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2004Re: [Weta-Trimarans] The Border Run

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  • Bruce Fleming
    Apr 14, 2011
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      I don't think anyone else in SoCal responded on The Border Run, so below
      is the final wrap-up message I composed and sent this evening to my
      mailing list of about 200 non-sailing people that I'd worked with over
      the past 10 years. I've been sending them bi-weekly updates since
      December, in an effort to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma
      Society, and to keep them aware of my existence. Since I lost my job of
      8 years at the beginning of January, I schemed to use this communication
      to keep them in touch with me while I bootstrapped my way into the next
      career opportunity.

      Anyway, it's not a complete picture of the race, but you'll get the
      idea. While all the other Weta were sailing single-handed, I brought my
      12 y.o. son with me. Together, we weigh 215 lb, so we were not much
      heavier than any other boat. It was a lot of fun, this first
      point-to-point race I've entered in nearly 30 years.


      - - - - - - - - - The Border Run Wrap Up - - - - - -

      Ahoy Friends!

      This is a wrap-up, a final update on our racing in The Border Run (TBR)
      and our efforts to raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
      (LLS). The race was last Saturday, April 9, and I'm sorry to keep
      everyone in suspense this week. I began working on this email update
      soon after the race, then stopped when I worried that it was too long
      and detailed. I figured I'd take a day off and come back to it; but then
      the rest of life's details started creeping in. Here's the whole thing,
      since part of this campaign has been to share with you my love of
      sailing and the fun of a race like this.

      Thank You for Your Donations

      I am really happy that single-handedly, Andrew and I raised $2185 for
      the LLS. 41 people read and responded to my invitations, opened up their
      wallets, and made that possible. The average donation was $53! Although
      there were four boats ahead of us in the fund raising ranks, we were the
      top-funded team on the Sprint Course. Those other boats ahead of us were
      big, 40 to 75 footers, so we were probably the smallest boat to raise
      more than $1000. I believe we had the highest donation-to-crew size
      ratio, too. Thank you for your support! Although it's difficult to see
      as little as $25 making a difference, every bit adds up. Racers this
      year generated over $50,000 for the LLS. Your contribution will make a
      difference, and the folks at the LLS are very happy to receive your
      support. This was a low-cost fund raising event, so 100% of your
      donations will go to the cause.

      The Logistics Were a Head Ache, but We Had a Blast

      In a long-distance point-to-point race like TBR, we have to set up and
      launch the boats in one location, then get all our cars and trailers and
      related shore support gear to the destination so they will be there when
      we arrive. But, of course, we still need to get back to the boats in
      time to launch and get to the Start Line on time. None of us came to
      this race with companion drivers, so we all had to rig our boats; dash
      with all the other gear in our vehicles to Dana Point; and then grab a
      "shuttle" back to the launch. This shuttle was a high school son of a
      friend of a friend who didn't mind giving rides to a handful of sailors
      early on a Saturday morning, to the tune of $20 a head. Cheaper than a
      cab! All this movement of sailors and gear added an hour and a half to
      our pre-race preparations, so we had to get a very early start on the
      day or risk missing the race.

      Dawn broke on Saturday to some heavy thunder clouds and otherwise clear
      skies. We arrived at the launch site, a tiny public beach next to the
      harbor patrol base in Newport, around 6:15 and started rigging our
      boats, only to be rained on for about 45 minutes. It was cold! High 40s,
      I think. My hands hurt, and then they get numb, when it's cold and
      rainy. It's difficult and painful to rig the boat in that stuff, but the
      clock was ticking. Andrew hung out in the warm car, and I kept one hand
      wrapped around a cup of coffee. It was really cold until the squalls
      passed, and by 9:30 it had warmed up.

      Seven or eight of the nine of us Weta sailors got our cars, trailers,
      and beach dollies delivered to Dana Pt by 8:30 and caught our "shuttle"
      back to the launch site. Ready to go by 10 a.m. as the sun came out and
      we finally got warm. It's always odd to be breaking a sweat while
      slithering into full-length wet suits, thick socks and neoprene boots,
      when the air temperature says "take it off and get a tan!"

      The Adventure Begins When the Wetas Hit the Water

      We launched with about six or seven other Wetas and drifted--upwind, and
      against the incoming tide--out the harbor entrance to get out to the
      start line off Balboa Pier. We joined the steady stream of sailboats of
      all sizes parading out of the Newport harbor channel under power of
      their "auxiliary" engines. Small boats like ours don't have an engine
      aboard so we had leverage the light winds and battle a strong incoming
      tide in the narrow channel. It felt like that old saying, "one step
      forward, two steps back..." as we zig zagged back and forth into the
      wind, while the current pushed at us just about as much as we sailed
      into it. A couple of Weta were given tows by passing boats, but Andrew
      and I weren't that fortunate and had to tough it out on our own. Lucky I
      brought a folding kayak paddle! It came in handy.

      Once past the breakwater at the entrance to the channel, we broke out of
      the grip of the current, and we were able to bear away and set the
      screacher, a colorful and round sail that's designed for off-the wind
      sailing. That finally got the boat scooting. It took us probably 45
      minutes to move that three quarters of a mile from the launch beach to
      the harbor entrance, but only 10 minutes to cover the one mile from
      entrance the start line off the pier!

      Controlled Chaos at the Start Line

      The wind was light, about 5 mph, so nobody was sailing very fast. Still,
      the Start area was a zoo. Imagine 230 boats, ranging in size from 14 to
      80 feet long, mixing with a couple dozen spectator boats, three
      helicopters overhead. It was utter mayhem with handfuls of boats
      crowding to the start line every 5 minutes, and launched into their race
      with the punctuation of a 12 gage shotgun blast. The starting line
      itself is an imaginary line about 200 feet long, stretched between a
      bright orange, pyramid shaped, inflated buoy the size of a Mini Cooper,
      and a power boat the size of a school bus. The start is a "flying
      start", where the boats try to cross the starting line immediately after
      the starting gun, going as fast as they can. Crossing early is a no-no,
      and slowly creeping up to "park" on the line is the slowest way to go.
      Everyone else will sail right by if they time their approach correctly.
      The Race Committee boat (that floating school bus) signals each fleet's
      5 minute count down with a sequence of flags and horns, whistles, and
      cannon or gun blasts at particular minute increments. Most of the crew
      on the deck wear ear plugs.

      The Wetas arrived by 11:30, so we watched six or seven fleets take off
      before our turn, and generally sailed around all the other boats to show
      off how fun and easy our boats are to sail. I think we were the 3rd to
      last fleet to start, at 12:10 p.m.. The Sunfish, and Lasers, and Hobie
      16s were slated to start 5 minutes later. So, by the time we were
      converging on our 5-minute countdown, roughly 200 boats had cleared the
      area. The Weta fleet converged on a stretch of about 40 yards on the
      line near the Committee boat, but Andrew and I had clear space around
      us. I think we had a perfect start. We hit the starting line with clear
      area to windward and to leeward (no boats to get in our way) going fast,
      and pointed in the right direction, BOOM! right at the gun! Our rivals
      were all slightly behind, to leeward, or both.

      And We're Off!

      As we settled down to keep the boat moving in the oscillating breeze, we
      took our eyes off the competition. I pointed the boat South, toward Dana
      Point in the distance, but resolved to sail the boat a few degrees west
      of that angle, so we could stay in the breeze that I estimated would be
      stronger offshore. This was a tough angle to sail, close to pointing too
      far into the wind since it was blowing from the South Southwest. In less
      than 5 minutes, while we were focused on picking our line to sail to The
      Point, our rivals snuck ahead, to leeward of us. Bearing away 10 degrees
      and unfurling their screachers, they had a noticeable jump in speed. We
      immediately followed suit to stem the bleeding, but now we were chasing
      at least one boat firmly ahead of us about one quarter mile.

      As the race continued, Dave "Davo" Berntsen kept his lead in front of us
      and occasionally stretched it further. We occasionally accelerated in a
      local puff and reeled in some of his lead, but in the end, we chased him
      the rest of the way to Dana Point. Matt Bryant, back on the water two
      weeks after a nasty kite boarding crash (bruised kidney, ruptured
      spleen) had sailed deep into the area to leeward of us, just off the
      beach. He also seemed to pull ahead. I guessed that he made that move
      because he had some local knowledge about the breeze close to shore.
      After the race, he affirmed this---often there's better wind close to
      shore on a typical day along this stretch of coast. In the end, it did
      not pay because the conditions weren't typical. We caught up with him
      as we arrived at the cliffs of Dana Point, and passed him on the final
      1/4 mile stretch around the corner to the finish. Davo solidly won,
      finishing the 14 nautical mile course in 2 hrs, 1 minute. Seven knots
      of speed in a breeze of only five to six knots is pretty good for any
      sailboat, for sure. Having a couple more years of experience on the
      Weta, he knew how to keep it in "the groove" the whole way. Well done!
      Andrew and I took Second Place, about 4 minutes after Davo, and Matt
      pulled in 3rd, about 3 minutes behind us, ready to go home and nurse his
      wounds. The others straggled in over the next 30 minutes.

      While there were ominous forecasts for cold and windy weather, the
      sailing was actually quite pleasant. Much warmer than we expected. Winds
      were light, out of the south west, at about 6 knots, so we were sailing
      on a close reach and barely able to keep our screachers full. I expected
      much colder, windier conditions, which would have been a lot of fun for
      the seasoned racers, but probably not at all fun for Andrew. So, I'm
      glad this first time was pleasant.

      We Were Guests in Their Playground

      Probably the best part of the whole race, for Andrew at least, was when
      we encountered a huge pod of dolphins near the 1/2 way point. They were
      swimming northward while we were sailing south. Risking allegations of
      marine mammal harassment, I aimed our boat to sail through the whole
      pod. It stretched for 200 yards! They seemed intent to just swim around
      (or under) us and keep going. I don't know how they could see us coming
      at them (maybe their sonar?) but they kept a wide distance from our
      boat, even directly ahead of us. No frolicking and circling the boat
      like I've seen before in Hawaii. Strictly business. The pod had places
      to go...fish to eat... Seeing these animals in the wild is always a
      treat. They are magical.

      Time to Head Home

      The best sailing was when the winds picked up immediately after we
      crossed the finish line. The wind finally "filled in" and started to
      build in the fun zone of 10 to 15 mph as we coasted through the pastel
      green water and kelp beds off Dana Point. We reached back and forth a
      couple times in the building breeze, then decided it was time to wrap it
      up, so we headed into the harbor. We landed at the beach near the
      swimming area of Dana Cove Park, and took another hour to de-rig and
      trailer our boats. We were done and ready to head home by 3:30 p.m.

      Some Final Words

      I hope that you have enjoyed these updates over the past 3 months. Given
      no structure or framework by the race organizers for the fund raising
      activities, I decided early on to make my messages to you something more
      than a repeated plea for money and repetitious, pre-fabbed, marketing
      fluff. I've tried to make my them interesting and uplifting, with the
      hope that you will enjoy learning about me and my biggest passion. You
      probably recognized, too, that I was using these updates to keep in
      touch with so many people I've gotten to know over the years, while I've
      been working on a career transition.

      The time and effort of preparing for this race and the fund raising has
      been well spent. At the least, on days that my job prospects were not
      looking good, it gave me a good reason to get out of bed in the morning
      and face the day. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time...but a
      little salt and pepper can make that easier to swallow.

      There are other regattas and races we'll be doing in the coming months,
      but not with any fund-raising component, so you can rest assured I won't
      be bugging you to give again. J Maybe next year? I'm already looking
      forward to it!


      Fair Winds,

      Bruce



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