A while ago someone asked me “What is your favorite sailing memory?” I thought about that question and among so many fond recollections I said that it would be impossible to pick one. “I have a favorite place though,” I told her and she probably thought it was some remote and protected island cove. “It is one nautical mile on a course of 164 degrees magnetic from the Marina del Rey detached breakwater,“ the place where, for most PSSA races, the fleet drifts awaiting the start of a shorthanded race. I don’t know just what it is – camaraderie, anticipation, longstanding tradition – some combination of it all. After many, many years, the thrill of my first PSSA rabbit start hasn’t faded. For the Malibu and Return race, I shared this experience with crewmember Aidan Gabriel.
The wind was light at the start – like many PSSA races, Malibu and Return starts at 11 A.M., often before the wind has a chance to build and swing around to the west. We’re sailing Twelve Bar Blues at its class rating these days, which means no overlapping genoa and no big spinnaker, and we are a bit disadvantaged in light winds, but in the Malibu and Return the early seas were flat and we were able to get underway to the D Mark. The beat to “D” took almost an hour. We crossed behind doublehanded Zulu not far from the mark and rounded in a cluster with Zulu and Miss Demeanor and moved somewhat ahead of Zulu in the downwind. Miss Demeanor’s pursuit was relentless and we had to fend her off all the way to the balloon at the site of the former Santa Monica bell buoy, or at least to the GPS position of the missing buoy. We rounded in the lead.
A stronger breeze gave us good speed, and relatively calm seas allowed very good point. When the depth gauge read thirty feet we tacked out, overstood the Malibu buoy by a bit, came in at speed, rounded and hoisted. We had put quite a bit of distance between us and the rest of the fleet and we settled in for a comfortable victory. Somehow, though, the spinnakers behind us just grew and grew, and much of the gain we had in the first part of the race appeared to be slipping away. A later look at RaceQ confirmed that Zulu’s pace, adjusted for handicap, was quite a bit quicker than ours, and Biohazard was literally gaining miles on us.
By late in the race the wind was up and we were blasting toward the finish line at nine knots with our spinnaker up. Unfortunately, some kind of national juniors race had put a hundred Sabots between us and the finish. To avoid the potential for catastrophe we doused about a half mile before the finish, zigged and zagged through the Sabots and their support boats, and came across the line in sufficient time to win the doublehanded fleet. Thinking about the next race – the drag race from Paradise Cove – and about the downwind performance of our Malibu competitors, we knew a major challenge awaited, just a month away.