04/04/12 Loose Cannon in the Rum Race

Every Wednesday between March an November we have a Rum Race on Lake Monroe. Seldom is the opportunity for me to participate on the Loose Cannon. This was one of those unique situations. This summary includes a relative detailed rigging procedure, a race, a rescue, and a little Rum.


Once Tom and Steve’s first choice fell through, they volunteered to sail with me on the Loose Cannon. Work and other obligations were going to keep the crew from getting to the boat early, and since I had promised a batten to one of the competitors I headed to lake early with a whole pile of good intentions. I brought a choice of battens and a hacksaw to ensure the proper length, which was perfect because one of the battens in my mains’l required a slight truncation anyway. Actually took a cooler with water and beer. I even brought the Velocitek for speed and compass (my GPS has died). Cut and sold the first batten then dragged my goodies down to the boat, feeling very efficient. Normally I sit around and tell people what needs to happen to get the boat ready to go.  A thirty one foot boat gets pretty long after going front to back ten times, especially since front to back on the trimaran is more like an obstacle course. The nets are loose, there is not a single level surface and bunches of lines to roll your ankle over if you happen to be susceptible to that sort of thing. So to redefine my system, on the theory that if I write it enough maybe I will remember it; 1. Go to the cockpit, set down the cooler, the hacksaw, the instrument, and unlock the cabin. First project is resizing the mains’l top batten so 2. Remove the sail cover (only the part that can be reached from the cockpit), open the Main halyard clutch to release the main halyard (release the screecher halyard at the same time so that once you get on the cabin top you don’t have to go back to the cockpit) and then untie the main halyard from the aft end of the boom. Take the main halyard from the aft end of the boom to the mast, and along the way unfasten the rest of the fasteners on the main cover, and pull the top batten out of the second batten pocket. Roll the main cover and make it be close enough to the companionway that you can reach it when you get back to the cockpit (could have already save a round trip to the cockpit by bringing the hacksaw). Attach the main halyard to the hole at the bottom of the notch in the main (the same hole that the first track slide is attached). Remove the bungee and throw it at the sail cover, release the boom rotating crank on the front of the mast and unroll enough turns to allow the first batten to be installed. Feed the first slide and luff rope into the mast, raise it enough so that the first batten pocket is clear and wrap the main halyard around the mast cleat to hold the sail up long enough to install the top batten. In this case slide the batten in und make a mark where it need to be cut. I only needed to remove about an inch and a half, which allowed an additional three inches of the length to the batten adjustment strap, making it much less troublesome. This one time only, back to the hack saw in the cockpit with the batten and trim it to the new length. Back to the mast install the batten and adjust the tensioner with new found ease. Next start on the screecher.  Open the forward hatch and retrieve the head of the rolled screecher. Attach the screecher halyard, which would have been much easier had I actually remembered to release the screecher halyard when I released the main halyard. Extract the anaconda (forty foot long furled screecher) and lay it on the forward net making sure that the halyard is clear of the jib, the spinnaker halyard, and the forestay, all the way to the point at which the screecher halyard comes out of the mast.

The tack of the screecher attaches to the furling unit on the bow sprit (pronounce “spree” on my boat). My particular body shape encourages attaching the screecher tack to the furling unit from the dock rather than lying on the anchor locker and sticking my head and hands out different openings in the bow pulpit. So I hung the tack of the screecher over the bow pulpit and on top of the furling unit so that I could reach it from the dock. At rest the sprit is retracted to keep the boat from hanging out into the marina quite so far, that means that the boat has to be untied temporarily to move the boat back far enough for the sprit to be extended, not so far that you can’t reach the sprit from the dock but just far enough to prevent having to move the boat back more than once. Something else that should have been released when I released the main halyard and then the screecher halyard was the screecher furling line. If it is tight and cleated, which of course it is when we finish putting the boat away, the sprit cannot be extended. One more trip back to the cockpit to release the furling line, at least I had the foresight to untangle the bowsprit tensioner or I would have had to return to the bow from the dock. By now, 30 feet is getting to be a long way. I untied the dock lines an eased the boat back, avoiding the seawall, and attached the screecher to the sprit without any further issues. The sprit tensioner is set so that it is tight when the sprit is pinned in place, naturally that makes it difficult to pin the sprit. I struggled with it for a while, trying to kick it out far enough to line up the holes for the pin, and an eighth of an inch is too large of a discrepancy to get the pin in the hole. Just before I got frustrated Steve showed up and I returned to the cockpit. I checked the gas can and debated about whether or not a quart and a half would be adequate. Steve offered to go to the store and get a gallon and it was then I realized that even though I had left the house with everything I needed to reach this point, I had neglected to bring my wallet. Since we were somewhat ahead of schedule and Tom had not arrived yet, Steve took the gas can and left for the store. Shortly thereafter Tom arrived and we completed the pinning of the bowsprit, with him on the dock and me on the boat. Aside from running the screecher sheets, we were ready to leave the dock. Tom cleared the halyards that we would not be using from the cabin top winches and, while I got the mainsheet ready to run.  Steve returned about that time and it was time to go. We were out on the lake by 5:50. I was quite pleased that everything described from the time I cut the first batten for a customer until we had the mainsail on the way up the mast took less than an hour. I was not hurried nor did I dawdle but making the effort to be efficient seemed effective and successful.

We made our first pass at the start line shortly after six but Tom remarked about the way the tell tales were out of sync so we jibed around and adjusted the starboard jib car forward to get the top of the jib working a little better. It seems like nearly everyone had started near the beginning of the thirty minute window which was ok with me, I have to give everybody a lot of time anyway so starting near the back of the fleet just gives me an opportunity to pass them all. Fisk started just in front of us and we quickly got out of his air. Pointing higher than necessary and driving from the most comfortable but least optimal position, we were averaging about seven knots in eight to ten knots of wind sailing between closed hauled and a real tight reach. The trimaran handicap does not really allow any time to mess with opponents that have significantly different ratings. As we approached the required starboard rounding we had gained enough on the Viper 640 to at least identify what it was. At the rounding the Precision 23 Show Me rounded in front of us. Our plan was to deploy the screecher as we rounded and then furl the jib, once the screecher filled we passed under show me and head up wind to stay in clear air and more importantly these days, deep water. As we passed under the Hunter 26 Susanitosan still headed to the rounding there were noises about “spinnaker, spinnaker” but we were not set up for that as it really does require a larger effort.  The next object of interest was the Viper a good distance ahead and flying their asymmetrical spinnaker. They headed up do discourage us, but the wind had freshened and we were making eleven knots. We caught them and played with their air a little but they bore a way and gained some distance back. I was still being comfortable instead of effective and Steve started calling the trim on the main because I couldn’t see upper critical telltales and admittedly was kind of caught in lazy mode. When finally let the main out far enough for Steve to be content we accelerated to twelve point eight and soon finished. As several boats had a good distance yet to go we elected to try another lap, this time using the screecher both ways.  We were well on our way to dramatically improving our time on the second lap when we saw the Catalina 27 Free Spirit with an excessive amount of bottom paint being visible. As was our obligation we abandoned our attempt at a better time and offered to provide assistance. After donating my two crew to assist with heeling the Catalina and attaching bowline to stern cleat, multiple attempts to provide motion failed. A complete counter clockwise rotation did not help so I suggested a call to the towing service. The skipper wanted to continue in lieu of calling so I started another rotation and very shortly we were actually moving. Disconnecting the bow to stern connection was a little bit frantic but managed. Retrieving my crew was satisfactorily uneventful, and since the sails were stowed the most practical option was to head for the slip and prepare for my scoring duties. Almost immediately the Yamaha started sputtering, and I was grateful that Steve had replenished our gasoline reserves.

At scoring we finished fourth and only forty six seconds out of first place. As is usual we found more than enough opportunities in our mental replay to account for forty six seconds several times over. The winner of the Rum is determined by a drawing and this evening the winner was none other than Capt Don of Free Spirit. Don’s gratitude for being freed from the Lake Monroe muck landed on me as an excessive distribution of his newly acquired Malibu Red, which I gratefully accepted and applied to my obstreperous theories of tactics and strategy. Forty six seconds. wb

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