Several weeks ago, the few of us active Wetas on the West Coast made a pact to converge one more time this year in Ventura, this time for the annual Caregivers Sail-a-thon.This is a fun “race” around buoys in Pierpont Bay to raise money for this non-profit who provides home visits and other assistance for elderly residents in the greater Ventura area.Local Weta sailor Bob “don’t call me” Shirley has participated for several years, and this was my second time.
Bob and I had initially rallied a swarm of 4-5 Wetas, but by the middle of the week preceding the event it fell to just two, new Weta owner Peter Carlsberg, and me. Bob recently sold his boat to a fellow who took it back to the Big Island of Hawaii, so he sailed on a friend’s giant catamaran, Akua Kai, instead.Here are few highlights.
In an effort to deter unhoused persons from camping in the public bathrooms at the Ventura harbor launch ramp, there’s a hidden sound system in the rafters playing “Baby Shark doot doot do do” on repeat, day and night. It certainly keeps all visits to the loo short and to the point. No catching up on social media before doing the paperwork…
The ramp has boats coming and going. Jet skies, kayaks, power boats and small sailboats. Lot of people returning from fishing off shore are greeted by a perky UC Santa Barbara Marine Biology grad student doing surveys of fishing/catching. There’s also a fully armed Fish and Game officer checking for illegal catches.
The coin-fed boat wash area by the ramp is an under-appreciated amenity. Great way to get the salt off of everything and allow the boat to dry in the afternoon sun.
While I don’t like to drive more than an hour or two for a single day of sailing, this event is a unique experience and sailing in the fresh breeze and clear open water on California’s Central Coast is always a treat. Ventura has conditions like Santa Barbara, dubbed California’s Rivera, an hour’s drive further up the coast, but without all that pretentiousness. Anyway, I started my It’s a 300 mile, 4-hour drive through Los Angeles to get there on Saturday by early afternoon so I’d have time to rig the boat and possibly do an afternoon sail before the wind died or the fog rolled in.
Although I managed to get on the road nearly an hour later than intended, I still made great time and rolled in to Ventura about 2 p.m. Peter drove over from his home, 20 minutes away in Camarillo, and was rigged and ready to go. Got my boat in the water by 3:30 and had a refreshing sail with Peter. In winds of 5 to 8 knots, we sailed upwind to the Ventura pier in one long tack, and reached all the way back. My Speedpuck track shows how close the upwind and downwind angles are.
Early Sunday morning, Bob, Peter, and I convened at the Caregivers’ agency office for coffee and donuts, event schwag, and sailing instructions. Rolling into the harbor around 9:30, we found that the wind seemed to turn on nicely. As Peter and I sailed out of the harbor, and back up to the pier for start, the breeze steadily build. Air temperature must have been in the mid 70s. Water temp probably close to 70. I only got chilled near the end, where I was getting a lot more spray in the higher winds.Immediately cracking off, even at the windward/outer buoy, I warmed up quickly.
As a charity “race”, this event is simply a 2-hour parade of boats around three buoys, leaving each to Port. Each boat counted the number of whole laps around the buoys, and rounded up to the next full integer to calculate their final score.Some boats badgered, solicited, or harassed per-lap donations from friends and family members.Bob has been recognized two years in a row for generating the highest amount of funds, on the smallest sailboat on the course! I opted to simply donate $245, in addition to the $55 entry fee, to the cause.This event is such good fun, and the sailing was superb. I plan to pay more to do it again next year.
Mark One was a buoy 50 meters off the Ventura that also acted as the starting pin.Mark Two was set about ¾ of a mile to windward, and Mark Three set downwind of the other two in roughly an isosceles triangle. Last year, it was a bit of a drift fest, but this year, the sailing conditions were Ventura at its best. At the start, I clocked the wind with my Kestrel hand-held meter at a steady 9.5 Kts. It steadily increased as we sailed to the windward buoy which was further offshore. The leg from Two to Three was roughly a single downwind run, but I found it paid to sail further offshore on starboard tack to stay in the breeze, then gybe for a tight broad reach back into the lighter breeze inside. Sailing the upwind leg from Three to One was along the invisible wind line, and I found it paid to sail high to get across the line into the stronger breeze soon after rounding the buoy, then cracking off to a tight close reach back to Mark One.
My biggest snafu of the day came in a minor rig malfunction when the furling line jumped the drum on my Harken continuous furler. Maybe I chose a line that was too small. Maybe I just need to add a saddle on the prod to change the tension angle. Anyway, this happened on the first re-furl of the day, and I recovered by sailing DDW with the main out. I started by choosing to sail on Starboard tack, away from shore so I wouldn’t hit the beach before finishing my recovery. Next, I released the back tensioner for the furling loop at the traveler. Then I slid forward of the mast, dropped the Screacher to windward and sat on it on the foredeck. Pulled the prod out of the bow. Re-seated the furling line. Reinstalled the prod, making sure not to tangle the furling loop, the sail, and the sheets. Re-hoisted the kite. It re-furled without an issue. Finished off by reattaching the furling line tensioner in the stern. I got it all on video from my GoPro camera on the back of the boat, for what it’s worth. I’ll try to share it if anyone is interested.
I had started the first lap in the lead group of boats, and managed to round Mark 3 in 3rd or 4th place, but stopping to deal with that rig malfunction caused me to be passed by probably 2/3 of the fleet.I spent the next 5 or 6 laps catching up and passing them.Peter had started not far behind me, but it took most of the rest of the 2 hours for me to catch up and pass him.
On each successive lap the wind built further, to the point I estimate the steady breeze was a steady 12 to 15 at Mark One, and 18-20 Kts off shore at Mark Two.That leg from One to Two was 5-10 degrees off of Close-hauled, so the sailing was fast and bouncy over the wind chop. The reaches from the Two to three became serious fun!
Some Lessons Learned: In a mixed fleet with fresh breeze, I can pass lots of boats off the wind. Upwind, a Hobie 20 was slightly faster up wind. A single-handed Dart 18 was about sailing nearly the same speed as this Weta.
Sailing for fun around a bunch of buoys with a lot of other boats, passing and being passed, is a lot of fun! There were lots of opportunities to appreciate each other’s sailing style, and we were all there doing what we love and fund raising for a good cause. Although Peter and I were not sailing close to each other due to my temporary gear failure, it was nice to have another Weta on the course. This is an event that should get a bunch of Wetas back on the water. I’m going to heavily promote it in the fleet as a Must Do next year.
Another Lesson Learned: Bring extra stuff. I dressed too light, assuming it was going to be a sunny and warm day in light breeze. My shorty wet suit was not enough to keep me from getting quite chilled in the stiffer breeze and spray and contributed to my early fatigue. Should’ve brought my salopettes and spray jacket.