CONE OF SILENCE
"For sure," Lee agreed. "I think even the most race-o-phobic cruiser can be shamed into proving that they know how to anchor in open water. It's part of the cruising skill set. And, like, that way you have your whole club cruising fleet to draw on for RC boats." "And then we also have a list of all the crews, everyone who has sailed in these races over the last few years, club member or not. I think that’s the real reason they made you sign that waiver at the beginning of the season — for your contact info. That's the pool from which came the Starting Line Manager, a volunteer who knows enough about racing to set a square line and run the start. It's a good way to divide the responsibilities." "But the best part," observed Lee, "is that we don't have to stay out here all afternoon. The finish is in front of the club deck, so I can go windsurfing as soon as we're done with starting this race." "The club also keeps the scoring system extra-easy," I added. "That's the third volunteer they rope into helping out each week — the Finish Line Manager. They take finish times, run the handi-
'Donkey Jack's' bowman silently conveys important information during the 2016 RBBS.
capping spreadsheet, and hand out the trophies. All of that is done from the yacht club bar. So between these three specialty jobs, we almost always have enough volunteers to run a race every week. The whole winter race program is designed to be as RC-friendly as possible, and it doesn't compromise fair competition in the least." "Last time I volunteered to help out on RC," complained Lee, "we had to set windward offset marks and leeward gates. For a fleet of only, like, eight boats! No way I'll sign up for that one again. We've got permanent marks and nav aids all over the Bay, and the racing is just as good even if the mark is a few degrees off dead upwind. Better, even, because we have the mark positions loaded into our GPS and we don't have to guess where they are."
was about to duck below to fetch some cold drinks when I felt a very subtle bump, and a change in the way the boat
was riding at anchor. I looked at the opposite end of our starting line, and much to my dismay, the shore range had changed. Was this just the boat swinging around the anchor? No, there was another small bump, and the bow was falling off to one side. We were dragging. "Gotta reset," sighed Lee, who had come to exactly the same conclusion. "I'll direct from the bow, unless you prefer to run the show." I'm used to being in charge of my own boat when I'm at the helm, but Lee had a point. For anchoring, the person on the bow is in charge. She did this via a set of hand signals, most of them obvious, but a few required a shouted explanation. "It's a good thing we're not, like, doing this at Angel Island," said Lee after the anchor was reset, "with people on every other boat who can hear us shouting much more clearly than we can hear each other." "It's the Cone of Silence," I added, although I didn't think Lee was old enough to get the reference. The anchor held on the second try, and we just barely had it set in time to blow the whistle for the first warning signal. The even distribution of starters along the line suggested that we had done a good job of setting it square to the wind. "I like starting the small boats first," said Lee. "It gets everyone back to the bar at about the same time, and also minimizes the finishing-time window. Another thoughtful consideration to make the RC's job easier." The big boats lined up after a 10minute interval, and each one had a bow lookout hanging on the forestay and trying to look cool. This fleet must have decided that our end was favored, because there was a crush of big boats
"The ﬁrst thing I do when I'm foredeck with a new skipper is make sure we have our hand signals sorted out." aimed right at us on starboard with 30 seconds to go. My thoughts turned to the fine print on my insurance policy. The point guy on the boat closest to us was pointing emphatically to windward. "Yikes, they're going to run us over!" gasped Lee. "Fall off! Fall off!" we heard him yell aft as he continued to point to windward. November, 2017 •
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The November 2017 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.