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Schooner Cup 2014

One boats 15 year quest for the large cup

Tue, 15th Apr 2014
By Perc Jones

Schooner Cup 2014 One boats 15 year quest for the large cup
Skookum on port tack

Ullman Sails has worked closely with the classic boat fleet in San Diego.  The Schooner Cup has lured some of the most beautiful sailing boats from the area every year.  Perc Jones has been focused on this race for 15 years.  Here is his story of finally winning the Schooner Cup.

Skookum's Race
There was tension in the air as Skookum III's crew prepared for the 2014 America's Schooner Cup race on March 29, 2014 in San Diego Bay.

We have been competing in this race for 15 years, but the trophy has eluded us.  Second twice, but no win.  Could this be our year?

Remove the covers, the dingy, all non- essential gear. Rig for sea. Lubricate the blocks, tracks and slides.  Brief the crew on the expected wind and tides, tactical considerations, strategy, course, likely sail changes, contingency plans.  Check and re check.

A quick discussion about winch safety, life jackets, the undocking plan, crew assignments...... 

Terry, sail master for the last 6 years, is the last aboard as we leave the dock and head out to sample the wind, practice our fisherman to gollywobbler sail changes and time several practice starts.  Terry has the mainsail, forestay sail and mainstay sail up before we turn to the main channel. The jib and the fish follow.  Five sheets to constantly trim. Trimmers Henry, Pamela, Cathy, Jack, and John are attentive to Terry's direction.  "On the forestay sail, ease"; "on the jib, haul".  Chris and Dimitri are working the running back stays.

Our plan is simple.  A Vanderbilt start, at the favored end of the line.  Mind full of the outgoing tide, we hope to hold our Westing as near to Point Loma as practical while avoiding the fluky winds that come with being too close.  Keep Skookum footing, boat speed up, minimize weather helm and rudder angle.  The 850 sqft main sail on its 26 foot boom tends to take charge unless lovingly tended.  Thinking about the fish to golly change ahead.

Henry, main sheet trimmer, has invested seven years in developing an almost psychic communication with the boat and the helmsman.  Still they talk to each other .... Ease the main, haul the main, ease, haul, ease, haul.  Henry is ahead of the boat, already taking action even as the helmsman calls out trim adjustments.
We are about a minute early.  Five 50 to 80 foot boats seem to fill the starting line.  Helmsman Doug elects to do a quick tack, then jibe to approach the favored end of the line about 20 seconds late.  The blocks are rattling, the sheets are running and the winches are grinding as Skookum responds to the course changes.
Curlew charges to the lead.  Skookum quickly catches up to Rose of Sharon, and Mayan, pacing towards the windward mark at buoy 5.  We struggle setting the golly, sailing bald headed for several minutes.  Kitty tends the mainstay sail, raising it before each tack or jibe to avoid the golly fouling the stay.

The golly, just back from repairs at the sail maker, develops a tear at the leach, high near the peak, which slowly spreads.  Terry orders a white golly (about 1040 sqft) to red and blue golly (about 800 sqft) sail change.  The crew scrambles to the task.

Skipper Perc who has been somewhat subdued, thinks of the terms of the "Skookum Performance Warranty" with the sail maker....... 
We fly the reworked sail in the next race; if we don't win, we don't pay.  Will we save the cost of the repair and lose the race???

Soon Rose, Mayan and Skookum are approaching the weather mark, obliging the photographers in their inflatables with photo opportunities.
The crew handles the trim changes as Doug drives -  and then a quick golly to fish change.

We hold higher on the wind, holding our Westing, near Point Loma.  Rose and Mayan sail lower, reaching at a higher speed, but adding distance to be sailed.  By bouy 15, we are between Rose and Mayan, headed for the finish line.  Can we save our time and win?
The finish is anti-climactic as we cross the line and breathe a collective sigh of relief.  We have done our best... Will it be enough?

Back to the dock, harbor furl and covers, reversing our earlier departure drill. The crew debriefing.  The Skipper polls the crew... What place did we finish?  Most think second, one third.  Pamela, the mainstay sail trimmer and our spirit and enthusiasm spark says first place .... What other finish could she imagine?
The Silver Gate Yacht club is welcoming as we enjoy a few adult beverages and later a great meal.  The crew banters about what we did well and what we could have done better.  We renew old friendships and make new ones.

 Time for the results.  What boat won in class A and B and who is first overall......?

 The Skipper ponders as the results for class A are announced, starting with third.  Then second.... Hmmmm... Skookum was not second, could we be fourth?  Finally the winner of class A and the overall Cup winner is announced.... "Skookum"!  We have won on corrected time, by less than two minutes.

The rest is a blur... Trophies, photographs, champagne, a happy Skipper and crew.
 Even the sail maker made out.  We won, so we paid, even though we blew out the just reworked sail.  Funny how life works sometimes.

This article was posted on Tue, 15th Apr 2014