It was October and the sea temp was falling day by day it hit 12-13 degrees Celsius by the time we had on Haapsalu bay last regatta of the season. Beach catamarans were also present, including me with my Dart 16. Doin solo sailing this time.
It was blasting ride! Anemometers on the yachts ticking constantly in the red zone – it was blowing force 6 constantly, buffs force 7 at near gale.
The sea was building up, turning really choppy as it usually does with westerly winds. Not a pleasant place to cruise along for a solo sailor on a lightweight catamaran without daggerboards. And there were 20 nm hammering on a way.
Start of the race turned out a real fiasco. On the shore one team after a long dispute with their hand-held portable anemometer, decided to skip the race in spot, for fear of damages to the boat or injure for the crew. From 6 cats who made it to the starting line 3 of them had to retire before the signal. Two boats, Hobie Tigers both, did encounter equipment failure – loss of the rudder for the race favorites and the other had a chance to discover raw force of the Wester as it brutally tear off halyard shackle lock in the top of the mast, a stainless steel hook attached to the mast with quarter inch rivets. The Nacra 6.0 team watched the show a while and headed back to port. It cleared up chequer and left me and two F18 teams on the field, Hobie Tiger and Nacra Inter they were.
Not to mention I was a rather occupied with handling the boat, as it thrilled me with terrific acceleration, blasting over the low sea behind the Einby shoal whereby sea subside to serve a nonchalant ride through.
So not much a chance to enjoy the spectacle F18s where playing out. Further more, as I peered far end of the inlet where the sea started to broke in steep and short waves and wind carried away the crest I finally made up my mind and reefed the main hastily. Needless to say the decision turned out a smart thing to do, as It was later on hard to trapeze down even the reefed main – I had to leave up the jib as well. I needed jib to help on tacks in those nasty short waves.
I had a rather bad start due messing with reef, but anyway the F18 rockets with this kind of wind. But I didn`t gave up all my hopes as I knew that with this wind no one will fly the gennaker and there are slight chance given by the SCHRS handicap – if they make enough mistakes.
But as the race evolved I realized that this day I were rather faint in close hauled. Also I blessed myself with some tactical mistakes. Like heading away from leeway shore, hoping to find less crossed sea and less gusts, but instead of smoother sailing I got accelerated wind due tunnel-effect between two islands and short inconveniently high waves.
In beating course the F18s flee quickly. But some 15 minutes later, after I galloped around the peninsula and started to enjoy some fast beam reach, I spotted race favorites knocked down, one man on board and other missing. Trapezing crew has been suddenly unhooked by a treacherous wave, dropped to the sea and instantly some seconds later the boat capzised with the helmsman. But the drift was so rapid that foreman could not reach the boat. And the helmsman couldn`t get the boat straight, it went over and over again thrived combination of wind and inertia induced by righting. By the time I got there, the foreman has been struggling in chilly 13 degree Celsius water about a half a hour, trying to reach little islet nearby some half a mile away. Lucky him to be equipped with Gul drysuit as most of us! So he could enjoy a relative safe as the wind blow towards the land on this section of track.
But it was some 3,5 nm away from mainland and it meant quite unpleasant drifting along up to 1m waves. One meter isn`t much a sea though, but they occur rather steep in our region, so it`s most hard to locate a drifting catsailor between them, particularly from the board of singlehanded 16ft sailboat. So I think he made a wise decision to swim across and a little bit against the waves to this islet, which were much closer than a mainland even thou not easy choice regarding to the direction of the waves.
I must admit that observing from the corner of the eye those beating waves and searching for a man over board, steering and correcting the sheets on the same time was a quite a hassle. Fortunately the coast guard small launch arrived and it took them about five-six minutes to track down the lost catsailor. I was most impressed from how far they did spot the pin in the haystack. He got rescued.
Later on talking to this guy he explained that he had some cell phone conversations with the rescuers, but they were rather abrupt due the wind whistle and waves that buried constantly cell phone speakers.
Helmsman of capzised F18 drifted along with the boat to the mainland and hit the shore in one piece.
Im very glad that all ended well finally even thou I didn`t had any point to finish the race after messing around about half an hour trying to solve MOB situation shorthanded as I was. So I turned back to the port when I got the confirmation that troubled crew were secured.
It didn`t feel right to claim second place on podium after such a long line of mishaps anyway.
At last all sheep are back in barn, and it turned out a terrific race though