What a day!!! I was planning on single handing for the Berger Stein Pt. Dume and return race yesterday (we single and double handers are trying to represent so they keep this series open to us), but I am very glad that fate intervened and my big brother ended up joining me at the last minute. It was a wild and crazy day on the bay to say the least, and having an extra person with me was a life saver! We headed out of the marina towards the start with all of the other boats, and as we got out towards the committee boat, the wind came up pretty quickly and hinted strongly at the wild ride that was to come. I am slowly learning Cassiopeia’s ways, and one thing I learned early on is that I need to reef early and conservatively. She has a tall rig and a lot of sail area compared to Haunani, and becomes overpowered terrifyingly quickly. I reefed my main and my genoa for the start, and I am glad that I did, for she was a handful even with those reefs in place.
As usual, the start stressed me out like crazy. I simply HATE them. I hate being so close to everyone (especially being shorthanded), and I also hate trying to figure out my strategy, because honestly I have none. I wish I could just take my turn and go, because once we get away from the line and out to sea, I am comfortable and confident, but sailing around the line with all of the other boats, creates a lot of anxiety for me. I hope to get over this one day, and I will keep being brave and putting myself in the mix (and learning from my mentors) until I do!
Our course was MDR to Pt. Dume and back. We were hard on the wind all the way up, and the wind was mainly over 25 knots and sometimes up to 30+. As we tacked our way up the bay, we took a beating. The sea was intense, and the wind was gusty and fierce and we were consistently over powered. In hindsight, I should have taken a 2nd reef in my mainsail, but since my 1st reef is very deep, I somehow thought the second would be overkill. After talking to my mentors and looking at photos of the race, however, I realize that I was very wrong. I also realized that I need to have a smaller headsail on hand. My 140% is reefable, but trying to reef (on the roller-furler) it in those winds was painful (I saw dollar signs flying out the window as the sail flogged during the process). If I had reefed the main again, I would have been able to point higher and I wouldn’t have been pushed down so much.
Once we turned around to run home, the wind was in the 30’s and gusting to 38. We had an unfortunate gybe during which my main sheet snapped and three blocks shattered. I am grateful that was the only damage, because it was very scary and could have been a lot worse in those conditions. It provided another big learning experience for the day: I should have chicken gybed (doing a regular tack and then falling off) instead of attempting a regular gybe in those winds. It’s painful to admit my stupidity, but those kinds of mistakes are how things stick in my brain sometimes. I jury rigged a new sheet (using my preventer) to secure the boom, and we dropped the main. We flew home under Genoa only, at between 8-10 knots. The swells were building and we had a few very fun surfs! It was hard work to steer though, and my hands are still feeling it as I type this. I was very happy to get back into the marina, even though docking in that wind provided one last hairy adventure to cap off my day. My brother was an amazing crew, and when we were finally safely close to home, we toasted the day with a cold Heineken (I just found out they are gluten free by the way!)!
As I fix my boat, and reflect on the day, I am so grateful for the opportunity to have gotten to sail Cassiopeia for the first time in intense conditions. I learned a lot about her and myself on that race. I have a list of things I need to change about her set up to make her more manageable for me alone in those conditions. I also realize that before I go offshore alone with her, I need to do a lot more practice sails in the bay when the conditions are intense, yet manageable so that I can create a symbiotic relationship with her. Part of my ease with Haunani was that I had sailed her alone for so long that I could move around blind folded. Also, she was a lot more forgiving of a boat than Cassiopeia is, so everything always felt more manageable. I know that my relationship with Cassiopeia will get there, but I don’t want to jump the gun and put myself in challenging situations at sea before we do. It is a process, and one I intend to honor and take very seriously!
As always, I am so grateful to my mentors and teachers who generously give me the opportunity to debrief with them so I can learn in retrospect. I am also grateful to the crazy day in the bay for teaching me so much in a short time! Finally, I am grateful for all that I have been through until now that has taught me how to keep us safe and moving on a day like that! I am a very different sailor than I was at this time last year, and I am sure in a year from now I will say the same. I love the learning and growth that is always available as I move through these wonderful adventures!! I am also grateful for the opportunities sailing provides for me to remind myself of the importance of “bravery not perfection” (if you have not seen Reshma Saujani’s Ted Talk about this, please watch it!!).
(All photos are by my talented and wonderful big brother, Chris Woods)