Wednesday Night Sailboat Racing Aboard the Pegasus

There are few better ways to spend an evening away from home while traveling than out on a sailboat race with a happy crew. Thanks to an invite from Captain Pete, I got the chance to act as living ballast and boom tensioner during a Wednesday night race aboard a Beneteau 36 named ‘Pegasus’. The race was held in Galesvile, Maryland on the western shore of Chesapeake Bay. The local marine chart is US5MD13 – Eastern Bay And South River. You can load a limited version of the chart in Google Earth format from EarthNC.com’s online chart list or use their new EarthNC Online nautical map viewer and zoom down into the Galesvile area.

The sailing course is selected by the night’s race committee (drawn from the ranks of the club racers) based on winds, whim, and other factors. Our course for this night was of moderate length based on 10-15 winds from the Northeast. We would start northbound from the start line in the West River, turn east for about a mile and round a mark to starboard, then sail north into an offshoot of the west river, round a mark to port and then return to the start. I didn’t have a GPS with me to record the exact path, but the Google Earth screen shot shows my approximation. The starting leg is purple, beam reach in orange, and downwind finish leg in yellow.

The Boat and Crew

Our boat for the night was the Pegasus, a Beneteau 36 owned by Capt Pete. Pete is an avid racer and sailboater and besides his Chesapeake racing on Pegasus, often crews boats during the annual Annapolis to Newport, RI offshore race and races in the Florida Keys. Our crew included long-time race ‘partner’ Kira who oversaw sail trimming and general strategy with Pete. Kira’s husband Shawn – still relatively new to sailing – manned the head sail winches and main sheet. Amanda and Kim managed the fore deck sail handling while Bonnie and Darilyn worked the ‘Pit’ as needed. Rounding out the crew was Robb – longtime boater, short time sailer and myself (essentially 1st time sailer on a boat such as this). Robb and I acted primarily as ballast. According to Pete, our crew was more ‘green’ than average for the Pegasus.

The Race

Like life, sailboat racing includes large segments of calm, ordered activity punctuated by frenzied moments of action. The pre-start period of a race is one of the later. With nearly 50 sailboats of all sizes vying for a the most advantageous position as the start clock winds down, it seems a miracle that no one collides. As you can see from the photo gallery (click on the 1st image above to visit the gallery), I didn’t get a chance to take many pictures until well into the race being that the deck of the boat during those ‘frenzied’ times isn’t great for the longevity of a digital camera. Leaving the chaos of the start behind, the crew settled into the jibing drill (for me, as the boat starts to reverse its heal direction, scurry over the cabin roof keeping my head under the swinging boom and take my place at the new windward rail).

As we rounded our 1st official race waypoint onto a beam reach, the winds picked up to the 15-20 knot range. Pete and Kira settled the trimming into a good groove for the long run though the initial sail choice left the boat slightly overpowered during gusts. After rounding the 2nd race waypoint, Kim and Amanda started prepping the Spinnaker for the downwind run to the finish. Pete had some initial concerns about using the Spinnaker, given the crew’s overall experience, but with evening settling in and the wind starting to calm during the final run, conditions were right to give everyone some training.

Pete put ‘Pegasus’ on a good line for the finish and we topped 8 knots running with almost no rudder input required as the Spinnaker helped carry the boat downwind. We crossed the finish line at about 1 hour 15 minutes elapsed time with a good portion of the field behind us. Following the requisite boat tie-up and clean-up, the crew enjoyed a group dinner at the local marina restaurant. Best wishes to Capt Pete and the ‘Pegasus’ crew for a happy, safe, and successful 2007 season.

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