Flying down, I took it as a very very bad omen that the inflight movie was "Love Happens." I finished my magazine, couldn't sleep and ended up watching the whole damn thing. Terrible movie.
We were staying at a hotel on a couple minutes walk from the boat, which is very cool. Random midnight fire alarms aside, this was pretty sweet.
Morning of the first race was a bit disturbing, as it was not the Miami I had signed up for. 15-20kts out of the northwest and temps in the 40's made it seem like frostbiting in Chicago. Frosbiting on one of those days we all blow of sailing and play foosball. We sailed out of the harbor straight downwind for about 5 miles, and did not get a chance to put up a chute. I was a bit nervous about this, as I was theortetically doing bow, which is a job thats come my way about all of 4 times. Add to that the nuking wind and really unfamiliar boat, and it was looking a bit hairy.
We pooched the first start a bit, and ended up on the wrong side of the course
putting us deep in the 30's (54 boats total.) Add to that we were coming in overstood on the port tack layline, with a ton of very fast (and mostly out of control) boats with spinnakers bearing down on us. Somewhat more alarming is that I looked down and saw the spinnaker pole trailing along beside the boat. In the "more terrifying category than the last thing" column was the fact that our lee upper shroud was attached to the spinnaker pole, and therefore not to the boat! Until we could fix this Aaron couldn't tack or luff up, so we were just going to have to risk it with the big line of starboard tackers.
How does an upper shroud come loose like that? The boat we were on was using hitch pins (shown below) instead of cotter pins or rings to hold their shroud clevis pins to the chainplates. One of our pins worked it's way loose, the clevis pin fell out and voila!, no stbd upper. Why would you use such a temporary and unsecure way to hold your rig up? Etchells supposedly switch the postion on the shrouds on the chainplate in very high wind, moving the upper behind the lower in order to stablize the mast by adding bend. However, everyone I talked to (including Bill H who won the regatta) said that they never do this. Sometimes just because you _can_ do a thing doesn't mean you should do it, and definitely doesn't mean you should have hitch pins to do it with.
After clearing the wall of stbd tackers and such, we started tearing around the boat looking for a spare pin. No luck whatsoever on the pin front, and no gear on the boat had a large enough pin to support the upper with. We finally pulled a 3/16" shackle off a block, used that to hold the lower shroud in place and swapped the lowers pin to the upper. This marred up the shackle pin a bit, but less us get in where we could repin the entire rig and retune it for the next day. So, here's my day one report:
Race 1: 40ish before windward mark, sailed past it in general direction of mainland, retired. Settings were: 3/4 pins, sheer terror.
Race 3: Drinking at yacht club to returns feeling to numb feelings in body and soul.
Race 3: Lunch at Chili's. Quesadilla's were pretty iffy. Walk in rain.
As far as gear goes, it was the most I've ever had on for sailing and I was still wicked cold. Harken shoes were good, Musto pants awesome, 4 layers of fleece good, but my f#%king Harken spray top was either chafing bloody spots on my neck from the velcro, or wide open letting water pour down my torso. No good!
Day 2 started colder (how? Why?!) and windier than day 1 but at least it wasn't raining. That morning was probably the least I've wanted to sail ever, but Fred was gung ho and Aaron was determined to get me to race an Etchells at least once, as this was the 3rd time we'd tried to sail one together! My record with Aaron is spotty, Farr40 regatta-no air, etchells regatta-no air, harbor springs regatta-1 nice day and then way too much air... Very very fast jib and main run out to the course, with water over the bow, and I still hadn't put up a chute! The first day 2 photo on the www.johnpaynephoto.com site is of us experiencing a jib and main gybe.
We got a decent start, and were in the low teens around the first windward mark, when we were hit from behind just after rounding. The other boat made a lot of noise and we'd started circling before realized it was their foul not ours. Although we tacked well inside the 3 boat length circle, we were well around the mark and couldn't have fouled them. Ah well! We clawed back a bit to get 18th. I did bow with no giant mistakes, just a lot of small embarassments! A couple notes on how the Etchells differs from the Shields in the front:
-the pole is larger, and since the Etchells has a smaller rig, its kind of funky swinging it around up there.
-they are so much easier to hike
-this boat had the old style end fittings, not the fancy jam-in angled jaw type, which sucks
-the jib sheets system should in theory be a lot better than ours. We both have 2:1, but the Etchells adds a fine tune under the deck for about 10:1 purchase, as well as having a jib thats about 75% the size of the Shields jib. However, this boat had a bunch of odd leads and friction from plain bearing (!) Ronstan blocks, so it was actually significantly harder than the Shields. If I had an Etchells it would be a bit different.
-The bow has lots of neat controls to play with: Jib sheet gross, jib sheet fine, tack height, lead car and halyard fine and gross tune. I would ditch the lead car adjustment, as this boat had the 2 sides tied together, which meant you couldn't adjust them independently for different sea states on different tacks. It was nice playing the tack and hal fine tune though.
-The spin halyard comes through a hole in the deck, with a cleat, and is tiny little 5mm something or other rope, which slips like crazy. I made an ass out of myself by taking forever to get the halyard up, and it's probably 90% technique, but I really hate this system for the halyard.
-Drivingwise the Etchells and Shields are very similar, with the Etchells having more helm but a freer rudder, making it kind of a wash. You have to steer the Etchells more in tacks, but it seems like it would go upwind with less helm motion, and more of a constant rudder angle. Very interested to try this again soon.
Second race we did well on the start, and worked really well together to get to the top mark in good company. We were 4th at one point, but lost a bit of speed to get passed downwind by a couple boats and ended up 8th, which was a good way to go out for the weekend. It was cool being next to a world champ this race, and fun to check our progress vs the other great boats.
Overall it was a bit of a disaster, and miserable sailing weather, but I still had fun. Really the best part was racing with Aaron and Fred, who are both very experienced, patient with my bow antics and generally great fun to sail with. I would do these events again happily, and hope to sail with these guys again some time in the future.
Edit: Naturally, since it's me, I made friends with the BBYC fat orange cat. Below is the only photo I have from a weekends sailing in Miami.