Catalina 27, Racing Free Spirit
The Jaegermeister race is longer than our usual Wednesday night rum race, being a triangle that nearly encompasses the whole lake. It would have been a great opportunity for the Loose Cannon to show off, but alas, it is up in the air on jack stands, undergoing a revitalization. I saw Don Hoofring in the parking lot and suggested that this might be his kind of day, since the Catalina 27, Free Spirit, likes the longer legs and ideally a good bit of wind. He offered me a ride so I took it and agreed to meet at the boat at twenty after.
My traditional cruise of the parking lot provided a snapshot of the competition. The Vulcan Mermaid, fast but self proclaimed to be out for a good time and no longer putting any effort into serious racing, right, we all believe that. The mighty Box of Kittens, with talented crew and a fresh sanding. Not someone to lose to. It’s bad enough to claim victory over them, but losing to a Box of Kittens? How humiliating. In the water near the “little boat” ramp, No Hard Feelings the Laser 2, and it’s generous handicap, being assembled. In the pavillion, consuming some calories in preparation for their inevitable time in the water , sat the skipper and crew of Wile E, the 29’er. Near the ramp was the San Juan 21 Ol’ Yeller and three generations of Haydens. Show Me and Gil Ravage were in their berths being boarded by numerous notorius characters.
On Free Spirit the lines were lifted, coolers stowed and gears were engaged. Don, Scarlet, and I motored out to the starting area. The wind was shifty but the velocity was enough to get a good five knots of boat speed before the start. We elected to start as close to the top of the hour as possible. As we made for the starboard end of the line, Show Me tacked a couple of boat lengths directly in front of us. The bad air was most distasteful. My ire was greeted with a header and we bore away enough to get clear air, quickly gaining overlap, but unable to break free. We struggled to make some trees, we had waterline, but it wasn’t until a big puff appeared that the opportunity presented itself. The water ahead and to windward was much darker than the rest, and I managed to dump the main just before it hit. Free Spirit was lifted right up to Show Me’s lee bow, so we assumed the position. It is never easy to get by Show Me but Free Spirit has an air draining sail plan and soon we were clear ahead.
Approaching the first mark the wind backed and it was clear that tacking was inevitable so we elected to go all the way to the layline. Show Me had gone lower, I am assuming to stay fast, but Free Spirit will go upwind. Granted the four foot fin keel is a huge pain in three feet of water but she will make five knots to weather with the genoa touching the spreaders as long as the fin is free of the bottom. A couple of clean, must do, right now, just right, tacks, and Free Spirit rounded Manatee one several boat lengths ahead of Show Me. The course to Red 8 was between a broad starboard reach and a port beam reach so Don got a serious workout on the foredeck, as Scarlet trimmed the genoa with aplomb. Fortunately Don had recently been educated in the Catalina whisker pole deck sweep jibe, so this was an opportunity to practice. The Catalina 27 whisker pole is a little bigger than the Catalina 22 whisker pole so Don was glad the leg was not longer. During our tribulations with wind shifts and jibes, Show Me passed us, and Ol Yeller passed them, and the view behind us became filled with larger and larger sails.
The average wind direction was such that if we pointed as high as possible after the Red 8 we might be able to stay in the channel and avoid calling the tow boat. Show Me was ahead but creeping out to the right (outside the channel). Ol Yeller was well ahead also creeping right and soon both had to tack to avoid the really shallow parts. Tacking at the wrong time would put us directly on top of tow boat island. Pinching as needed and milking the lifts kept us in the deep for additional distance. When we did tack, we were behind Show Me but well to windward. Show me tacked before we could get on their wind but they were headed toward No Catalina Land so we had to let them go. Overstanding the layline made the last leg fast and we crossed ahead of Show Me by a few boat lengths. Corrected time betrayed us, but being ahead of Show Me was cause for celebration, after all you can’t correct in front of a slower boat until you can beat them boat for boat.