I kept my camera handy in the cockpit throughout the day on Saturday. It’s a waterproof Canon PowerShot D-10 camera, and can handle bouncing around in a boat pretty well. As requested by Mark and Jack on the catboat forum, these pictures tell the story of the race from my perspective.
As I sailed across the harbor from Punta Gorda Isles to our racing area near the Port Charlotte Beach Complex, I was approached by a power catamaran bearing the orange sign of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary. I figured they were just bored and wanted to look at the pretty catboat, but then they approached close enough to hail me. I was amused to find out that they knew I was heading to the Sun Cat Nationals, and they were wondering whether their friend Dick K, a recent Sun Cat buyer I know, would show up to play with us. My spies tell me that he was indeed on the water and did NOT come to play, so he’ll get an earful when I get hold of him.
My mesh ribbon telltale on the shroud was standing up nicely and it was a beautiful day for a sailboat race as I sailed across the harbor. There was enough wind to move the boat nicely, but not nearly as much as the previous weekend, when the Sunfish Regionals were held in 20-25 knot winds. I was thankful for the perfect breeze at that point in the day, and thankful we did not have the nasty cold wind and chop the Sunfish sailors experienced. Later, as I struggled endlessly for the finish line, I remember wishing for one of those gusts to come along!
As I approached, the other Sun Cats were also gathering around race committee boat Whimsy. I came across Sandpiper raising sail.
Meanwhile, Frisky and Odd Duck were already over by the committee boat, and an Endeavour 32 cruising sailboat was meandering through the race course on its way out from the channel.
As all the boats were checking in and getting the course description from race committee chairman Tom Scott, I sailed around to try to take a good picture of each competitor. First to cross my path was Frisky.
Next to come along was Odd Duck, sporting a custom stainless steel railing and bow pulpit and a custom bimini top.
Then I took a pass by Sanura, looking great with her dark green hull and tanbark sail.
Catnip on the prowl!
And Indy Anna on her way to the coveted “most relaxed” Sun Cat racer title.
And last but not least, Sandpiper, who would have won the race easily had they not had a bit of centerboard trouble at the end. I should really be more embarrassed than I am about this. Two good-sized men with a giant outboard hanging off the back should not be that much faster than one guy with a normal outboard.
Just so we have the whole Sun Cat class here, a shot of Wily Conch taken by Hans from the race committee boat. Maybe I could go faster without those speed wrinkles in my sail?
And we can’t forget the Horizon Cat Class, Good Juju! They showed up a bit late, and I snapped that picture shortly after I rounded the upwind mark. Better late than never!
Prior to the race starting sequence, there was still a bit of wind out on the harbor, and I took the opportunity to sail out toward the reach mark and get a shot of Sonja, who was standing by in the mark boat to help Sun Cat sailors find their way to the reach mark. Ominously, a dredging barge approaches in the background. (cue scary music)
I decided to try to start just a bit late, in the hopes of catching a dramatic picture of all the Sun Cats going across the line. That did not work out at all! As shown on the previous picture page and in the videos, the Sun Cats were all over the place when the starting horn sounded, few all that close to the line. This picture was not exactly what I had in mind, but here it is. You can see the starting line pin buoy, generously provided by Charlotte Harbor Community Sailing Center, if you look really close through Catnip’s boom gallows.
Sun Cat technicians should note that I am starting the race with the long pin in place, or at least only half fallen out of place. It remained like that for the duration of the race because my Jib Trimmer was too lazy to go up and remove it.
As I worked my way up the initial upwind leg, I went up into the mouth of Alligator Bay a ways before tacking back out. On that tack back out, I found myself on a collision course with the dredging barge making its way in the channel. Imagining the horrific scene of a barge moving at 5 knots colliding with a Sun Cat moving at 2.5 knots, I got out my camera. Saved by the dying wind and opposing current, I did not manage to come anywhere near the barge.
We were using “Marker A” (approximate location shown on this race mark chart from the Punta Gorda Sailing Club) as our upwind mark, and as you can see in the inset of this photo taken by Charlie as Good Juju rounded, there was a bit of current against us, really killing our tacking angles on that leg of the course. Sun Cats can’t move well in light wind, and it is necessary to fall off a long way and fatten up the sail to accelerate on a new tack, then trim up for a higher angle. The boat just does not have the power to accelerate when pointed high into the wind. For the same reason, it really punishes sailors with a tendency to pinch. You’ll quickly lose speed, and you can’t get it back without falling way off.
I reached the upwind mark a bit behind Sandpiper and I was chasing them without much progress as we made our way out to the reach mark.
I made little progress on the first reaching leg, but did manage to close the gap a bit on the leg down from the reach mark to the leeward mark. In this picture, they have rounded the leeward mark and the sail is luffing as both sailors stare at the cockpit sole. I did not know why at the time…
Still, when I got around the leeward mark and started to work my way back up toward the start/finish line, one of the first things that happened was Sandpiper crossing my bow. I had closed some ground, and they started to look like they were within striking distance. Next thing I knew, they sailed off into a hole with no wind and I was above them. I did not know at the time, but learned later over dinner, that they were having centerboard troubles, which would make it a lot more difficult to go upwind! That is why I was able to get past them.
In the light and dying winds, it was necessary to concentrate on remaining still and sailing the boat smoothly with maximum efficiency if I wanted to finish before dark, and the last thing I really wanted was a powerboat coming by. Thanks, Honey! Love You Too! (Using the zoom there; she really was not all that close.)
After the race, I sailed around a bit, but the wind was going very light and I just struck my sail and went to tie off to the stern of Whimsy as other boats rafted alongside. When Charlie and Isy showed up in the Horizon Cat, we were treated to the normal view of them, faces behind cameras. Isy was kind enough to share her pictures from the day with me, and there were around 160 of them! I took 65, which seemed like a lot to me!
When Don rafted alongside, we all got a good look at his many modifications to Frisky. In addition to luxurious extra-thick cockpit cushions, he has nice little touches like leather linings on the boom gallows notches, and a whole mess of non-standard sail controls. Don had to ruin my little “Jib Trimmer” joke by actually putting a jib on his Sun Cat, and in the picture you can see a custom jib lead mounted on top of the midship cleat, as well as a rope toggle on the handrail that I think he uses for another lead block. That green panel with the array of standard cleats and cam cleats is needed for all his many halyards and control lines.
For the curious, Tom Scott took this photo of Don sailing Frisky with one of her jibs a week or so after the Sun Cat Nationals. Some experts are predicting extended court battles and a nasty media war over what kinds of modifications will be legal for Sun Cat Class Racing, but this is not the America’s Cup and I just want to see Don’s jib in action!
I took a slow lap around the raft of boats in the 15 Whaler to get this picture. Whimsy looks like a ketch rig because Wily Conch is tied off astern. Soon after this photo was taken, even the most optimistic among us had to admit that the wind had completely and permanently died for the day, and we were not going to get off another race. I motored back across the harbor to tie my boat up at Joe’s dock, then brought the Whaler home and started getting ready for our big dinner. (By which I mean, finding people to do all the things necessary to put on a dinner while I looked over pictures of the day’s racing with the other sailors.)
Still to come: some more pictures taken by others and pictures from the lightly-attended second day of the Sun Cat Nationals.