Nobody wants to die doing something they love. They want to live doing something they love.
|There are good days and bad days in sailing, but the good far outweigh the bad.|
After a lovely sailboat race and post-race debrief session over several beers, I had trouble sleeping. I woke up about 2:00 a.m. I was feeling tense, but for no reason. We had a great time; we had met a whole new group of sailing friends. Everything was fine. After three hours lying awake, I heard Mark’s alarm say, “It’s time to wake up. The time is 5:20.” It was Sunday morning, and the first day of the UAE work week
As usual, I rolled over and picked up my iPad to check Facebook. The first post I saw was from a San Francisco sailing friend: “I just heard a boat crashed on the rocks on the Farallones Race! So nasty out there. If anyone can fill me in . . .”
|The conventional wisdom is "No wind inside|
the Gate means wind outside." This year was a
windless start for the crewed Farallones Race.
The post time was about three hours earlier; Saturday afternoon in San Francisco. Had I picked up the iPad when I woke at 2:00 a.m., I would have witnessed the tragic events of the Farallones unfolding in real time from halfway around the globe. The next posts were from worried spouses and friends onshore about boats that were out there. Were they safe? What was going on?
I quickly learned how bad it was: one confirmed dead, three missing, three rescued alive. (The number missing has since risen to four.) The stricken boat was the Sydney 38 Low Speed Chase, a well-sailed competitor in Wildcard’s San Francisco PHRF fleet division.
There are many stories on this tragic incident, including this one at http://www.norcalsailing.com/entries/2012/04/15/farallones/lowspeedchase.html
This story isn’t about the Farallones disaster, though; it’s about the bigger picture. It’s about the worldwide sailing community, about what we share in our dedication to the sport we love, about safety at sea, and about how we strive to keep watch over one another, because bad things can happen.
At the ADCA annual meeting, everyone pays their dues for the coming year. There is no initiation fee. A family membership is Dh300, which is about $82 U.S., most of which is spent on the buffet dinner following the meeting. I attended the April 4th Annual Meeting and Dinner solo because Mark was sick with the flu that I had unfortunately passed on to him.
Sailing clubs in the UAE suffer from the transient nature of the expat population here. Without consistent membership, it’s hard to start programs and keep them going strong. It’s also hard to have a consistent fleet and consistent leadership. ADCA is not large enough to have a committee boat or even a race committee onshore.
|Bull 7000 Dr. Yalla Yalla in 2009,|
sank in March 2012.
ADCA members were concerned about how to know if another boat needs assistance, and what to do in the event of an emergency. Communication between competitors out on the water is by mobile phone which is no good in the water. VHF is not used because there are licensing requirements here that aren’t yet clearly understood, but club members are doing research.
Call the Coast Guard? No; chances are they would not be of help. The Coast Guard crews do not speak English. Could we have a “buddy boat” system? What if a boat fails to return to the dock when expected? Should we go out and search? Would that even be practical?
|Yalla Yalla Jr. is well sailed |
and very competitive.
The race we sailed on Saturday was part of the ADCA Commodore’s Cup series which runs from September through May, with races every three weeks. So far we’ve sailed on Unwind in two races of this series. Courses are announced by Marc Brugger, ADCA Racing Secretary, the week prior to the race. The first race we sailed was a simple up and down course in the channel, which we won. It was Unwind’s first win.
Our second race was more interesting and much more scenic.
|We raced clockwise around Lulu Island.|
Knowing that the Beneteau 7.5 Dr. (Jr.) Yalla Yalla (the new boat sailed by the sunken Bull skipper and crew) was faster on a reach we rigged a barber hauler (to improve the sail’s performance for the wind angle) for the jib, and it worked well. But Mark wanted to try the asymmetrical spinnaker, so we were the first boat to hoist, which meant sailing close to the rock wall. It was a tight reach (the wind was coming more from ahead than behind), but we were able to carry it. The Mumm 30 Idefix was just above and ahead of us and hoisted their symmetrical spinnaker, but promptly rounded up, fell behind, and ended up taking it down. We were in front of everyone, including the big Swan 42, working up to the channel mark that (we thought) we needed to round, feeling pretty good. We had to collapse the spinnaker once to work upwind and stay away from the rock wall, but that was no big deal, the water was flat. And we have a new, flatter spinnaker on order.
|Yalla Yalla Jr. and Saeeda saili along the Corniche.|
The two other sport boats in our fleet, Yalla Yalla and a Cork 1720 named Saeeda, were behind us, following our line to the buoy, but the Swan and Idefix were far below us, as well as the F27 catamaran Ocean Breeze. That’s when we realized it: we were headed to the wrong mark! We had to jibe and sail downwind, giving up the lead. At least Yalla was still behind us. They’re the guys we want to beat.
Of course, as Idefix later told us, they were happy to be in the race again. The fleet then entered the channel and sailed between Lulu Island and the Corniche to the finish – a triangle course.
|Idefix tuning before the race.|
This cost us the race. If we had rounded that mark, we would have won. Instead, we were disqualified. How I wished Mark and I had studied the sailing instructions! Yet since we are still getting to know the boat and the waters around Abu Dhabi, we weren’t upset. It’s all part of the learning curve. We learned a lot about the boat and what it can do.
Emiliano said it best: “The boat is getting better, without any changes or new sails. Now we are getting new sails. I am happy.” Yes, we have a new set of sails on order from Quantum South Africa, arriving in May in time for the last race.
|Ocean Breeze finished just behind us.|
The downtown Abu Dhabi Corniche is a very popular venue for weekend activities. People stroll, run, bicycle, and ride in rented pedal cars along the sidewalk. I can imagine how we looked to them, sailing gracefully along the beach toward the Abu Dhabi Theatre. It was a beautiful sight to look at Lulu Island on one side and the city of Abu Dhabi on the other, from the water.
|Abu Dhabi Cruiser Association at |
the unofficial clubhouse in Al Bateen Marina.
After the race, ADCA members gathered at Al Bateen marina. This outdoor bar and restaurant is the perfect post-race venue, with comfortable poolside seating overlooking the marina. The beers were flowing, and the conversation went from the day’s racing, to the course and sailing instructions, how to increase the racing fleet, the Bull sinking, and an upcoming cruising rally in Croatia.
|Emiliano has the right attitude.|
When we’re out there racing in a fleet, we are not alone. Low Speed Chase was not alone. That they surely knew, and this was hopefully some comfort even in the direst of circumstances. My heart is broken for the skipper and crew who will live on as survivors of their disaster and suffer the loss of their friends and fellow crew members. At times like this, families and non-sailors ask how it could have happened. Why do we risk our lives?
|People who sail together bond quickly.|
May those who have perished rest in peace.
|There's nothing so gratifying as meeting, having a beer and bonding with a group of fellow sailors.|