2004Re: [Weta-Trimarans] The Border Run
- Apr 14, 2011I 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
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 - - - - - -
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!
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