[Public-List] Hog Race 2017

Gordon Laco via Public-List public-list at lists.alberg30.org
Mon Sep 11 08:22:49 PDT 2017

Hello friends,


Well Midland Bay Sailing Club’s ‘Hog Race’ of 2017 is now history.    This annual event involves a race up the coast to an island where we indulge in a massive hog roast and sort of beach party (off the beach) after the competition all on Saturday.  The fleet staggers home on Sunday as they are able.


I take particular interest in this event for a number of reasons.  One of course is our usual pursuit of glory in the form of vanquishing foes and winning scalps to display aloft (racing pennants).  Another is the fact that the trophy for this race is the best of all the stuff in the clubs display case.  It’s large brass pig with a self-satisfied look on its face, standing four square on a spreading plinth of oak.  Back in our wooden boat days there was a howling northwest wind, which made the course a long wiggling beat to windward.  TOUCH WOOD was a rocket upwind in a blow, very close winded and stiff enough that she could be driven hard when such abuse was required.  With two reefs in the main, her lively tall narrow ‘blade’ low clewed jib pulling like a wild horse... we led the fleet despite the whole mob of them owing us a ton of time on PHRF.  As we turned onto the last leg and began galloping for the finish, I was yodeling and howling at the tiller – already hearing in the mind the complaining about our rating... music to my ears of course.  There was a red pin off Present Island which in my euphoria I’d forgotten was a mark of the course.  We went twenty feet the wrong side of it... which didn’t do us any good, I just did not bother making the slight course correction required to leave it to starboard.   We finished the race... glowing with pleasure, already planning a magnanimous acceptance speech... when the yacht behind us shouted ‘oh Gord...you didn’t round the Present Island buoy!’  And then I remembered.


Utterly dejected, we slunk home and didn’t even attend the banquet. I assumed we were disqualified.  Oh the shame.  Two days later I was informed that the club’s committee ruled that rather than disqualification, they’d assess us a 10% time penalty.  We were not thrown out... even with the penalty, we were still second and won the blue flag for that.  TW got her name on the plate for that year.


That was more than fifteen years ago, but I remember the sting of it all like it was yesterday.  


So with the same crew, my friend Fred, with whom I’d shared an apartment in university days, we set out Saturday morning for the 2017 Hog in SURPRISE.  She’d won the pig back in 2006, and placed a couple of times, we wanted glory again.


Out we went to the start.... wow, similar conditions to the glory year in TOUCH WOOD with regard to wind direction... and thankfully not so much of it.  This later was good because the Alberg 30 is not nearly as stiff as the Folkboat was... and consequently has to sailed more gently in a blow.  Not so weatherly either, but wonders be told, the wind direction was obligingly relieved a few degrees from a beat... perfect for SURPRISE.


As usual for this race the start was clogged with people who’d never raced before.  Aside from the usual combatants, at least as many again were out there for the party afterwards.  The meaning of all this was that there were a ton of boats who didn’t know starboard tack meant right of way... some were towing dinghies (one on a 50’ line!) and lots of aimless milling around.   As the start sequence worked along, we cut through the riff raff and crossed the line going hard in clear air.  Ha!  SUNDANCE, our traditional rival, was entangled with a couple of large and lumbering Hunters and Catalina’s all festooned with oxygen tents over their cockpits and that abomination so popular among non-sailors who own sailing yachts: dinghy davits and solar panels on their sterns.  


We found we could lay the first mark of the course, Flat Point, a few degrees below beating and so methodically began trimming the boat and rig for a long close reach.  I told Fred that if I started telling stories or if he noticed me looking around too much, he should tell me ‘SHUT UP AND DRIVE!’ which he did a couple of times.  


In the interests of making this race friendlier for non-racers, the rules specified white sails only, so a crew of one plus skipper was plenty.  


We close reached at hull speed, taking care to keep out of the way of the large cruising yachts careering to and fro so as not to be hurt by their wind shadows, or by having to take avoiding action.  I began getting irritated at one in particular who kept coming up under us (not to start a luffing match, just because he couldn’t steer straight...) who had the habit of hauling his main 20 degrees to windward when beating; in effect half heaving too.  His boat, a C&C 34, is quite fast so despite the abuse was keeping up with us.  I was irritated because truly such ridiculous sail trim deserves punishment...rather than keep up with us and forcing us to avoid him... oh well.


We got to Flat Point lickety-split and tacked around it.  The next leg of the course as several miles long up past Snake Island to Ross Shoal...  and again, we could lay it with a bit to spare so we cracked sheets a few inches and concentrated on boat speed.  SUNDANCE, who had gotten clear of the abominations that had hemmed her in at the start, was about 50 meters behind us and rather than tack, carried on past Flat Point mark before tacking.  Hmmm I thought.  Why did he do that?  I thought it was a mistake, but on the other hand, if the wind headed at all, I knew SUNDANCE was better than us hard on the wind.  So we tacked, took a jog over toward them, then tacked again.  I didn’t want to find myself out at the end of this leg pinching to make the mark while SUNDANCE joyously romped down sheets freed to pass us.


And so it came to pass that in due course we were closing in on Ross Shoal.  I was concentrating so hard on my steering that when Fred called to me I was surprised to find we were nearly there.  SUNDANCE was still nicely astern... but an ALBERG 37 which doesn’t normally race was chomping at us.   Luckily it was burdened by a wind generator, oxygen tent, kayaks etc, so had sacrificed its superior speed to these things.  But it was still a threat.


Round Ross Shoal mark we foamed and for a time could lay the finish which we could see up toward Honey Harbour channel...  alas this was not to last.  The wind got light, wandered 30 degrees and we found ourselves ooching along at 3 knots while SUNDANCE, in her element close hauled in light air, easily climbed past us.  After about 45 minutes of anguish during which a couple of large yachts got by us, but the Alberg 37 remained astern, the air freshened again and SURPRISE romped across the line at hull speed.  


So what was the outcome of all this?  A Shark class yacht won. But Sharks are vermin so I didn’t bother with that.  SUNDANCE was second and we were third.  And third is better than a slap in the belly with a wet fish, so that’s fine.


We doused sails and began motoring up to the island for the party... but not before forcing the Alberg 37 to do a crash tack to avoid us...  neither Fred nor I were steering and, well, neither of us were steering.


The party venue is a summer camp the club has an arrangement with for use of their floating docks and dining hall... there was a mob of boats all milling about sorting themselves out.  People who didn’t race anchored off and used their dinghies (and some who did race in the ‘cruising division’ with their dinghies) leaving the wharves clear for us stalwarts.  The club has a large diving tower on a raft, so I decided to try to put a bow line on the raft then back the stern toward the wharf, joining the stack up of yachts moored Mediterranean style stern to.  


Alberg 30’s are very handy under power, so we wiggled in with the diving tower ahead and the wharf astern, and eased SURPRISEs bow up the raft so that Fred could hop off with the line... I was watching astern and felt him go so put the engine in reverse to back away.  I heard a splash and a chorus of shouting.  Fred had missed the raft and was in the drink hanging by his right arm.  He scrambled onto the raft but when we tried to put some tension on the headrope, the raft just moved in.  It was anchored with a lot of scope so was useless to us as a fixed mooring point.


Ah well.  I eased forward again, recovered my soaking wet crew then did a normal moor.  SUNDANCE rafted off us, others joined and we were in.  Fred was embarrassed about his slip... and had somehow cut his ear on the anchor his way down to the water... so theories were floated about how he came to be overboard.  Principal theories involved speculation that I’d slugged him for some minor infraction (hence the head wound) and he threw himself overboard to get off the hell ship I surely ran aboard SURPRISE.


I didn’t mind that theory because of the image of a fierce, hard horse skipper I fancied came with it, so cultivated it as much as possible, even to the point of inferring cowardice on the part of my crew...


Dinner went off well... got into my bunk not too late... motored home yesterday in a dead calm.


A great weekend.



#426 Surprise

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