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2664Race report: Ithaca Rendezvous

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  • Richard Stephens
    Sep 1, 2011
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      I am getting way behind with my regatta reports! Just too busy sailing and
      having so much fun...

      Six boats attended the Rendezvous at Ithaca, NY last month. The locals, Ben,
      Keith, Clare and myself, were joined by Remi from Baltimore MD and Bill from
      Albany NY. In addition, a prospective Weta sailor, Carl, sailed in Clare's
      place on Saturday.

      On the Saturday, we had a S breeze around 10 that built up to a solid 20 kts
      in the afternoon. Our picnic destination, Taughannock State Park, was 5
      miles downwind from Ithaca, and it took no time at all to get there. As we
      approached the park, some strong gusts were coming in from the West. This
      was only Carl's second time on the boat, and he was having a great time as
      the Weta planed across the lake, up till the point where he fell off the
      back of the boat. Then things were not so fun! Regrettably, I did not set
      him up with the tether (this stronger wind was not forecast). Here is Carl's
      description of the incident.

      "I move out on the trampoline and I edge myself toward the stern, trying to
      lift the bow out of the water, since it seems to be dragging. I am thinking
      that I have to be careful not to fall off, when all of a sudden I am
      falling into the water off the edge I didn't realize was there. I am
      holding onto the tiller. I land in the water and grab for the gennaker sheet
      which is the only line I can reach. I am immediately dragged behind the
      boat. I realize the tiller is broken loose from the rudder, so I try to pull
      myself up to the boat and when I reach the transom, I throw the tiller into
      the cockpit, but I am unable to hold on. I fall back to hang on to the
      spinnaker sheet and am being dragged behind the boat. I see that Ben has
      turned back. I try to fiddle with the steering with my body, but it does
      nothing. At one point I pull on the spinnaker sheet and sheet in the sail,
      and the boat turns downwind on its own. Now I am able to hold on a little
      more easily, but I realize I have no other steering. At one point I get
      back to the transom to try to grab the metal clamp attached to the rudder,
      and I find I can steer somewhat, although the clamp is bent badly. I cannot
      reach any of the other lines, but with a couple more tries I eventually do
      reach the main sheet and uncleat it. Then I pull in the main sheet, and
      unhook the main, but the mainsail simply slams up against the starboard
      shroud and the boat lurches forward.

      After several minutes, Ben circles the boat and I ask him what I should do,
      but I can't hear his response. I see Taughannock point at a distance. I am
      headed directly toward the point. I am thinking that I must try to go toward
      the beach. I am thinking I will never be able to hold on if I miss
      Taughannock, but I have no idea how I can possibly stop once I get there.
      Ben is behind me and I am trying to get back toward the boat because now I
      am worried about going so fast that I will drown because my mouth is under
      water most of the time. I try rolling on my back, but it isn't much better.
      I try pulling on the gennaker sheet again, and I notice it definitely slows
      down as I head more down wind, when I release the tension on the starboard
      sheet, it turns toward the wind and speeds up. At one point I notice the
      bow diving under the waves, and the stern lifting up about 1 foot or more,
      and I wonder if I were to release the boat if it would pitchpole.

      I am afraid of letting go, because the boat will simply keep sailing until
      it crash lands on the beach. Since I am pretty much under control, but
      tired, I decide to continue a bit more. At one point I can feel my shorts
      coming loose and I think I might lose them, but turning downwind again slows
      me down and I am able to save them. I have the GPS and phone in a pouch
      around my neck; my life vest is still uninflated. At one point, I get quite
      desperate and try again to get on the boat, but I get completely tangled
      with the lines around my neck and I am worried I will strangle. I untangle
      the lines and hold on.

      All of a sudden two boats approach on my right and ask if I need help. One
      is a blue motorboat; the other a white sailboat, motoring. On the sailboat a
      man is asking if I need help. I say yes, and he immediately jumps in the
      water about 10 feet from me. I try to slow the boat, but I am moving away
      fast. He takes two quick strokes and catches me. I grab his hand and pull
      him up to the transom, and he hauls himself into the boat in a few seconds.
      I pull myself up to the transom again and tell him we must first furl the
      gennaker - the green lines in the cockpit. He searches for green lines. I
      tell him to uncleat the line and pull. He furls the gennaker and the boat
      slows down. Then he pulls me in, kicking all the while, and I flip my pouch
      full of cell phone and GPS and water into the boat, and slide in behind
      them. We scramble to insert the tiller into the rudder and find that there
      isn't much leverage; the metal clamp is sufficient to steer the boat. I
      re-attach the main sheet, and adjust the jib. The rescuer asks if I am OK,
      and I say yes. He says he will jump off, and I thank him as he leaves. I
      never got his name."

      Well, you can imagine that Carl, who is near retirement age, was a bit
      shaken by the experience. I think, if I had given him the tether, he would
      have been able to get back on the boat much more easily. We had a spare
      rudder/tiller available, and I was able to fix the broken tiller quite
      easily with some epoxy and a bit of fiberglass cloth, so there was no harm
      done.

      At the park, we lifted the boats up onto the grass to keep them out of the
      waves, which were on-shore. We were joined by some of our families, while I
      grilled some of my famous Tandoori chicken. The sail back north into the
      building wind was a lot of fun, and we fully hiked out for almost the whole
      way. Understandably, Carl did not feel up to sailing back, so Remi and I got
      a lift up to the park and double-handed the boat back to the club, arriving
      as it was getting dark. That evening, we joined in the "Pirates Night"
      celebrations at the club, were all the kids dress up as pirates and play
      games, and we have a bonfire and fireworks.

      On Sunday, we planned some informal racing, and Dave Filiberto kindly agreed
      to be a one-man race committee for us. The winds were light, around 6-8
      knots, and gradually died away to the merest zephyr, but we managed to
      complete four races around a 1/2 mile windward-leeward course. Clare got
      three out four 1sts, Keith was able to beat her in one race and came second,
      I was third. Remi invited a friend who lives in Ithaca to sail with him, and
      was double-handed in all except one race.

      We all enjoyed meeting other Weta sailors, and it was valuable for people
      new to the boat to sail with a more experienced fleet. My only regret is
      that Carl decided he won't be joining our fleet, but other than that I think
      the weekend was a great success. In fact we are going to get together again
      soon on the Hudson River (more info coming...).

      Richard.
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