Oh my goodness, there is so much to tell, but where to begin? I don’'t know if today was typical or not, but perhaps you can shed some light on that for me.
Here's what happened: The day started out beautiful: 80 degrees, sun, and winds 5-10 knots out of the south, with gusts up to 25 knots predicted later in the day. Water temp was 58 degrees. I met the skipper (let's call him Sam. Sam the Skipper) and his crewmate, Bob, who also owns a Lightning but crews for Sam because his boat isn't ready to race yet.
Fourth crew member
We were one of only three Lightnings racing today, which I understand is unusual. Apparently there is a big regatta this weekend so many boats were out of town. Because of the smaller number, there were several extra crew trying to find boats to work. One of the other Lightning took on a fourth crew, so my skipper Sam offered to take on a fourth as well, let's call her Annie. But at the last minute, the other boat's fourth bowed out, so in the end, we were the only boat with four crew.
(As an aside, I will say this- I don't know if it was a good idea to take a fourth or not, but I personally was glad Annie was onboard. She called the countdown times before the start, called out weather, kept our skipper apprised of where the marks were, knew exactly where every other boat was on the course, knew how to fly the spinnaker, and was overall just brilliant. I learned more from just watching her than I did from anybody else on that boat.)
Annie and Bob flew the spinnaker during the mile run down to the race course, and we practiced a few jibes until I felt comfortable. After a bit, we all kind of fell into our more or less permanent positions: I was working the jib, she was working the main, and Bob was doing other stuff that the Skipper was telling him to do (like adjust the cunningham, outhaul, etc.)
Even though I had been told I would be middle position, it turns out I spent most of my time forward.
Finally the RC gave the signal and we began maneuvering. It was a terrible start for us. I'm not sure what happened (my eyes were glued on the jib telltales) but somehow there was some confusion about where the start gate was. Apparently the RC boat was not in the same orientation that they're usually in, which threw Sam and Annie off. So we ended up crossing the line late. Our first rounding wasn't that great, either. Something got jammed as we tried to raise the jib after flying the spinnaker. We all became so engrossed in diagnosing, the skipper sailed right past the pin. If we had been in a plane, it would've been a textbook example of heads-down flying- none of us looking out the window. D’oh
So the first race was pretty bad. We came in dead last. By a lot.
Second race, I am happy to say, was a lot better. We chose not to fly the spinnaker as the wind was picking up and we obviously weren't a well oiled machine yet, so we just sailed wing on wing on the downwind and did just fine like that. We still came in last, but at least we were a lot closer to the second boat.
Third Race - DNS and Man overboard!
Prior to the start of the third race, things got really dicey. The wind was really picking up now, big gusts knocking us over quite a bit, and me being forward, I was completely soaked (thank God I listened to Sailnet and dressed for the weather.)
The start was pretty chaotic with lots of jostling and I think we were all a bit eager to try to get a better position for this final race. The other two boats did a good job of defending against us and the skipper was calling out commands fast and furious. It seemed like there was less and less time between the "prepare to..." and the actual turn but I just figured that was because we were becoming better and better at our jobs. Well, at one point Sam called out "prepare to jibe" and Annie and I went down under the boom, but Bob didn't. I heard a loud CRACK and looked up to see Bob flying backwards over the side!
I dropped the jib sheet and lunged across the centerboard and tried to grab his leg in a bear hug as it cartwheeled up and over, but his momentum pulled his foot clear through my arms and I was left holding his sneaker! Somehow, he managed to grab the boom on his way over the edge and hung there as the boat kept sailing. I kept waiting for the boat to turn into the wind and stop, but somehow we kept sailing, dragging poor Bob through the water. I was keenly aware of my jib luffing and mainsail not, so I wasn't sure if the skipper intended to continue the race with a crew hanging off the boom but finally (FINALLY!) the boat slowed down and a motorboat pulled up alongside to fish Bob out of the water. He had blood coming from his face and looked in shock.
After he was taken away, we started our beat back to the marina. We never even crossed the start line.
On our way back to the marina, we talked about what we could have done differently. Definitely we should have stopped the boat immediately. I also feel like we should have had this conversation before starting out, just so that everybody would’'ve known exactly what to do. Of course, hindsight is twenty-twenty.
We caught up with Bob later on. He's fine, but by the looks of his eye, he will have a nice shiner tomorrow. He also lost his prescription glasses in the water. Oh, we also found out later that one of the other boats lost a crew in the water as well.
As for me, I am happy that I wasn't the one who went in.
I stayed (relatively) dry, learned a lot, and have a much better idea of what to expect from now on.
So…. was this a typical racing day? Is it common to take on a fourth crew member? Have a jammed jib sheet? Lose a crew member on a jibe? Or is every day an adventure?