinks at Metropolitan on the rooftop up on West Street in Annapolis to celebrate later that evening, and our other best friends Nate and Christina came down the next day for a little sail over to Cantler’s and some crab crackin’. Good times!
But that was even before the Newport Race, so I’m a little off topic. At any rate, when Mia left for Sweden, dad and I did the DelMarVa. Ron Horton, on his 21st rally since 2003, came along as crew (Ron is the leader of the ‘real’ Salty Dogs, the group of C1500 crew who have done more than 10,000 miles with the rally). My dad, only half jokingly, wants to marry Ron for his skills in the galley. He’s amazing. Jim Surge, another of the Salty Dogs rounded out that crew, and we ended up winning an award for motoring the least out of the 26 boat fleet as we made our way down the Chesapeake, offshore, and up the Delaware, Annapolis-Annapolis in a week, with a short stop in Hampton. We endured a weather delay there by renting a car and driving to Portsmouth for a scouting mission for the C1500 next fall. I made some awesome contacts with some local businesses, and am very excited about the program for next fall, which includes a party at a 1940s-era movie theatre and a couple cocktail hours in a nautical relics museum/shop. Oh, and don’t forget the Bier Garden. I love German food (I mean beer).
Ok enough promotion. I’m writing this from Sweden now, finally catching up to the present. It’s 10:45 pm and it’s very light outside. I just got back from a fast 10k run through the forest and around the road that goes by the church where Mia and I got married in 2011. My last mile of the run I did in 6:25. Not too bad. I feel good for next week’s marathon, which has REALLY snuck up on me. I’ve been managing to keep up with the running despite all the sailing we’ve done, and will head out for one last 30k tomorrow in Västerås, where Arcturus has been laid up all winter.
Arcturus this afternoon just before we took the cover off.
Speaking of which, we were down today for the first time (I flew in yesterday), and took the winter cover off and started planning for the new engine installation. The decks were dirty, as you’d expect from a winter in the boatyard, but the batteries hadn’t exploded (yay!), and the interior is mold free! We went in and talked to the yard manager who’s going to help us lift out the old motor and put in the new one, and met Charlie the parrot again, the very loud-mouthed white Cockatoo that lives in the office. Our friend Micah from Annapolis, who works for Osmotech restoring old Swans and laying teak decks, is coming over in a week and a half to help us install the new Beta 16.
And then, eventually, we’re off to Åland, the Finnish archipelago whose people speak Swedish and who have their own flag. Mia’s best friend Johanna lives there, so we’ll be exploring on the boat for a bit sometime in late July, and we’ll be in Sweden until September. Good times! I’ll try and do better from now on in keeping this current, because that was a mouthful.