Light Air and  Big Learning Curve


We had our work cut out for us yesterday for our Wednesday night race! The wind was very light, so we knew it was going to be a challenge, and by the end of the evening, we found ourselves in an accelerated learning program for light air sailing! As we headed out, Lara took the helm and did a lot of practice tacks and jibes to get a sense of Cassiopeia's maneuverability. As she did this, I realized I couldn't chicken out more crying wolf that Its too tight when she wants me to tack or jibe close to another boat. There was a lot of laughing as I called myself out on my phobia. Joking aside, it was actually a worthwhile thing to do, because I was able to understand the space and maneuverability of my boat in a new way. I finally have hope that I will get over my nerves about this. I called Lara's exercise "desensitization therapy"....and it certainly was.

We were a little late to the line on our start, but had good speed nonetheless considering the conditions, so it turned out OK. The wind stayed light but consistent on the course until we were just about at the windward mark. I was struggling with steering the whole time, and was grateful for all of the experienced sailors on the boat who kept me on point and helped me! Its is so hard to steer in light air, and I am so excited to get better at it. Yesterday was a perfect day to practice! I loved listening to Carrie as she coached the genoa trimmers on sail trim. She was recently called our secret weapon by Neil Fraser (of Mexican Divorce who has known her since she was a kid), and I know he is right! She trims our mainsail like nobody's business, and is always contributing to what is happening on the boat with her extensive knowledge of all things sailing. Once we rounded the mark, it became so light that it was hard to fly our genoa, even with a pole. All of the boats around us were struggling with the same issue, and their crews were performing all kinds of weight shifts, acrobatics and sail configurations to try and eek the most out of essentially NO wind. We would get excited if we started moving at a speed of more than 1.5 knots! It was fun to hear and try my crew's various light air tricks and tips. As the dark of night consumed the post sunset glow, we were almost to the breakwater. At this point we were getting really excited because the wind came up to about 3 knots and we were moving better than we had been in a while. As we rounded the channel markers however, we were back to floating forward at a knot or so. It was so quiet and still, and the sight of all of the die hards around us trying to make it to the finish line by the cut off time was so beautiful. The ladies on the foredeck did their best to pole out our headsail, but in the end human “poling” was what worked best-three ladies holding  the sail out to try and catch any wind that was available. It wasn’t much, but we actually kept moving (though I could have walked faster). If we had had five more minutes, we would have made it to the finish, but alas, 8:30pm rolled around just before we made it.  As we rolled up the headsail and I cranked up the engine, the mood aboard Cassiopeia was enthusiastic and jovial despite the conditions and our DNF! 

We were lucky to have Carliane Johnson aboard our boat as an honorary team member. Carliane is going to take off in about six weeks on a huge adventure that is dear to my heart….the Singlehanded Transpac.  She learned to sail later in life, and is essentially a self-taught sailor, but her tenacity, dedication and resulting mad skills makes it seem like she has been doing it for a lifetime. By throwing herself into racing and single handing at every opportunity, she has become a very admirable sailor and racer. You can read more about her badassery in my interview of her here.

I am blown away more each time I sail with these amazing women. I feel so grateful for each of their energy, wisdom, humor, love, prowess and enthusiasm. I cannot wait for Saturday, when we will be sailing in the Del Rey Yacht Club’s Berger/Stein series, Pt. Dume Return race. Im hoping this year is a little less wild than my experience last year (you can read about that here)! We will be sailing against a lot of very experienced racers and well sailed boats out there, so this will be a wonderful challenge for us!

All photos by Robin Mohilner