Date: June 18, 2003
Course: Hardwicke Island to Telegraph Cove
Distance: 40.30 nautical miles
The Agony & The EcstasyWe slept on board the Cheekee Monkee last night. I had the forward stateroom, Colin and Jason shared opposite sides of the main cabin and Joe slept outside on the netting under the protection of the industrial grade tarp that we carried expressly for this purpose. All night long, the wind blew strong, whistling through the rigging, slapping waves up against the hull. The flags rattled and snapped in the breeze. I woke first, after a long while of trying to keep sleeping, but the excitement of the race is too great.
My shower was a bottle of water over the head and a cold shave. High overcast and the wind is still blowing, should be a fun day. Its 06:00, the fleet is starting to leave the dock and our crew needs to get up at at’em.
By 06:30, we are on our way powering down the channel towards the starting line, fighting both the wind and the current. The start line is set between the committee boat just off the shore of Hardwicke Island and the day marker on Eden Point. The current is now pushing the entire fleet across the line. We start OCS (On Course Side), and sail towards the line to get our start right at the committee boat, which we though was the favored end of the line. We had a good start and clear air. The wind was blowing about 15 knots and we had the small jib and the full main up. We beat up the channel and shot out into the lead, or so we thought (well into the lead behind Dragonfly) the next thing we know, half the fleet is ahead of us and Dragonfly. That half went up the east shore behind and island and we went up the west shore on the other side, what a surprise. We thought we had the wind, but the other boats had the current, and they also got a good breeze that we couldn’t see when we sailed over to the west side.
The wind had lightened up a little and we were running the screecher and full main, I called for a jib change, from the small jib to the big jib, I felt the wind wouldn’t strengthen too much. Big mistake.
We hit the wind line, furled up the screecher and set the big jib. We were over canvassed. Just about the time, I am thinking we should reduce sail, we meet up with the tail end of the east fleet and they catch us on port tack. The crew calls for me to duck too starboard tack yachts, I call for the main sheet to be eased as I can’t steer down in these strong winds with just the rudder, the sails steer the boat. Out goes the main. Up comes the tiller and down goes the Cheekee Monkee and I do mean down. We promptly submerged the starboard AMA (right hull) all the way up to the AKA (cross support) and it looked like we would T Boone the mono hull in front of us if the hull pooped back up. Plan “B” that plan calls for a crash tack onto starboard to avoid the collision. This was well executed except the consequences proved fatal for the jib; we tore a 5′ panel out of the sail with the spreaders.
Well it’s a darn good thing I have a spare (back at the truck). That won’t help me with the rest of today’s race. As I mentioned, we had already blown the lead tactically by choosing the west shore and now we had a huge hole in the jib and we were dead in the water. Colin got the Jib down and the wind (did I mention that it was now blowing about 20 knots?) decided to blow the sail back up the forestay and over the side. Jason and Colin struggled for several minutes to contain the Cuben Fibre monster as it thrashed about the deck and under the water. Finally, exhausted and very frustrated, they manage to get the sail off and down below. Back up on deck comes the small jib, but now we have a new problem, the jib halyard has blown out behind the mainsail and managed to snag itself on the end of a batten half way up the leech. Finally after wrestling with the halyard, we contain the situation and get the small jib up. More than 15 minutes elapsed while all this was going on. For boats capable of sailing upwind at speeds in excess of 10 knots, it looked like the Cheekee Monkee was going to have a rather poor showing on this leg.
The wind is still building so we take in a reef to the main and with grim determination, we head for the east shore of the channel to start chasing down the leaders, (well actually most of the fleet). The interesting thing that we noticed was that the leaders that did so will on the east shore were now sailing up the west shore and that didn’t seem to make any sense. We went with the east shore, if it helped in the early stages, why wouldn’t it still be the place to be?
We found a narrow consistent 2 knot current channel on the east shore, so we stayed there. We started making good gains on the fleet. The wind eased up some and we shook out the reef. The wind eased again later and we raised the screecher. At this point we were pushing it for the screecher in terms of wind speed, but the crew all wanted to go fast and on the Cheekee Monkee, that is how it’s done. Tacking the screecher up the east shore was and incredible amount of work for the crew. It was challenging from the wind strength point of view, we blew about 10% of our tacks and would get stuck in irons wasting precious time trying to recover. Fortunately for us, after lunch (of which we had none, as we were too busy), the wind eased some more. We had now sailed past most of the fleet; we were closing in on the multi hulls and the leading mono hulls.
As the wind lightened, our competitors all rolled out their screechers; the conditions were starting to favor the Cheekee Monkee. We kept going up east shore until, lo and behold, there in the distance was Dragonfly, sitting in the no wind zone. They must have been there for a couple of hours. We kept passing boats and getting closer to the no wind zone. Now we had to tread together patches of wind. Closer and closer we got to Mystic, the lead div 1 boat and Dragonfly, the race leader. Tacking back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. We finally pass Mystic, a few minutes later we pass Dragonfly. What a comeback! From almost last place to first place!!! You know what they say…..It ain’t over till it’s over!
The race committee broadcasts over the VHF radio, “For all those sports fans out there, Cheekee Monkee has just taken the lead from Dragonfly!”
We are leading Dragonfly and Mystic to the finish line, just ghosting in at 1.5 knots, it is a grueling 30 minutes, we are just 5 boat lengths from the line and Dragonfly comes rolling past us at 4 knots and wins the race by 35 seconds. So close, so far…….We cross the line second with Mystic nipping at our heels. We start the stop watch. We have to beat Redshift by 10 minutes and 8 seconds, Redshift comes barreling in on a filling breeze and crosses the line 10 minutes and 27 seconds behind us. Next comes Flip Flop and Fly, we need to be 12 minutes and 9 seconds ahead of them and they cross at 12 minutes and 18 seconds, wow, what a finish, less than 30 seconds separating the first three finishers in division 3. Cheekee Monkee is very lucky to take first place once again.
The crew worked hard, they were focussed on the objective all they way from start to finish. We tore up the jib and poked a couple of holes in the screecher, hey, that’s sail boat racing; it really is the agony and the ecstasy.
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