This weekend was an eventful one. RIR hosts the final Nextel Cup race before Chase the first Saturday night in September. It is one of the events I look forward to all summer. It ends up being a "Guys day". We go to the track early to tailgate. We grill some good food, drink beer and take in the sights. The sights are usually worth the price of the ticket. There is something about racing, alcohol and warm weather that lowers the inhibitions and brings out the exhibitionists. It is great fun and gets better when the drinkers inevitably go from just being drunk to being stupid drunk. I think of it as a people watchers paradise.
This year Hanna paid us a visit. No, I'm not referring to a woman at the track I'm referring to Tropical storm Hanna. She arrived Friday afternoon and commenced to stop all race activity till Sunday afternoon. It was actually a blessing because I would be able to try some high wind sailing. It may seem stupid that a person of my limited skill would look forward to sailing in a tropical storm but how else do you improve if you don't push the envelope. Of course I always take proper safety precautions. Don't sail alone, flotation vest even though the water was shallow, sail in safe location, etc... I even went out and got a helmet just in case.
The really good local sailors headed out early to catch the Southerly winds at Buckroe beach. A place that is well beyond my skill level. I held back a bit and waited till around noon. I knew that as the storm center got closer and the wind would start to shift and allow me to sail at Factory Point, one of the safer launches, in extreme conditions.
I did drive by Buckroe on my way to Factory Pt. just to see what it was like and to snap some photos of the action. The winds were SSW averaging 25 to 30 when I took these shots.
Click photos to enlarge
Unfortunately for me the crew that was there earlier had already packed up and headed home so I didn't get any action shots. There wasn't a whole lot of post session chatter but what I did read was this. (Please bear with me as this is my interpretation of the cypher.) The conditions were extreme it was all or nothing, no time to be timid. Some made it, some didn't, some ended up with busted gear.
When I showed up at Factory Pt. I expected there to be some people out sailing. Not a soul was there. The wind here was slightly offshore and really strong. It was averaging 28 mph on my handheld anemometer. There was no way I was going out alone so I sat around and waited. After about an hour A couple people showed up, looked at the conditions and determined it to be to strong and off shore for them and headed back home.
I really wanted to sail so I waited a little longer hoping the wind would drop off or someone else would show up. About 3:30 there was a message on the Letsrig mailing list from Alexander looking for a place to sail. I relayed the conditions where I was, now WSW averaging 28 and continuing to clock more west. While I was waiting for him to show the wind went due west and increased averaging 35 with gusts well over 40 for a good 20 minutes. I was thinking that I wouldn't get the chance to sail at all because there would be no way I could hold down my smallest sail, a 4.1 in those winds.
35mph average on the Back river
This is the highest windspeed I recorded. several much stronger gusts rocked the truck while I waited.
The winds did start to come back down and another sailor showed up. Craig was traveling through on his way to Myrtle Beach, SC. and decided to stop based on what he had read on the WET website regarding this launch. Alexander and John Quinn drove up in quick succession. Now it was on, 3 of us rigged our 4m sails and John rigged 4.5. Craig was the first out and it looked like the sail choice was right.
Craig setting up for a Jibe
John finishing rigging his 4.5
Almost forgot the fin.
John did well holding down the 4.5 and even had it bagged out by the end of the session.
I first tried my Cross 102. I beach started and immediately went for the straps, the tail sunk the fin dug into the sand bottom and the wind dumped me. I tried again. This time I'll try to plane first then get in the straps then hook in. That attempt ended with and explosion of spray as the sail was ripped out of my hands by a gust as I blasted across the water. Next attempt plane, hook in, then straps. Result, catapult before I could get to the straps. I decided I didn't want to destroy my board so I headed back to the launch for a board change. I was dunked twice on the way back in but did manage to sail in control a good bit of the way, no straps or harness I just kept hanging off the boom like a monkey.
I grabbed my big board the 145L plastic Hifly Matrix, put the smallest fins I had on it and set out again. I know you might be thinking... More volume in those conditions???? I did this because I was told by a wise instructor to sail what I am comfortable on when trying something new. Now I'm not one to take baby steps so I had to at least try to use the smaller board first. The problem was I could have gotten in more sailing had I heeded his advice.
On the Matrix I still had the same problem, every time I went for the straps I would explode into the water. I went back to the beach and moved the straps to the novice position and problem solved. Made a couple runs, completed some tacks even attempted a jibe or two, all with only a few minor crashes. John did give me some high wind sailing advice before I got on the water that really helped. He told me to sheet in the sail instead of out to spill power in the gusts. It worked like a charm. I was starting to get comfortable but the wind was getting holey and the water was getting pretty shallow so it was time to call it a day. It was pretty cool though. I can now say I've sailed a Tropical Storm and I also got to use my 4.1 sail. Alexander mentioned it was good that I got to use it because it's the sail most likely to collect dust around here.
Just before we left we did spot a couple people sailing the Messick Point launch and I snapped these photos. Don't know who they are but they were flying across the water.
( Edit: 1 sailor identified, Dave T. )
There were a couple things that I learned. First, the over sheeting advice from John for sailing high winds was priceless.
Second, and I have to thank James for pointing this out as I certainly would have left the board at home. For learning something new or sailing in different conditions than your use to, it may be better to use a board that you are comfortable with rather than one that is more in line with the conditions. Now this may only be true in this specific instance because of the boards design or because of the venue but it was definately easier to sail the big board. The reason I say the venue might have helped is because even though the wind was upper 20's to mid 30's the chop and swell didn't get to bad.
That brings me to the third thing Factory Point is definitely a friendly venue especially if you are working on improving you skills. Just be mindful of the tides because of shallow water.
We did get to enjoy the race on Sunday. The tailgating was not nearly as fun as usual because of the midday start and the absence of my friends Rick and Frank. They both had to work Sunday so the postponement was bad news for them, fortunately they didn't have to eat the cost of tickets. The biggest disappointment other than Johnson winning, was having to listen to the Cleveland Browns get beat by the Cowboys while sitting completely stopped in post race traffic for 2 hours.
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