Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sailing: Feels Like Home

Is that the Transamerica building
in the background?

Mark and I signed up on race committee for the first day of the UAE National Sailing Championships. This is a dinghy regatta, with Open Catamaran, Laser, and Optimist divisions. As it turned out, it was a day very similar to summer in San Francisco.

From what we have seen, the sailing conditions here are pretty mild. We hadn’t been sailing since we received our shipment in early January, which contained our sailing gear. As we were getting ready to leave the apartment, Mark said “I don’t think I’ll bring my foul weather pants . . .”

“I am,” I said. Hello? We both knew that the weather forecast was for cooling temperatures and gusty winds. Even though the days still seem warm to us, with some wind on the water it could get cold. Plus, we really didn’t know what we were in for in terms of assignments.

Fortunately, he changed his mind and brought them along. When we arrived that the club at 0900 the wind was whipping the flags, and it remained a steady 15 – 20 knots the entire day.

There was steady breeze and chop.

I was on the mark boat, which also served as finish boat, with Jenny, a race committee regular, Denney, who is from the Caribbean island of Antigua, and Ned, who has a very interesting job as the pilot of a private jet. That’s all I can say about that, or he would have to kill me. Mark was assigned to one of the rescue boats with Pilly, a young blonde woman who works for the club, and wears pink shorts and pink sunglasses.

As we bashed upwind into the waves to set the marks, I wondered if I might get seasick while we were at anchor for the day. It’s taken me a lifetime to learn how to manage myself so that I maintain my equilibrium to avoid nausea, because once I start to feel like barfing it’s all over, and I don’t recover until I hit the dirt. Plus, as Jenny had reminded me, the  boat doesn’t have a “loo.”

We set the longest course for the catamarans, and the shortest course for the Optimist aged 10 or under class. As I looked around at the conditions, windy with steep chop, I thought of Richmond Yacht Club’s junior sailors. And I have to say, these kids here in the UAE are tough. It was a four race day and they rigged up and sailed over a mile to the start line, wearing shorts and life vests, guaranteed to be permanently wet and probably, sooner or later, capsize.

Sailors of all ages participated.

The rescue boats had a busy day. In addition to the usual capsizes among the fleet, a catamaran broke his tiller on the first race, and another one lost his rudder on the second, which sent him drifting backwards through the start line as another fleet was in pre-start maneuvers. A third catamaran, who had three bullets (first place) broke his jib halyard during the third race and had to retire. Out of a total fleet of about 30 boats, ten retired after the first race and another five after the second. I didn’t blame them! It was gnarly out there, and I was surprised that none of the little kids gave up before the first race even started.

I didn't blame anyone who had enough and went in.

As it got later, I noticed that they were starting the third Laser and Optimist races before the last boats had finished. The finish line where we were was just behind the start line and I wondered if any late finishers would be tenacious enough to turn right around and cross the start line again. An Optimist crossed, and we called to the little skipper: “Hello! Your fleet has started the next race!” And we pointed to the starting line.

I'm not starting another bloody race!

He stood up, looked at us, and said in a proper British accent: “I have been sailing for four hours. I‘m wet, I’m cold, and I’m hungry. I want to go in!” Which he did, but not before he sailed over to us so that Jenny gave him a sugar-packed energy drink. “You have to bring lots of sweeties,” she said.

The racing wound down but the breeze and the chop never did. Mark and Pilly came by to say hi. How are you doing? I was happy to report that, although I had worried a little about seasickness, it hadn’t happened. The short chop didn’t bother me. These days, I don’t get sick unless I am in big rollers in the ocean. On this day, the Arabian Sea off of Dubai reminded me a lot of San Francisco Bay.

Near the end of the day, a Bristol Channel Cutter sailed toward us, looking good. The skipper and crew knew Jenny and Ned, and they hailed us and waved. I snapped a few photos as they sailed past, and then I noticed their hailing port: Half Moon Bay, CA.

Feels like home.

Thanks for reading.
Coming soon: Abu Dhabi for Bird Lovers, and some fabulous foods.

1 comment:

PelagicBlue said...

Wow, there sure seems to be a healthy contingent of kiteboards in the photos background. I didn't know it was such a hotspot for the sport. It all sounds like good fun.