A #sailingrevolution on SFBay

September 9, 2013 § Leave a comment

Anyone, any gender, any age, can sail anytime on San Francisco Bay because of amazing volunteers at organizations like Sailing Education Adventures. What are the keys? It’s fun, inclusive, affordable and challenging.

Visit http://www.sfsailing.org to sign up. #gosailing #sailingrevolution

2013 Queen’s Cup: Hurling and Furling

July 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

Chris Gribble: Rafiki sailing the 2013 Queen's Cup

Rafiki sailing the 2013 Queen’s Cup
Photo credit: Chris Gribble

This was no Sidney-Hobart. But the 2013 Queen’s Cup was tiny reminder of the toughness of sailors.

Queen’s Cups are usually downwind and flat. Recent races have been warm and generally dry. I like to recall the year we wore shorts all night and flew kites exclusively by moonlight.

This year race organizers picked Ludington as a finish destination adding distance and northing to the course to shake it up. It worked. A solid and cold north wind came on with an icy rain burst and then the wind built and clocked east during the night, knocking the fleet onto 30 degrees of heel. It wasn’t unruly, but it was cold and wet enough to cause blue lips, shivering and some to wonder why they had eaten that last dockside burger with onions. The sea-state gradually built to 4-6 footers (late finishers said 8) with the gradient neared 22 knots at about 3 am. If you had chosen left, you could crack off a couple of degrees, but if you were south of the rhumb, you were close-hauled all night. Cooking, eating, dry clothes, or napping in a warm berth were mostly wishful thinking. One friend deemed it “hurling and furling.”

The on-the-water highlight, if you were lucky to have been looking up, was the brief appearance of ghostly white dancing spires of the Aurora-Borealis. One sailor said it was the best 15 minutes in 22 hours of misery. Shortly after the first finishers tied up at Ludington (where organizers had organized well) Facebook lit up too with tales of cloudbursts and fog, wind and spray, sleeplessness and vomiting, and a general agreement that next year would be just as much fun.

Talk about tough.

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Congratulations to the winners.

Sailing with other people’s kids

September 3, 2012 § 1 Comment

First published in the September 2012 issue of Spinsheet Magazine

Spinsheet - Dan Phelps, family sailing, kids and sailing, saving sailing

Image courtesy: Spinsheet, credit Dan Phelps.

It was two in the morning, blowing at least twenty-five knots, when a huge breaking wave hit us on our starboard stern and threw the boat sideways. The boom buried and we were knocked flat in a full broach. Tim was seated aft on the port side and slid underneath the lifelines feet first. He was shoulder deep in the water hanging on to a winch with one arm. Someone blew the guy and the kite ran free. As it collapsed, the boat recovered and in a flash, Tim used the upward momentum to one-arm his way back on deck. A few minutes later we had the kite wrestled aboard, and we went with a smaller headsail.

An ashen-faced Tim, a kid that we’d picked up earlier in the season from the club junior program, leaned over and pleaded, “Don’t tell my mom.”

Earlier that day, a modest broad reach had gradually built to a playful 10-knot surf, and then, at about midnight, a full blown, nuking, bare-knuckle run made more tempestuous by an 9-foot following sea. Syrena’s bow would nudge down and briefly hesitate as her stern lifted on the leading edge of a breaker, and she’d launch and careen down the face of the wave sending spray to the height of the first spreaders on both sides, sometimes for many minutes. Each surf broke another speed record. We consistently saw mid-teens, and we peaked near 20-knots on one wet slalom. This was what our B-32, a little ULDB (Ultra Light Displacement Boat), was designed to do.

We were racing hard, but we had both eyes on safety. As the wind piped up, we made certain that every person was wearing full weather gear, a PFD, a light and whistle, a harness, and we were all tethered to jack-lines. We were de-powered, running with our chicken-chute strapped down, and the boat loved it, like an unleashed puppy, until the roque wave took us down.

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