2019 Santa Barbara Island Race

I awoke at 3am and pulled out of the slip at 3:10 to motor up to Malibu for the start. An uneventful departure and motor North while I slowly raised the main and code 0. Hoisting the main took 30 minutes and some sweat, but it got up. Everything takes longer on Sparrow, and my aging body doesn’t appreciate the exertion. Nothing to do but hit the gym.

The start was difficult as there was maybe 2 knots of wind from a difficult direction, but the rabbit pulled it off deftly, and we were all off without much incident. Hard to maneuver in so little wind, Sparrow found herself caught a bit too close between two boats as she was moving a little faster. The lesson here is to hang back and let everyone start before Sparrow gets going.

Sparrow seemed sluggish off the start, partly from me not knowing how to sail her yet, partly due to kelp picked up on the way up to Malibu. When the wind finally filled in around 3pm, Sparrow started moving around 8.5 knots for the first hour, then all of a sudden 8.5 became 9.5 as she shook off the kelp. Finally starting to move!

I had plotted a waypoint outside of where the chart shows kelp, but as I approached the island it looked way too high so I just eyeballed it, about ½ mile west of the island. Approaching the shoals I watched the depth go from 160 ft to 80 feet and then the kelp appeared. A huge line of it directly ahead! Thinking about my 12.5 foot keel, I panicked and tried a crash tack.

Not a good idea with an Open 50.

The first thing that happened was Sparrow didn’t complete the tack. She went head to wind and stopped. I found myself in irons drifting down towards the island. Not completing the tack and with kelp just to port, I started the engine to force the completion of the tack.

The second thing that happened was the lazy sheet fouled on the mast winch. Engine running, I had to tack back to clear the sheet. Once that was done, I completed the tack. Then I noticed the Code 0 sheet.

While I was dealing with the jib, the Code 0 had begun to flog, and unfurl and flog some more. The port sheet was dragging behind Sparrow and I knew instantly the shackle had let go while it was flogging. Since the clew is much too high to reattach, I headed offwind to depower everything and managed to get the mess on deck. Then to the tack…

I tried pulling in the tack line but the strop and furler was so snarled tight and wouldn’t budge. Even down on the deck, the only way to free the tack was to detach the sail and untwist everything. So I sailed to the lee of the island, hove to, and crawled out onto the sprit with pliers and knife in hand. One of those “what am I doing here?” moments.

I managed to free the tack and unsnarl the strop and furler (and get back aboard) without incident. Then stuffed the Code 0 down the hatch. I thought briefly about raising it unfurled in the lee of the island – if nothing else than to refurl it, but by that time I was spent. Happy to run under just main & jib. I called Free Byrd to inform them I had DNF’d by starting the engine, and they were gracious enough to swing by to make sure I was doing OK. I was battered and bruised, but OK.

A thankfully quiet and uneventful trip back to the barn, arriving back in the slip at 4am, just before the rain. A learning experience for sure. Only out a handful of times, I have much to learn about handling Sparrow. It’s clear I need to practice tacking, gybing, and Code 0 handling. I had assumed that it was OK to leave the Code 0 out on the sprit, but this experience says otherwise. It would have been far better to round the island, then raise and deploy the sail. I remember pausing when I saw the shackles on the sheets. Never again, same for my halyards.

Things that went well:

  • Saildrive
  • Autopilot, even with uncalibrated instruments
  • LiFEPO4 Battery
  • Radar & AIS
  • Laptop with OpenCPN
  • New jib & furler rebuild
  • Foul weather gear
  • Cooler
  • Water ballast

Things that went less well:

  • Lee shore/kelp judgement
  • Sleep
  • My muscles
  • T12 Tylaska shackles on Code 0 sheets
  • Putting C0 on early
  • Crash tacking – lazy sheet left too loose, not sure if can go from reach through the tack w/o hardening up first
  • Ballast valve leaks
  • Aeropress
  • Backing down to remove kelp

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