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  • Krabby

Ocean Racing

Updated: Jan 15, 2019

“Great job out there! I see Marjorie won her class and finished fourth overall. Sounds like a great topic for your next column: preparing and racing a yacht to Puerto Vallarta - this is the Opening Day issue, so I need it soon!” a text from the Editor dinged right as we re-connected the electronic leash.

“That’s a great idea, Krabby, l know I have a few questions after racing 1000 miles,” agreed the East Coaster.”

“I’ll bet you do, it was such an honor to be invited to join the fine crew aboard Marjorie. What a great ride! Hard to believe we were the second monohull to finish. It’s a lot of work to finish well in this race and it starts months before the first warning from the signal boat.” I mused as I took a sip of cold cerveza, washing down the welcoming shot of tequila. “Our skipper has been busy making sure every part of the yacht was in perfect order for the race. Ocean racing is a true test of endurance - any gear failure could cost us the race, or worse.”

“We experienced that firsthand when we blew up two of our heavy-air kites. I didn’t expect that in only 25 knots of wind, so what happened?” Inquired the East Coaster.

“That was a surprise, but we did have some steep, confused seas. The pitching and rolling can make it difficult, if not impossible, to keep the spinnaker full and trim the sheet fast enough. When the kite refills, trimmers can ease to prevent the shock load as it refills- this helps, but after a while, the wind and seas take a toll and can overpower.” I explained looking over a bag of torn nylon.

“That makes sense, repetitive impact loading will fatigue the weakest point. But, how could we prevent that?” asked the East Coaster.

“Tough call when you’re racing. A smaller, heavier kite that can be sheeted tight - or choked, as we say, might help or you can change to a heavy genoa – which is what we did. The issue is: which is faster? In our case, the Genoa didn’t have the top speed as the spinnaker, but we were under control and maintained a better average speed on course,” I explained.

“That makes good theoretical sense, but you won’t really know until you make the call to change sails,” she added. “What about when the clew of the main came out of the outhaul car when we were light air at Cabo? She recalled.

“It may be counter-intuitive, but light air sailing can be more stress on a boat than a hard steady blow. With the constant loading and unloading - as the boat rolls, the sails can fill with a snap and shear off a stainless steel pin that previously withstood a gale.” I explained.

“I get it, the repetitive impact load delivers a greater force. It’s a function of mass and velocity,” the engineer elaborated. “You can drive a large nail into a timber with a light hammer if you swing it fast enough, but even a sledgehammer can’t push it in if it is just set atop the nail head. I must say, I was amazed the creature comforts available while racing. Below deck it was dry and you cooked roasted dinners every night. We also had hot water for bathing and ice for our drinks. Isn’t it a little unnatural to be so comfortable while sailing so fast?” Asked the East Coaster reflecting on her favorite meals at sea.

“We’ve certainly all been on, ahem, less-comfortable racing boats. Marjorie is an offshore cruising yacht at heart, albeit a fast one. She is equipped with the systems to be comfortable at sea for extended periods of time. Most importantly the water maker, refrigeration system, large LPG stove and - of course, a well-stocked liquor locker so you and the owner could enjoy martinis at happy hour. Our skipper carefully serviced these and all the other systems prior to the race to ensure the crew would be comfortable and focus on making the boat go fast. That’s always been my philosophy on meals at sea - the better the meals, the better the sailor,” I said.

“It’s kind of like getting ready for Opening Day, everything must be in perfect, working order. Speaking of that we better get back stateside and finish our Sally projects.” She said giving me that keel-hauling look.

“You’re right and I know my fate if I procrastinate. I’ll make sure we are ready early.” I said

“ALL HANDS TO SPLICE THE MAIN BRACE!” Hailed Marjorie’s owner from the cockpit as a round of drinks for the crew came up the companionway

“Well done indeed, cheers!” I said raising my glass.

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