Thursday, July 31, 2008

Shark Still Teething

Well, it looks like I am finally going to get a little racing in. Readers of Montreal Sailing might recall I picked up a Shark to try my hand at racing with what some believe is the best racing class in Canada. The boat was a very fair deal, and I knew that I would be spending a lot of time making changes to set the boat up like the great examples of Sharks at Beaconsfield Yacht Club. Well, a lot of grinding metal, changing of rigging, standing and running, fixing up spinnaker gear, riveting, and so on, the boat, currently called Mainsail, has begun its transformation from a solid, basic club racer to a bona fide member of the Montreal Shark community. I hope its previous owner will approve and enjoy a sail on her one day.

This is not to say that both the boat and the skipper don't have a lot more improvements in store. Frankly, I stink! DFL, or close to it is the standard to better at the moment. After a couple of club races, and one regatta, further evidence in the standings have shown how difficult this boat is to learn. All seems well until we sail anywhere near another Shark and see how slow and low we race.

Hopefully, a couple of simple changes, like tell tales I can see on the opposite side of the sail, getting the windex back on, and getting more familiarity with the boat will have us more competitive before too, too long. Other issues will be more challenging. I picked up a North genoa at the Shark regatta in Oakville, and some reasonable sails from Paul Baehr, at a better than fair price. I still owe him a few beers. This was a huge improvement. However, sails and trim are still a dark area. I tried an old main sail in the last Good Neighbours race, primarily because it had the correct numbers on it. For some reason, this sail has a bizarre belly along the foot that can't be right! No amount of outhaul, vang, and cunningham changed its shape. Without a black band indicator, perhaps it was simply the halyard. We were just guessing at genoa trim, but didn't get its cunningham sorted out, so sailed with scallops in pretty strong wind. Pointing was so poor, I had to luff up to avoid boats, and overstand the marks to make sure I would nail them.

Of course none of this (particularly my helmsmanship), had anything to do with our placing DFL. That responsibility, I am relieved to say goes to our confident foredeck crew, June. We had decided not to fly the chute on the first run due to high winds and a report sent to the back of the boat, that the running rigging looked wonky. One of my pending upgrades is new Harken #6 winches for flying the chute, as yet uninstalled. The crew thought this decision applied to the race in its entirety, and dutifully removed the sheets, being as neat as they are. The wind softened for the next sausage, and approaching the mark, I called for the spinnaker pole to be mounted. The crew looked at me in a quizzically fashion... Left to white sails on that leg we lost many boats passed earlier in good shifts. Still, not a crewmember to sit back, June lept in to action, and prepped the lines for the next downwind leg. She had them attached to the sail and led around the forestay with impressive speed. Obviously, feeling like a cat leaping around the boat with nary a change in the hull's balance, she stood up straight on the leeward cockpit seat, and bent over at the waist to thread the rope through the last block at her feet. Of course, that was the perfect time for a healthy puff to heel the boat smartly, and give us a burst of speed. June gracefully launched into the air, and exhibited a remarkably beautiful swan dive into the water!

Hooray! We now had the most splendid excuse for our certain DFL. Even better yet, this being my first real "crew overboard" emergency, I am pleased to report a recovery of the sailor within approximately 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. We actually closed in on Shelby's Tanzer 22, but he still crossed ahead. We had an exciting evening, a story to tell at the clubhouse, scotch to warm our still cheery, but wet celebrity, and finally, a lot more sailing to look forward to.