It was a grey and rainy afternoon when 8 PSSA boats gathered for the start of this year’s Bishop Rock race. I was unable to race this time but was aboard my friend’s Cal 36 to photograph the start and wish everyone well. The wind was light and we were wet! I was feeling for the racers as they set out in the less than ideal conditions. I had a chance to talk to Whitall about his experience of the race aboard his Open 50, Sparrow. He was the rabbit boat, and as usual with his new vessel, it took awhile to get up to speed. He said that the leg to the west end of Catalina was a beat in light air. He was looking forward to the forecast 20-30 knots as he got out to sea, but instead was greeted by super flukey and light to no wind as he approached the west end. As we all know, conditions like these can be doubly hard on a single handed racers as we are the only ones we can rely on to constantly work the boat to try and eek out the most speed possible when most other people would have help, or more sensibly could turn on the motor and head to the Isthmus for a drink!
Whitall trudged on through never ending rain, many 360’s due to a lack of wind and a terrible cold. Once the wind filled in past Catalina, he was able to make way under a full main and code zero until the wind came up to 20-30 out of the NW when he had to douse the code zero and take 2 reefs as he approached the Cortez bank. He reports that 2CB is still in the correct position, and he rounded at about 0645 in fairly rough conditions (but not as rough in years past, says Whitall). He finished in just under 24 hours with the wind out of the NW at about 15 knots, and was happy to get back despite having to be towed to his slip due to sail drive issues. He battled a few other technical issues along the way as well, including 2 sails blowing out due to adhesive failure and a ballast scoop failure causing him to sail home at a 30’ heel.
From what Whitall told me, it sounds like this race is typically a real shake down sail, as it is the first long race of the season and the weather is often unpredictable. He said that between the “the inability to acclimate to being at sea, the tenuousness of preparations, invariably I have my posterior handed to me, and despite 50 feet of waterline, this year was no exception”. My hat is off to all of the sailors that set off on this years race! I look forward to having a boat that is ready next year to get a taste of what it is all about! Cheers! -Margie