To say our team is flying high after Saturday’s race, would be an understatement. Not only was it an incredible experience on the water, but we placed 4th out of 12 boats in a class of very accomplished and experienced racers. I entered this class because I knew we wanted to use our spinnaker, and I erroneously thought the other class was non-spinnaker. I also am more comfortable with this kind of longer distance race, so it didn’t feel quite as intimidating as the shorter buoy races. That being said, I also knew we were jumping in with the big dogs! As nervous as this made me, I felt it would be a good way to push ourselves! And push ourselves we did!
The start was very exciting, as we were much more in the mix than usual, and there were more boats (or so it seemed). My nerves were holding up pretty well until I found myself sandwiched in tight quarters between two boats with skippers at the helm whom I know and admire. All of a sudden my belly was doing flips and my knees were shaking. Despite my nerves, we maneuvered well, and it felt good. I have to commend Lara on her strategy and coaching at the start, as we definitely had one of our best! The only thing that I regret is that I couldn’t get up to speed like I wanted to after we crossed the line, and we were quickly left in the dust. Not for long though, because we tacked away from everyone and out to sea (which was Lara’s and my original plan based on our gut feeling and research of wind prediction before the race).
This proved to be a good call, as we moved really well up the coast towards Malibu staying outside. The breeze was stiff (up to 20 knots at times) and at one point we became very overpowered as my boat often gets. I tried reefing the headsail first based on a recommendation of my sailmaker, but quickly found that my original thought of reefing the main and keeping the genoa out was a better call. Once we did this, we started pulling away from the boats around us, and were able to point again. We had to shake out the reef about 30 minutes later as the wind came down to 9-11 knots, but that decision to reef gained us considerable headway. As we got close to our mark in Malibu, the wind dropped to almost nothing, and it seemed that we, and all of the boats around us came to a screeching halt. As we prepared to tack around the buoy, Lara wanted me to tack tight in front of another boat, and I wouldn’t (couldn’t). She was a beautiful wooden boat, and I was convinced I was going to hit her if I tacked that close. As much as I trust Lara, this was a time when I had to let my own feelings take over. She assures me we wouldn’t have hit (and I do believe her), but she also reassured me that she respects when I need to over-ride her based on my own comfort level. This is an example of what I LOVE about our boat. We are always communicating and clarifying, so we can all grow and keep a calm respectful vibe on the boat.
After we rounded the mark at Malibu, we headed out to sea again on the hunt for pressure. Once we found it, Jana and the foredeck team got the spinnaker up and flying. Jana Davis doesn’t normally sail with us (even though I wish upon a star every day that she could), but she was able to on this race. She is a foredeck wizard and an all-around amazing human being. She brought all kinds of knowledge, humor and good juju to our boat, and we are so grateful for her! We were able to run down the coast at a good clip for a while with our spinnaker full and in doing so, we were neck and neck with some great boats. We have an asymmetrical spinnaker, so we were unable to head as deep as we needed to and we started to head away from our mark (out to sea) more than I was comfortable with. That coupled with the wind dropping a bit lead Lara and me to the decision of losing the spinnaker and heading dead downwind, wing and wing to our mark. This was apparently the ticket and what I believe actually made the difference for us in placing as well as we did. We started moving well, and making a solid course towards our last mark at the breakwater. Right about at this point, Tami Rae of Loaded Canon with Eddie Hollister at the helm of a very badass looking skiff approached us. They zoomed all around us taking pictures while the ladies acted as a human downhaul on the whisker pole (I forgot to rig a downhaul before we left). I have included some of her amazing photos of us below. If you haven’t checked out her work, please do. Her images are beautiful! Please check out her work here. Also, if you want to see more photos from the day or buy prints, the link for her gallery from this race is here. Also, I will have an interview featuring her coming soon to my blog!
It just after this that we heard a “mayday” over the VHF. Our hearts all skipped a beat and our boat went silent as we realized that one of the boats in our race had lost a crew overboard. They had also lost their rudder and were unable to get to her. The mood aboard Cassiopeia became very somber as we all listened intently and sent out prayers for her speedy retrieval from the chilly sea. We were too far to have been able to help, and there were other boats closer, so all we could do was to continue sailing and hold her, and their crew in our prayers. You could have heard our collective cheers and screams from far away as we heard that she had been pulled out of the water by a fellow racer. It gave us all pause and generated a hearty conversation about PFD’s and boat safety. We are so happy that she is ok!
As we got close to the last mark, all of the boats that had been in front of us on the spinnaker run were now behind us. It wasn’t a huge lead, but it was big enough for us to be able to round the mark first and make it to the finish line before them. It was very exciting as we all converged and tried to finish a race in little to no wind. Making it to that last mark basically consisted of the waves pushing us there. The wind came up just enough for us to power up to the finish. We finished within inches of another boat which was extremely exhilarating!
As we cranked up the engine and headed down the channel for home, we were passed by Whitney Green on Pacific. Whitney shouted out, “nice race Margie”! I was completely blown away and humbled by this. We have only met a few times, and I’m sure she doesn’t realize that I have always looked up to her from afar. Her words meant so much to me and were the icing on the cake of a wonderful day!
As we toasted our day and had our ritual debriefing in my cockpit, I looked around at these strong and unique women with such gratitude and awe. Each had given everything they had all day long, and together we sailed a great race. We didn’t know how we had placed at this point, but we felt so happy with how we sailed, and our collective joy lit up my slip! The theme of the day seemed to be trusting our intuition. I know that the few times that I trusted my gut and made calls based on that, that it proved invaluable. I think Lara had the same experience. I see this as another opportunity for me/us to look at how important it is to sail my own race and not get caught up in technicalities (shoulds, or supposed tos) or what others around us are doing. We proved to ourselves today that following our gut and making calls that may have seemed strange in comparison to our competitors was the right thing for us. In the end, this is a great metaphor for life, no?
by TAMI RAE of LOADED CANON