by Amber, aka d’FEE dee-VAH
The winds were only slightly less gusty than they had been at the start of the previous day’s race. But it was enough that I no longer was fighting extreme lulls. As the other sailors raced back and forth around me, I used the time to set my harness lines and find out how the wind was going to play on the start of the course. At the Skipper’s meeting they had warned that it had shifted to a more north direction, so I set a course that would get me a closer start to the starting boat and allow me to make a bee line to the shore.
Eventually the sails once again started to amass in the direction of the starting line. This time, however, everyone was a bit more open and staggered giving themselves an opportunity to get up good speed. I hung back a bit to allows those that this was “serious business” for to have their space, and so that I could witness that infamous rabbit start this time from the water. As my watch hit the 60 minute mark I again saw the farthest sails start to break away, I raked back my own sail got up speed and headed toward the start. I again was slow across the starting line. I had miss judged my starting direction and had to ride downwind with my sail wide open, bleeding air. Eventually I got my line back and was able to set my course. As I crossed the starting line, my heart lept again! “YESSSS!” I was back!
I headed for the shore and then turned up to follow the course. This time I was close enough to see the buoys marking the various hazards. I set in my mind where they were on the course and stuck to the shallow waters. As I made it to the half way mark the professional sailors were already starting their return. I set my course to follow a line of sailors in front of me. This allowed me to ride their wake and to mentally focus on them rather than the tsunami of sailors about to impinge on me. “Relax and ride… Relax and ride…” I loosened my grip on the boom, settled down into my harness and let the board dance under my feet. The onslaught hit and for the next 10 minutes as I rode toward that first mark I became completely exhilarated with the fact that I was successfully maneuvering through. My fears subsided. I was very much in control.
I made the first mark in 20 minutes. The winds were, as predicted, considerably stronger there but nothing of the magnitude they had been the previous day. I pulled off to the shallow waters past the mark and sat on my board. Geert had given me some sports drinks to put in my camelback so with my feet holding me to the sand I took a few minutes to grab a drink and size up my return. There were other sailors around doing similar. After a few minutes I was ready, I picked up my sail and stepped up on the board and was off again. The wind on the second leg held steady. I noticed that the ride seemed noticeably smoother as well. The sailors were now spread out considerably along the course, making for less intimidating crossing and overtaking. I had settled down, and was enjoying the race.
As I approached the second mark, a realization started to creep into my head. Could it be that I might actually finish a race? I think the Tramontane heard my thoughts and I started to notice the wind shift in a more northerly direction pushing me out away from shore and the mark. “No, not today Mister!” I tacked back, aggressively driving my board toward shore, turned again, and this time took the mark. I smiled. Yeah, baby! I was on my third leg!!! Once again, I hugged the shoreline and shallow waters. The winds were slowly picking up again as I rode out to the mark, but this time I took the sail hard and dug my fin in. I was having too much fun. I was flying. A thought of my BABA friends flashed in my head. It was Warren and Dan racing next to me. Daphne was down wind again. Gordon flashed by going the other way and then I saw Janice and with an exuberant cry I gave a hearty, “SCREAMING MONKEYS!!! WHHHOOOO HOOOOOO!!!!” and began to laugh.
By the time I made the far mark, I was again sailing completely over powered. The plan was that I would do the same thing I did on the first leg, head to the shallow waters and take a quick break. But as I approached the mark, I was lined up in a good position for a jibe and my plan faded. But then the Tramontane reminded me why I needed to stick to my plan. A gust slammed into me and I went skittering across my sail. “ouch”… “ok, ok, I’ll stick to my plan.” I turned my board around and headed to shore.
Once again I sat on my board with my toes dug into the sand. And once again I sized up the return, stepped back on the board, and this time headed toward the finish line. With the wind shifted a bit and now having more north in it I made sure to keep my upwind position. This meant for slower and choppier sailing. As I reached the half way mark, I passed close to a safety boat. I gave the guys a big smile and wave and they cheered me on.
Finally I could see flags of the two finish boats off in the distance. The first boat would read my number and the second boat would be the official time. I fixed my sights upwind of the boats, and forced my board in that direction. As I drew closer I tempered my upwind approach and pointed my board directly toward the finish. I was still fighting the chop and the return of gusty winds when I crossed the first line, but I held steady and cruised right through the finish line. The crew on the finish boat gave me a resounding round of applause. I DID IT!!! I MADE IT!!! 40kms, me vs the Tramontane, and I had pulled one off!