#44 A Regatta is a Race?

Our fearless captain.

Living in San Carlos for almost two years we’ve met many interesting people with intriguing pasts. One such character is our friend, Art. This former Californian has many passions but being “on the water” in some way, shape or form tops the list. This guy kayaks, paddle boards, cruises, reels in fish and/or sails just about daily so it was not surprising to learn that in his former life he owned a boatyard.

One day, Art jokingly claimed his dream job for a day would be to captain a boat on Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise. During a sunset cruise along with Art’s wife, Anne, Mike and I watched as Art operated his own boat backwards while providing a verbal lesson on reefs and the San Carlos coastline. With this observation, I started to believe this was not only a dream job but one at which Art would surely excel if given the opportunity. The guy can turn on a dime and maneuver into places I wouldn’t consider while making passengers feel at ease onboard.

Mid May I heard the Tucson Yacht Club would be holding a Spring Regatta in San Carlos. Art mentioned he was going to take part so I offered myself as ballast on his sailboat. Mike and I took sailing lessons several years ago and I figured the process of sailing a boat would come streaming back into my brain once onboard and this would be a perfect place to dust off those skills. Art agreed that we could help crew his pride and joy, Poco Loco.

Map of the regatta course

Within days I learned a regatta is not a leisure sail but rather a series of races. Racing? I was planning to climb aboard, relax and take a few photos for a blog. My photo op plan was quickly dashed. I immediately contacted Anne to let her know that Art could dump Mike and I as crew. I figured Poco Loco was in it to win it and knew that our lack of expertise might infringe on the potential of walking away with the coveted plaque. Art refused to let us bail claiming it would be fun. 

At this point I was still assuming my role to be ballast, balancing the weight in the boat. All I would do is move my body from port to starboard, keep my head away from the boom and not fall overboard. But you know what they say about assuming. Right?

I’m obviously feeling pretty feisty. This moment is just prior to me learning I was expected to help man the jib line.

Saturday Morning arrived, we met at J Dock and readied Poco Loco for the race. Cruising out of the San Carlos Marina we manned our stations. The crew consisted of Captain Art at the tiller, First Mate Ken manning the main sail and traveler and the crew, aka Mike and Laura, controlling the jib. Wait…I thought I just had to move from one side of the boat to the other and stay out of the way. Not the case. Since I could not walk on water to abort this sailing mission, I began to listen very closely to the captain’s instructions and pray I didn’t screw up something.

Once out of the marina, the motor was turned off, the mainsail was hoisted and we were officially under sail. For those not familiar with sailing, the mainsail is the largest sail on the boat. It’s hooked to both the mast, the vertical pole, and the boom which runs parallel to the boat and moves from side to side to help capture the wind from the desired direction. A boat can be sailed with just the mainsail; however if you want to increase speed, as in a race, more sail is needed.

That’s where the jib comes into play. The jib is a triangular sail that is unrolled from the bow of the boat. It’s used to help enhance performance and catch more wind to increase speed. The jib can be moved from one side of the boat to the other depending on the way the captain wants to position the sail in relation to the wind. This movement helps to turn the sailboat. Turning into the wind is known as tacking and the opposite is jibing. While there is so much more to the process of sailing, all I know is that when Captain Art called out, “Ready About!” I was not quite as ready as I’d like to have been.

During tacking and jibing, the line (rope for you lay people) is quickly released from the cleat (sort of like a rope lock) on one side. On the opposite side, this same line is reeled in at the speed of light, winched in tight and cleated into place. This process causes the boat to shift quickly and what was the high side of the boat often becomes the low side and vise versa, so quickly balancing out the weight is key. Everything happens fast, hence the, “Ready About!” which should more aptly be, “Ready or not here we go, don’t screw it up or we could all wind up in the water.” But that phrase is probably a bit long to say when trying to move quickly and in unison.

Day one the winds were light and for some reason our newly formed Poco Loco crew missed the start horn. By the time we realized it, we were at least a minute behind the competition. This was when I grasped the true degree of Art’s competitive side. In no time flat he had managed to captain us past other boats and into a top three position. We navigated around the first buoy and whirled past the edge of Window Rock. It was there the winds collapsed but Art hustled to the bow of the boat and made the sail physically larger holding the jib sheet out with the span of his arms. It worked. With the light winds easing us along we took a two minute break to shovel in sandwiches prepared at Barracuda Bob’s and wash them down with Topo Chico.

We tacked around the second buoy and into second place then headed back out to sea for buoy number three. As we neared, a crew member from a neighboring Hobie Cat fell overboard. After asking if everyone was OK, as required in regatta guidelines, we sailed around the buoy as Art cheerfully inquired the Hobie Cat crew as to the temperature of the water. The Poco Loco was gliding back toward the previous buoy for a second pass and going strong. 

As we tacked around the buoy and headed for home we were in front of all of the other boats in our class. Art decided to pass Honeymoon Island on the outside rather than run the risk of losing the light winds pushing us along the coast. His decision was a brilliant one. With the honk of an airhorn, we crossed the finish line in first place.

Day one in the rearview mirror.

We reeled in the jib sheet which thankfully released me from my crew duty on the lines and allowed me to dig into the cooler and pass out four well deserved cold brews.

My lack of regatta expertise led me to believe that since we crossed the finish line first, we were winning. There is however some kind of convoluted handicapping process called a Performance Handicap Racing Fleet (PHRF) rating that requires faster boats to give time to slower boats. The Poco Loco is a Martin 242 which after some research I’ve found it to be known for power and speed with one article stating, “The Martin 242 is a lightweight, maneuverable speedster that will perform for you on the racecourse and tolerate you for a weekend.” Art not only had a speedy sailboat but he had basically removed every extra piece, including railings one might like to hold onto, to make the vessel as light and aerodynamic as possible. With the handicap adjustment, Poco Loco was up by only 12 minutes. Had the people in charge of this regatta calculated into the equation the limited experience of some crew members on our boat, no doubt they would have given Poco Loco time rather than taking it away…but that is just my opinion.

A view through Window Rock, hence the name. This is not Poco Loco but rather a photo I borrowed from the TYC website.

Day two brought higher winds. We did not miss the start horn so we were off and sailing with the group. We sailed the same course as the previous day, but it was in no way the same race. Tacking around the buoys was more challenging than before. Several times we had to zig-zag along the course to maneuver around the marks. It was extremely exciting and fast. Only once did I silently wish to be somewhere other than on board the Poco Loco and that was when we skirted Window Rock. The boat was heeling over (leaning) so far I was certain we were going to crash onto the rocks. While I internally panicked, Captain Art calmly claimed the boat typically needed a six foot draw for the keel but based on how much we were leaning three feet should do it. Should? I need a bit more than should. Instinctive alarm bells clanged in my brain as I braced for the crash that never came. Later I told Art I almost wet my pants around Window Rock and it had zero to do with the water coming onboard at the time. Art has yet to tell me if he was serious but I’m going to go with no since that makes me feel much better.

The competition, Aim to Please. They had fancy sails but sometimes being a Little Crazy, Poco Loco, has its advantages.

The course was fast and furious. We found ourselves back and forth in position with two boats in our class, Tucurucu2 and Aim To Please, both of which Poco Loco would give time to based on its PHRF rating. Coming into the stretch for home, it was literally neck and neck. Poco Loco crossed the finish line first. Now we would wait to see where Poco Loco actually placed overall in the regatta once the other sailboats completed the race and times were adjusted.

Art Lewis: sailor, SCYC Commodore, husband, father, grandfather, pickleball master, comedy relief and one of our most normal friends. Here’s to you!

As skill would have it, Poco Loco and its talented, amazing, seasoned crew took home the plaque. Was there ever a doubt? Taking part in the regatta was an incredible San Carlos adventure. We owe 100% of the thrill to the experience of a man who just wants to put on a mouse-eared skipper hat and guide visitors through the newly reimagined Jungle Cruise. So if you ever find yourself enjoying a cruise down Disney’s man made river filled with animatronic hippopotami and snapping crocodiles guided by a wisecracking captain, look closely at his name tag. No need to worry, you’ll be in safe hands if Art’s dreams really do come true.

Poco Loco for the big win!

June 11, 2021

Note – I am positive my explanation of the sailing process is NOT 100% accurate. However, I’m fine with that and I hope you are as well. I’m fairly positive Art will forgive me since there was not a test at the end of the event. 🙂

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than those you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

– Mark Twain

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1 Comment

  1. Omg I LOVE this story!! Sounds like an amazing experience. I’m glad you didn’t dump into the sea.

    Like

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