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Sam Boyle
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The First Race (Making Do...)

The First Race

(Subtitle: Making Do…)


 Sam II's first race on GRIT

As usual I'm about 3 months behind on getting things done… so this is our second installment of the series on GRIT, our project boat.  For those who might have missed the first column, GRIT is a 1977 Pearson 10 Meter.  

We purchased GRIT  back in November 2003.  After the delivery to Charleston (A Winter Delivery ), we put GRIT into the yard for a bottom job and some minor maintenance.  Many weeks later (and a lot more work than originally planned) GRIT was back in the water.  The boatyard experience – what we found and what we did is a whole article in itself… I'm working on that one.  Unfortunately, the pressures of Spring hit and there has been little time for sailing.  We took GRIT out for one quick Saturday in March and that had been the extent of it until this past weekend.

Now those of you who have been around SailNet for a while know that sailboat racing has never been our personal forte.  Cheryl and I were cruisers.  How much of that was a conscious choice and how much the inevitable consequence of owning a large (slooow) ketch we'll never know.  So the crew here at SailNet began campaigning for us to race GRIT.  After some beating around the bush, I agreed to enter GRIT in the Sheriff's Cup – a down and back race between Charleston and Rockville, SC.  It's about 30 miles each way with an overnight stay.

Naturally, all the hard-core racers (save one) here at SailNet already had berths on the “hot” boats for the race.  So on Saturday morning, it was down to Tom Geerhaerts, my son Sam and myself.  Fortunately for us, Tom has been racing for quite some time – because that is the only thing that saved us…

It began at the dock before the race start… at 08:30 we're getting ready to head over to the start when we decide that reading the race instructions would be a good idea.  The big gem here is that the race committee is operating on Channel 74.  Unfortunately, our antique radio only goes to Channel 72… so off we dash, figuring we'd sail by the Race Committee and hail them for a time check.  After much maneuvering and getting things squared away we finally make it past the Committee and ask for the time… short pause and then the hail comes back “You've already started.”  Ooops!  Quick turn for the line and Tom goes to haul out the roller-furling jib… grunt, grunt, grunt… later investigation reveals this is the first time we've loaded up the bearings and they're shot… finally we get the sail out and off we go…


 Sam's super spiffy flexible whisker pole invented aboard GRIT!

The second leg of the race is dead downwind.  We're already behind the curve in  our fleet (JAM thank you very much) and things suddenly take a dark turn.  We see most of the other boats rigging their whisker poles and opening the lead.  The problem of course is that we don't have a whisker pole.  Now, some of the folks around here think I can be a little competitive at times… it isn't really that I'm competitive, I just hate to lose.  So I scrambled below casting about for substitutes… after some scrounging, I put together the GRIT Flexible Whisker Pole.  (see Photo).  This is whole new concept in whisker poles and we are standing by for the big manufacturers to bid on the forthcoming patent.   While not pretty, it did work and kept us in the game as we moved out of the harbor.  

The rest of the race was pretty much a beat south.  This is GRIT's favored point of sail so we did very well, grinding away at the rest of the fleet.  Most of the credit for this goes to Tom.  He did two things very well.  First, GRIT is sporting a brand new set of Pentax sails designed by Tom.  They were simply magnificent.  If you're looking for fast sails on a budget then I can't say enough about those guys at Air Force Sails <SMILE>.  The other thing is that Tom coached Sam and I like the true pro that he is.  Taking a pair of novices and sailing an under-equipped boat to a strong finish is quite a feat – particularly when your fleet isn't weak!  

Under equipped you ask?  Well, after taking stock we realized that a great many of our “project” tasks hadn't quite been finished.  We have spiffy new Navman transducers installed, but no instruments.  In fact, we sailed the race with a Windex and an aviation GPS (meaning no marine database).  There was no wind, speed or depth.  Waking up the next morning, we also discovered there was no coffee pot.

The return race was just as much fun.  This was almost completely a downwind race in very light airs.  Not the 10M's favored point of sail.  Once again our trusty Flexible Whisker Pole saved the day.  Unfortunately, we overloaded it during the last takedown and severly bent the reinforcement (the awning pole lashed to the middle).  Rather than replicate this extraordinary feat of engineering, the crew voted that we acquire a real whisker pole before the next race.

Actually the crew presented me with a list of “demands” for gear upgrades… like a traveler that actually travels, a roller-furler that rolls, winches that winch, electronics, a radio without tubes… you get the idea.  I think they decided that we might have taken our “affordable sailing” concept a little too far.  So, we're looking for those items and will report on what we choose, how we get it installed and so on.  Our goal will be to get the most performance for the best price – not always the least cost, but the best value that we can find…. Starting with the radio and whisker pole!  

I already found the radio --  we're going for the ICOM M502 with the optional Command Remote Microphone It's a little more than the entry-level radios, but the option for the remote microphone means we can listen in on the race committee out in the cockpit.  We also like the idea that the remote microphone eliminates the need for a portable so the cost is probably a wash.  Add in a Practical Sailor Best Buy rating, DSC and a $20 rebate from ICOM and this unit is the choice for us.


 Fleet of the Sheriff's Cup as seen from GRIT's cockpit.

As for the race, we don't know yet.  The results haven't been posted.  But, regardless of how we did, I'm positive it was a “winning weekend.”  We had a ton of fun.  We worked together and overcame some interesting challenges to stay in the race.  Sam, my 13 year old son, became a convert.  Last night before lights out he had already checked the site for results – and he did it again this morning before going off to school.  I think that's a good sign.  There aren't many opportunities to spend a whole weekend with your teenager and we're looking forward to more of these.  As for me, well I guess I have the bug now… my favorite view of the whole race was when we put most of our fleet behind us (see photo).  And I've been researching whisker poles on this cool sailing site I know… when I'm not bugging Tom to tell me how we get another 1/10 of a knot out of GRIT.

Fair winds,

Sam Boyle


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