Day 1 at the ILCA US Masters Championship at Hampton Yacht Club called for wind and we got it. After sailing in light air all summer, I wasn’t too ready for winds in the upper teens gusting into the low 20’s. After the early morning drive to Hampton, unloading and the competitor’s meeting the plan was for 2 races for the 21-boat ILCA7 fleet and 12 boat ILCA6 fleets.
The course was set just south east of the entrance to the Hampton River and was to be a long race with reaching legs. The starts were a little tricky – the RC was running a 3-minute horn sequence that was difficult to hear over the flapping sails and the only visual signal was the P-flag that was up for exactly 1 minute. I had a pretty good start in the first race a bit down the line. With only 21 boats out there, we had plenty of room and as the fleet spread out upwind I was able to get to the right. I came into the top mark right in the tail end of the pack. Downwind felt good, I had the boat moving in the waves and closed the gap on some boats ahead. In the second upwind it became clear there were more shifts to catch and some boats gained and others didn’t. From there we reached out to the wing and to a mark way below the course before another long beat back to the finished. All race I stayed engaged with the tail end of the pack and finished 12th.
In the 2nd race the wind had picked up a little more. I missed the starting horn, but was close enough to the line that when I saw the pack of boats lining up, I was able find a spot and be ready. Unfortunately, 20 seconds before the gun the universal joint connecting the tiller to the extension snapped. I limped over the line so that I’d start in the time limit and then sat for about 3-4 minutes while I got a spare fitting out of my life jacket and set to screwing out the old on and in the new. By the time I was going I was way behind the 7 fleet and just ahead of the 6 fleet and did my best to get upwind and catch some boats.
Downwind I was starting to catch up to the tail-enders and I started cramping up. In trying to not cramp, my reflexes weren’t as sharp and I eventually death rolled and went swimming. From there I just sailed conservatively and eventually was able to reel in a couple boats. I finished 16th – way better than a DNF.
For those wondering how I replaced a tiller extension universal on the water – for years I’ve sailed with a Forespar Carbon Fiber Tiller extension that has a screw in universal joint. I make sure it’s not too tight so I can easily unscrew it with a small pair of pliers in my life jacket or my teeth if I have to. I keep an extra universal joint in my life jacket that comes in handy every couple years on a starting line like today and definitely saves a day of sailing instead of having to go in to fix it. There’s also the base fitting to retrofit most tillers.