January 7, 2006-Rush Back from Malaysia
On The Wind
The Spinnaker is up. We’re on a close reach.
We are trying to hold a steady course against the overpowering force of 20 knots of wind on the sail plan without stalling the rudder that is barely keeping a tenuous hold in the Johore Straits
The puff comes and I give the helm a pull; but not too much. I am edging along the fine line between too much helm that will break flow over the rudder and too little which will result in a round up. I know I am walking on a tight rope.
Then I feel the helm suddenly go soft.
I expect a vicious spin out…and it doesn’t happen.
I look down and see Judy’s hand on the tiller next to mine. She knows we are on the edge and she is helping me steer. It isn’t rudder stall; but when you are steering by feel, you don’t need a helping hand.
“Uh, don’t do that honey, I’ve got it.” I tell her softly.
I said it to her softly.
I could whisper to her if I wanted because no one else was speaking a thing and other than the sound of the water rushing by there was absolute silence on the boat.
Judy was right by my side. We are a team. However nervous she might have been; she was quietly helping instead of pressing her case for a takedown. She knew the competition was right behind and if there was just one blink we’d be passed.
She wanted to win as bad as I did.
I couldn’t blame Judy for putting her hand in it; we’re all tense and how can you sit there and just watch when the boat is teetering over the precipice? Maybe we should drop the kite?
But we held the kite and our course and we raced on, Marco trimming, Pierre grinding, the others on the high side, and me and Judy steering; 20 knots of wind well ahead of the beam, the ¾ sheeted hard, and the water rushing by like the hellfire rapids of a mountain stream.
There were gusts over 20 and the wind was shifty too. When it came aft a bit we felt better. The boat accelerated. The main settled down. But it didn’t last. Each time we got a favourable shift, after few seconds, the wind would go forward again.
Some might say that was a great sail, but personally I was glad when we crossed the line in one piece and I could call for the spinnaker to come down.
The better part of the day’s sail for me was the beat from the P21 mark to the Malaysian channel. That was midway through the race. We had sailed out the Johore Straits, past Alert Shoal, and made a left turn through the main ship anchorage towards Malaysia.
Great sailing on a hot day
On that beat I could let Wings go to work; I could play the shifts, work the boat speed higher, cover the competition; it was total joy.
There is something about the flat green water of a broad river delta on a hot, windy tropical day when you can work the boat upwind for an hour and then the mark appears out of the haze right where it should and you call the lay-line perfectly, and set the kite for the trip home. Now that is what I like.
Most people I’ve talked to about sailing in Singapore have expressed amazement that we have any wind there, but since we first arrived in these waters last June we’ve had good sailing every day we’ve gone out. Mostly we’ve been on the #3 instead of the #1, and if you know what that means, you know we’ve had a breeze.
If you don’t, well, it means hot days with enough wind so that you can charge around the race course with a bone in your teeth and occasionally knock a bit of salt spray up on deck to keep things cooled off.
And it means that the beer in the ice box tastes really good after the race is done.
Fred & Judy, S/V WINGS, Singapore
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