Footnotes from a lifetime of sailing:
I've lost track of all the different sailboats I have owned and restored over the years...to my best recollection, in order of size it would go something like this: Sunfish, Laser, Seaswirl 16, Venture 17, Ultimate 20 (4 different ones over the years), San Juan 21, Maple Leaf 23, Mirage 236, Catalina 25, Coronado 32, Explorer 45', and Soubise 46' catamaran. Each boat had its good and bad points and all taught me something in the process of restoring and sailing them. I love boats, but it's a disease of sorts...however, there are worse things one could be afflicted with.
My youth was good times for me sailing...maybe not so much for hair cuts...
Best Regatta Story: When I was deep into my Ultimate 20 Championship years , I purchased sight-unseen boat that was deemed a "dog" as the U20 class folklore was that hulls number 70-100 were overweight and poorly built. The previous two owners of this particular boat both claimed they simply couldn't win with this heavy beast and so it was for sale at a huge discount. The upcoming Nationals that year were to be held in Houston Texas and this boat was also in Texas. The current owner agreed to drive it to Houston and I would pick it up there two weeks before the Nationals were to be held. I gave myself this time
period to fix whatever problems might be wrong with the boat. I shipped my relatively good sails and a big box of miscl. boat repair and upgrade items. When I arrived I found that the boat wasn't too badly abused and was mostly just neglected and not set up ideally for racing. A good cleaning of the top and bottomsides, new running rigging, servicing of all the blocks and tightening of various little bolts and such and a proper rig tune were all that was really needed. My crew flew in about 4 days before Nationals and we went out and practiced to get a feel for the currents and local waters, but the boat was nearly identical to my own U20 at home after I had a week to work on her. We went out and won Nationals on that boat that week. I immediately sold her right there in Houston the day after nationals for a tidy profit (now that she had now proven she was a top-dog Nationals winner) which paid for me and my crew's entire trip to Houston. It was a good lesson in the how folklore can affect humans and how the nut at the end of the tiller has a pretty important part to play, but also simple boat preparation, good sails, clean bottoms , and practice, practice, practice... Another highlight was picking up on a wind shift about 15 seconds before a start, which allowed us to do a port tack approach to the start... Nothing quite as rewarding (or crazy) as port tacking the entire fleet at the start of a Nationals Regatta! Fun times...
I started sailing the Ultimate 20 back in 1995, attended at least 6 Nationals, placing 3rd twice, 2nd twice, and winning it twice.. I was also a class measurer and class president at different times and was the Pacific Northwest dealer. The set up and tuning guide I wrote for the Ultimate 20 is still in use over 20 years later https://u20class.org/assets/u20setup.pdf
Worst Regatta Story: Again sailing an Ultimate 20, this time at a local Seattle PHRF series, we were sailing down wind with our big asymmetrical kite up, mostly paying attention to our competition coming down on us from behind in a fresh breeze when we were startled by a lonely T-bird in a completely different fleet that was on her upwind leg.. We had to quickly jump on all the controls to avoid her and blanketed the kite behind the mainsail, as we adjusted course to ease off behind her, however a good enough puff loaded up the mainsail which pushed the boat up into the wind as the spinnaker now had collapsed and our bow sprit ended up T-boning the poor T-bird right amid ships through one of its portlights.... we were stuck in a mess of yelling and dousing of sails and both crews trying madly to push the now interlocked boats apart! It was totally my fault and I apologized profusely, said I would pay for everything and did my 720 penalty turns and carried on albeit a bit shaken up. After the regatta I contacted a friend Erik Bentzen who lived in Seattle to fix the broken portlight of the T-bird...luckily it simply knocked out and broke the Plexiglas window and no real damage to the fiberglass or rest of the boat was incurred...and no one was hurt...all things considered, it was a lucky day indeed. Eric is quite the racing sailor, racing boat builder & rigger himself and he has gone on to start his own marine surveying company in the Seattle area, whom I would highly recommend to anyone... http://www.erikbentzen.com/
Most Extreme Boat: I will use the above reference to Erik Bentzen as a Segway into this little ditty about sailing at a regatta up in Canada aboard Erik's Ultimate 30 "ZITI"(no real relation to the Ultimate 20 other than the name and a bow sprit)... The Ultimate 30's were a world-wide pro circuit that ESPN backed in the early 1990s that was way ahead of its time... The boats were basically all-carbon, unballasted open dinghies, like an Aussie 18 skiff but on steroids, with 30' hulls, 48' mast, and 24' bowsprit, and hiking racks & trapezes for the crew. To say it's an extreme boat is an understatement. I was fortunate enough that our regatta up in Canada was in pretty mild conditions and light winds. Even so, the boat had so much sail area and so little weight she just powered up and would plane in what seemed like no wind at all... Getting the entire crew to unhook from the weather side trapeze and run over and hook up with the new side during a tack was fun, and a bit like a fire drill...blasting past Santa Cruz 70's like they were tied to the dock was a bit of cheeky fun to boot!
Most Extreme Sailing Conditions: As a child, I was given the book "The Boy Who Sailed Around the World Alone" by Robin Lee Graham. This might be the seed that started it all. As a teen, my interest in sailing grew, and I would peddle my bike down to the local library and eventually read through everything they had related to sailing. Adlard Cole's "Heavy Weather Sailing", and "Fastnet Force 10" by Rousmaniere were among many a hair-raising story... but digesting all of this along with striking out on my own sailing adventures built a little background experience and knowledge that proved useful later on. On a return delivery from Hawaii with friend Andy Schwenk in the early 1990s, about a week and a half into the journey we were headed up into the gulf of Alaska to sail up and around the Pacific
high when we got clobbered with a huge trough, big seas and high winds for about 2 days. The storm built during the night and we knew the seas were huge, the 45' boat riding like a small duck down the backs of the waves as we had to turn south and run with the increase seas and winds. About every 4 minutes, a big breaker would flood over the boat, completely filling the cockpit for a few minutes until the scuppers could dribble out the green seawater. Luckily, the cockpit was rather small for the size of the boat and it didn't founder us..but we sure were soaked. Hatch boards were up and hatch completely closed...the boat stayed relatively safe and dry down below. We had reduced sails, completely dousing the main and cutter and only using a handkercheif-sized section of the jib furled out to give us a bit of speed and control and it pulled us along downwind nicely. We took the seas at about a 45 degree angle to avoid pitchpoling, since we were heavy boat and not really able to surf. The wind meter pegged at over 70 knots and as dawn broke we could see that the seas were actually mountains, easily 75' from trough to crest, and the night before we were only aware of the top 15' that was breaking over the boat. Physiologically, this was pretty humbling, and one could easily freak out. Luckily, Andy had lots of offshore experience and I had done a lot of surfing and sailing in my youth and we both felt the boat was fine and our tactics sound, and as long as nothing else went wrong we would be fine. One concern was that if the storm didn't pass us by we would end up in San Francisco rather than the Puget Sound as there was no way we could even think about turning up into this stuff... The other concern was that the steering was getting harder, we checked below on the rudder quadrant which seemed OK, but when we checked the worm gear, we found that all the salt water washing through the stern of the boat had depleted any grease. Luckily ,I had stocked up on such things and we took to hourly checking and adding grease to the worm gear in between waves crashing over the stern. After about two days, the main fury of the storm had passed in front of us and we were able to slowly head the boat up more and more every few hours as the winds and sea state slowly subsided. A new threshold had been reached and we found ourselves in a cheery mood when we were finally able to actually head slightly upwind against 30' seas, and 40 knot winds, which seemed like a mill pond comparatively. We both have gone on to do many more blue water trips on different boats and different oceans since then, and Andy has now done that trip to Hawaii or back from nearly 40 times, but to this day, he still recalls that was the biggest seas and wind he has ever seen and hopefully ever will.