Well, I did it! I completed my 1st PSSA Race! I’m trying not to downplay it, but I have done this sail so many times before, that it is easy to try and make it small in my mind. Truth be told though, despite the familiarity of the sail, it was a big 1st step for me to actually race. It really did feel new this time…. like it was the start of something big. I had a totally different sensation leaving the marina that morning. I actually had butterflies. It felt like I was heading out on a first date with a really cute guy. I was giddy and my breath kept catching as I motored out of the marina. As I pulled out of my slip, I came up behind my friends Jerome and Charles, aboard Charles’ Class 40. We were motoring to the start at PV 10. It was kind of surreal to be right next to that boat the whole way. She’s a beautiful and sleek creature, and couldn’t be more opposite from my boat. Imagine being at a stop light in your trusty old truck, and looking over to see a shiny new Maserati next to you. That’s what I love about PSSA though, that it has a place for all types of boats and sailors, allowing sailors like me to feel welcome and to have a place to learn and grow next to super experienced sailors and high tech racing boats alike.
I had about 2 hours on my way to the start to think about the race and prepare myself for a whole new approach to sailing to Catalina. I blasted the requisite bagpipe music in honor of my dad and all of our races together aboard Scottish Fantasy II (where this was the tradition before each race). I also called my Pop for a little pep talk. Until this day, I had only skippered one race in my life, and that was on my 1st boat, with a full crew and an experienced sailor coaching me through it all. The idea of this start was totally stressing me out, because starts in general have always confused me, and this one was a “rabbit start”, where one end of the start line was a moving sailboat. I understood it in theory, but I was a bit overwhelmed to be honest. Not to mention, I was on my own. I arrived to the starting area about an hour early, and spent that time tacking and jibing around to get my chops up to par. By the end of that hour, I had my little system back down again, and was ready to start. It’s a bit of a tricky dance to handle the jib sheets and maneuver without the autopilot while tacking in tight quarters, but one that always makes me feel challenged and gratified as I get the steps dialed in once again.
Thankfully one of my dear old friends, Jaime was in the race as well, and I asked him if I could follow him around to get the hang of setting up for the start. He graciously agreed, (but not without reminding me that we are racing against each other :-)). We all checked in at 11:30, and the next 30 minutes flew by. We were all swarming around watching the rabbit boat and trying to figure out when to make a move towards the start. I for one was sweating and breathing hard with all the maneuvering and abundance of nervous energy in my body. Then all of a sudden, it was 12 and we were all somehow across the line and on our way. It was an amazing feeling to be in the midst of all of these experienced sailors and their beloved boats. I was very quickly left in the dust, but I didn’t care, because I was so happy. My girl was moving along quite well, and despite my autopilot failing me, I had a great sail over. I finished at 3:20, behind almost everyone, but again, I didn’t care, because I was ecstatic with having completed my 1st solo race. I was utterly exhausted by the time I picked up my mooring. I had a cold beer, toasted my girl, and jumped in the water to celebrate a great day.
The rest of the evening held great camaraderie and a warm welcome from the other PSSA sailors. I loved meeting all the guys at our post race barbeque, and was so happy, after a long and festive night to tuck in aboard Haunani for a good night’s sleep in one of the most magical places on earth.
I finished 4th/4 single-handed sailors. There were 8 other boats racing as well, and they were double handed. As much as I am not in this for the racing, I do hope that with each race I will learn and improve my tactical skills. I am grateful to all of the other PSSA sailors, to my sailing friends and mentors who are always so generously supporting me and answering every little question I have with patience and love, and especially to my Dad for always being with me in spirit.
PS......there is a very amateur video coming soon :-)