2013 Texas State ChampionshipBy Eric Comstock #759 (11es 13eo 12ea 12ad 53ar)
Yesterday (9-14-2013) the Houston Space Duck Viking Marauder Horde fleet held the inaugural PDR Texas State Championship Race. We had 6 boats, including 3 PDR's participate. A winner was determined and the ceremonial "Big Horn" Viking Helmet was awarded, to be proudly worn by the victor ... until such time as he is defeated.
While we had also intended this to be the inaugural run of the Texas 20, a 20 mile trip across Galveston Bay from the dike to Kemah by way of Red Fish Island, that was scrapped as a result of unfavorable conditions. We had delayed the entire thing last month due to poor conditions. This time we all agreed to meet on the dike, evaluate the conditions and adjust our plans as needed.
When we met on the Dike at 7:00 am we were faced with a NE wind and very rough conditions to the North of the Dike. Our support vehicle, an 18' "Party Barge", launched on the North side and later reported taking many waves over the bow. Faced with an opposing wind and a turbulent sea, we all agreed that the 10 mile leg up a lee shore was not a good idea. The Texas 20 was called off until next year. But we were assembled and there was still sailing to be had so we quickly devised a new route on the South side of the Dike, launched and got to racing. The 2013 PDR Texas State Championship was on!
The participants included me (Hull #759), Patrick in "Allons Canard" and Roy in "Puddle Jumper". We were accompanied by Malcolm in his Lazer Bug, a Kawasaki "Jet Mate" and the 18' "Party Barge" and crew.
"Puddle Jumper" was sporting a new bow sprit and jib. During some of our warm up maneuvering before the race, "Puddle Jumper's" bow sprit was tested as a battering ram with bow splitting effect. It is an offensive weapon any Viking would be proud of. It seemed to provide less of an advantage when racing, but I'm sure once "Puddle Jumpers" crew masters the operation of the additional sail that will change.
Once we were on our way, I took an early lead. I was out front and was pulling away as we approached the first island. As were got closer and closer to the rock lined, lee shore, it was apparent that I was not going to make it around the point without tacking. As I got closer and closer to the unfamiliar and imposing shore I made the decision to tack back out away from the rocks. This was premature and ended up costing me my first place position. Both "Allons Canard" and "Puddle Jumper" passed me and were still ahead as I was again approaching the rocks.
Several tacks later we cleared the rocky point. "Allons Canard" was in the lead, followed by me, with "Puddle Jumper" picking up the rear. I would like to mention that the "Bug Boat" was in and around us the entire time. It, with it's pointy bow, had a much easier time pushing in to the opposing sea. He was basically sailing circles around us.
Past the point, the conditions were much worse. The wind, previously coming from the NE, was starting to clock around to a more Easterly direction. The waves were larger and now that we were out of the shelter of the rocky shore the waves were coming from the ESE. This presented a problem for me. On my Northerly tack, the best heading I could make was 30 degrees. On my Southerly tack (trying to make progress to the ESE) into the wind I could make a compass course of 120 degrees, but I had to fall of to about 140 or 150 degrees in order to take the waves on the corner of my port bow. Otherwise every wave would stop me in my tracks or even push me backwards.
About now I started to have problems with my rudder. It started to get very loose and floppy. I was not worried about it falling off, but it had about 30 degrees of play when pushed in one direction and back to the other. This caused it to be very difficult to maintain a course that was close into the wind. It would frequently try to round up into the wind and I would get caught in irons. "Allons Canard" was leaving me behind. I looked back could no longer see "Puddle Jumper". I tacked back to the North and before long "Puddle Jumper" was back within sight. They has turned around and were back in the relatively calm waters, projected by the rock shore I had recently left behind. I turned back towards "Allons Canard" and resumed the chase.
Both "Allons Canard" and the "Bug Boat" were well ahead of me and approaching the protected shore on the lee side of the island that was our destination. If I followed "Allons Canard" on a course of about 120 magnetic, I was able to maintain the course, but it was close enough into the wind and the waves that I made very little progress. I fell off to about 140 degrees and was making good time. After a while I looked out to check on "Allons Canard" and the "Bug Boat". "Allons Canard" was no where to be seen. The "Bug" had beached on the Island that was our destination. Here is "Allons Canard's" track. I was still a good way out.
I got a call on the phone from Malcolm in the "bug". He was not sure where "Allons Canard" had gotten to. I asked him to wait for me there on the beach. After another 1/2 hour or so of fighting my way to windward I was finally on the beach beside him.
Once safely on the beach I called around in an effort to determine what had happened to everyone else. Once we determined that everyone else was safe but had turned back, I decided to eat lunch and have something to drink. I had really taken a beating crossing the, more or less, open bay on the way to the island. The other sailboats had turned back for more protected waters and my rudder was in a sad state. After we talked it over we decided to head back as well.
While we were on the island I had a chance to check my "new to me" (15 year old) non-mapping GPS. It said that I had covered 6.4 miles making the 4 mile trip to the island. I would guess it took about 2 1/2 hours. The trip back was about 4 and a half miles, so I would put my total mileage right at 11. I suppose that could be a start for the annual mileage challenge. Now that I have a GPS you can expect more updates on that soon. :)
Once we were refreshed, we started back. As I mentioned, it was about a four and a half mile trip. We started off on a NNW course. The wind had shifted to almost straight out of the East. The waves were coming out of the SE. Despite my rudder causing a little difficulty when being over taken by the swells, we made good time back to the Dike. Once at the Dike, we turned NW and followed it back to the ramp.
That last leg, back to the ramp, was some interesting sailing, with the wind just off the starboard rear quarter and the waves directly behind. As each wave overtook me, it would shove me forward with a sudden burst of acceleration. It was a pleasant change from the trip in the other direction where the uncooperative swells were pushing me back and breaking over my bow.
We eventually made it back to the ramp where we had started and met up with the other boats. Once there, the other PDR captains agreed that, since I had made it the farthest, I should be awarded the ceremonial "Big Horn" Viking helmet.
That is my recount of the day. There are other stories, as yet untold. We had adverse weather, naval battles, ventured upon previous unknown (to us) shores and all generally had a great time. I can't wait to do it again next year!
Now I just have to build a new rudder and fix the hole in my bow before next weeks Battle for Independence. Stay tuned for that.
Houston Space Duck viking Marauder Horde Fleet
and 2013 PDR Texas State Champion