Cherished memories in sailing

Published on April 13th, 2023

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
With a minute to go, we had tacked for the final approach to the start when the jib clew began wildly flapping. The sheet knot I tied came undone, and by the time I fixed my mess, we were 30 seconds late to the line.

This was a doublehanded pursuit race in our Alerion 28, and my wife/skipper Lisa Leweck was now on the back foot. Thankfully, her good sense a couple hours earlier would save the day.

We hadn’t raced our boat since last summer, and when I proposed this race, I offered how it’d be a good chance to go sailing with a purpose. We’d keep it simple for the four-legged 14 nm course, and it would help us remember all the things we forgot.

But when I looked at the wind angle, I saw how each leg could use different headsails and spinnakers to maximize speed. I was devising how to do the changes when she reminded me how I was wildly deviating from the gameplan. She was right. Better to keep it simple (particularly as we lack lifelines).

Beginning with a 3-mile tight reach, our worst point of sail, we committed to using a re-cut Melges 20 asymmetrical spinnaker which has alleviated this weakness. Thankfully, a building breeze helped us survive the next leg, a 2-mile downwinder in which the symmetrical kite would have been better.

With the lighter winds of San Diego, we mostly use a 155% headsail, but I gambled on the forecast and rigged our rarely used non-overlapping jib for the upwind leg. Thankfully, the wind had built passed the crossover, plus its self-tacking configuration often has me pondering how sweet life would be to use it more.

We rounded the final mark, with the wind now touching 20 knots for the 5-mile tight reach to the finish. Our main/jib combo was all we could handle, and while now in the lead, the big boats were coming.

There’s a stunning Alerion 38 that is actively raced in San Diego Bay, and always singlehanded. Don Garber learned to sail late in life, wanted to figure it out on his own, and continues now to expertly master his boat. Dark blue like ours, I enjoyed the sight as it slipped by us just before the finish.

When he crossed the line, winning the singlehanded division, I began counting in my head. As we crossed next, winning the doublehanded division, I got to about 30 seconds, imagining how cool it would have been for these two seriously varnished boats to have finished at the same time. Damn jib sheet knot!

The top prize was a 1.75 litre bottle of Captain Morgan’s Rum, which reminded me of a Snipe Class road trip to Texas I’d taken a lifetime ago (a story for another day). I have so many cherished memories in sailing, and this day of random-leg doublehanding is now among them… thanks to Lisa’s good sense!

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