YOU IN?: 2015-16 Summary and Long Point Race

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The past year has been a momentous one for the Jackson Hole Ocean Sailing Team. After a dramatic campaign to compete in the 2015 Transpac Race from Los Angeles to Honolulu, we’ve been building our training program on Jackson Lake, combined with a variety of training sails and races on the coastal Pacific areas of Marina Del Rey, Orange County and coastal Mexico.

We successfully competed in the TransPac race with a crew of 12, including 18 year old Jackson resident Conner Field as a foredeck master who, with a combination of smarts and athleticism, demonstrated he could race on any boat on the West Coast.

We held a variety of meetings in Jackson to introduce the community to JHOST and the thrill of sailing, including a session with Travis Rice, who regaled attendees with his passion for sailing and racing. We hope to have Travis join us on a race in the Pacific soon.

We have held a series of dry land in Jackson, and on the water training aboard Hokahey in Los Angeles. We had 5 new trainees aboard for a sail training session for a trip from Los Angeles to Catalina and back to LA. That was followed by the Newport to Ensenada Race. We had a mixed crew of adult sailors of varying levels of experience, and 5 youth trainees.

It was the fastest Newport to Ensenada race in recent memory and our trainees had a remarkable ride.

This summer introduced the Lake training program, a joint effort between JHOST and the Teton County Rec Center on Jackson Lake. Heavy winds and sunshine combined to provide a challenging and invigorating sailing experience over two weeks.

Our next ocean race is the Long Point Race series, departing from Newport Beach August 25, with a race to Catalina Island followed by a course race around the Channel Islands and returning to Catalina on August 26 and a race back to Newport on the 27th. There will be a variety of social functions on Catalina during the weekend, allowing participants to meet and talk with other sailors.
Those interested in participating in either the Lake training program or the Long Point program are encouraged to contact us at captaingeorgebailey@gmail.com.

N2E Day 4: Speedy Delivery Sunday

After a night sailing north under a supermoon the color of a clementine orange peel, we pulled into our slip in Marina del Rey. We checked the standings and saw that this year’s N2E Race had been fast for everyone—two records had even been broken. As for us, we finished in the top third, but we were time corrected to the bottom because Hokahey is a super speedy racing boat. The Youth Team sailors are currently laughing as they spray down the deck (and each other). They’ve worked as tirelessly as any adult crew. Time to plan the next race, right, mateys?

We always need more kids looking for adventure, so sign up for the team and let’s go sailing!

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N2E Day 3: The Finish Saturday

IMG_5743At 05:30 hours, we spotted the finish line in Ensenada, marked by a buoy marker and a small committee power boat floating serenely in the distance. And sailing about a quarter mile in front of us was a 40-foot sloop. She was moving steadily toward the finish, moments, it seemed, from crossing.

Our 14-year-old driver tightened his grip on the helm and raced after her. “Jibe!” he called to his crew, swiftly turning the wheel to move Hokahey’s stern through the eye of the wind and toward the finish. Scrambling across the cockpit, our whippersnappers eased and pulled the sheets. A winch cracked loudly. The palmtrees lining the Ensenada coast sped backwards as we began barrelling through the waves toward our competitor. Hokahey charged through the finish line at what appeared to be the exact same moment as our rival. We held our breath and waited for the two race officials sitting in the committee boat to make their call, watching them shine a light first on our competitor’s sail, and then on our sail. “Sail number US51200” the loudspeaker announced. It was ours!

We looked back mid-victory dance at the boat we’d mercilessly taken down. It turned out to be crewed by one man holding a cup of coffee and a little dog in his lap. He waved. His dog, who appeared to be a chihuahua, wagged her tail.

We circled the Ensenada marina, spoke Spanish to a few people in boats, and the headed north to San Diego. Hokahey has to drop off one of our adult crew members so he can fly back to Jackson.

N2E Day 2: Youth Team Ain’t Shabby Friday

IMG_5690Started at 12:10, and the pre-start maneuvers were crazy. Lot’s of tacking and jibing and a sense of competition that’s nothing short of intense. We were a little off perfect timing and crossed the line behind three boats. No worries–it’s a 125 mile race and we made a good clean start.

Anyone who’s sailed multi-day passages knows this life ain’t easy. You’re often cold. You’re usually wet. You sail in shifts through the night, meaning you get 3 hours rest at a time before someone reaches over to where you’re sleeping in the sail bags to tap your shoulder, commanding you to get on watch. Hokahey has seen her fair share of grown men break down in tears after a few days on the ocean. But you know what? Youth Team hasn’t stopped laughing!

The Jackson Hole Ocean Sailing Team has a certain style on the water. First, everyone is tough and rough and doesn’t mind being outdoors. Second, quite a few crew members wear camo.

Youth Team has been busy. They’re filming the dolphin pods that’ve been playing in our boat’s wake for most of the journey. They’re watching the enormous full moon cast sparkles across the waves. Most of all, they’re making the boat go FAST. Thanks to the the whippersnappers’ increasing skills in driving and sail trim, we’ve been averaging 11 knots downwind. Not too shabby, mateys!

Of course, we did have a tough decision to make: Should we fly the spinnaker or not? The spinnaker is a monstrously huge, colorful sail that would pick the boat out of the water and make it surf to Mexico. El Capitan decided not to deploy this sail because the wind was blowing 25 knots in the dark and our young crew was not 100% sure about how to set and trim that beast. So we sail fast and safe…..but not as fast as we could with the spinnaker. The crew wants to come out again and do nothing but set and douse the spinnaker until we are really good at it!

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N2E Race Day 1: Pre-Start Thursday

¡Hola, landlubbers! JH Sailing Team just cast off from Marina del Rey, LA, and we’re sailing to Newport for the start of the Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race. Our Santa Cruz 52 sailboat, Hokahey, is gliding through the late-night harbor so excitedly it’s like she’s already thinking about the finish line’s location in sunny Mexico, where we’ll scarf down fish tacos before sailing home. Or maybe Hokahey’s excited because she’s thinking about the thing that makes us different from any other boat in any major yacht race this year, possibly in the world, possibly in any year: Youth Team. The major players in our crew are five kids, aged 13-14, accompanied by a small adult support crew.

We pushed off from the dock at 22:00 ( 10pm). Super cool that the moon is almost full and lights up the ocean almost as well as the sun. Currently, we’re all sitting around the cockpit, reviewing safety drills and procedures. We’re making sure the entire team’s wearing their life vest and harness, tethered to the boat, and understands how to be safe as the 19,000lb boat crashes through the waves. We’ll also talk about navigation and needed math skills. Turns out sailing is very physical, but our Youth Team sailors will also have to think and plan and figure out a lot.

Race goals are to be safe, learn as much as possible, WIN, and make some really good Snapchats. VAMOS.

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Day 14: Transpacific Mahalo

“Sailing is gnarly, brah!”

-Connor and Jeff

SMACK! The flying fish slapped Elizabeth across the side of her face, and is now flopping noisily about the cockpit. Elizabeth rushes over to toss him back into the ocean before washing off the scales dotting her cheek.

Two hours later, another flying fish soars out of the water, and into the back of Connor’s head. His sun hat will never smell the same.

When you first see a flying fish, it appears to be a bird, soaring two feet above the water at intervals of 30 seconds before dipping back into the sea. Fleets of flying fish now pass by so often, we could identify their flocking with eyes half closed on dog watch.

More wildlife. Hokahey glides past a floating 15 foot giant squid, the likes of which we weren’t sure existed outside the Discovery Channel. Its bulbous yellow eye stares menacingly at Scott and Sarge.

Bioluminescence. Phosphorescent plankton swarm the waters at night, illuminating Hokahey’s hull in bright sparkling flashes. Phosphorescent dolphins play in our wake. They shoot through the waves like neon torpedoes.

JH Sailing Team’s navigation gamble did not pay off this time, but our lives have been enriched by this Transpac adventure. You see, the things sailors experience offshore, you cannot see or do anywhere else. As a non-profit, our goal is to spread the opportunity to sail and learn. Please visit jhsailing.org to support our unique cause. Aloha!

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Day 12: Shark Gazers and Alien Watch

“It ain’t no J Crew ad out there, honey.”

-Elizabeth

At any given moment, a sailor can make any number of mistakes, ranging from the dangerous (grabbing a running halyard), to the humorous (Scott inflating his PFD while sliding into the nav station). Today, we discovered we’d committed mistake perfection: We filled Hokahey’s water tanks too high.

You see, racing boats must be light, and their tanks empty as possible. The way to remedy our error was….showers all around!! In racing, this is unheard of. The closest you usually get to a shower is standing on the transom while someone pours a bucket of seawater over your head. Ours were cold, two-gallon showers, but they might as well have been a spa referral from Beyonce. We fancy.

Shower factor’s one aspect of #racelife non-sailors aren’t aware of. Here’s another, expressed in the form of the most FAQ any sailor will recognize: “Do you sail through the night?”

We couldn’t stop if we wanted to! Sailors use a “watch system” for long passages. Our crew’s organized into two watch teams: “Alien Watch” and “Shark Gazers”. The teams alternate 4 hours on watch and 4 hours off during day, and 3 hours on and off at night. On watch, we sail the boat. Off watch, we sleep, either curled up in the sail bags lining the rail, or in the berths down below, but when you hear “all hands on deck!” you throw on your foulies and go.

We all have a love/hate relationship with the “dog watch” hours, between 0100 0400. Staying alert can be agony. On the other hand, what sight could match shooting stars dashing repeatedly across a star-jammed, smoky white sky 1000 miles offshore?

During last night’s dog watch, star show was blanketed by a thick, black cloud mass. On the horizon, we spotted something we’d thought was no more than a tall tale: the infamous night rainbow. Its thick, curved body glowed neon yellow-green, popping eerily against the pitch-black sky. The Shark Gazers stared, mesmerized by this rainbow’s peculiar beauty. Only a fool could believe rainbows foretell misfortune! However, the wind soon began gusting 27 knots, ushering in a night of squalls and wet, frantic sail changes. Let’s just say we’re not yearning to see one again…

Our non-profit believes that by participating in a watch system, kids develop responsibility, discipline, and confidence, while experiencing nature’s wonders. Visit jhsailing.org to find out more!

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Day 11: Turn Down for What

“Pay-to-play sailors got a great deal this year. Pay 10 days get 5 days free!”

-Sarge

jhost-sailMost northern monohull on any Transpac ever! We raised our gloved fists toward the heavens, as we gathered round the cockpit for the halfway point celebration. Then, shaking with laughter, we scarfed pickled sweet potato salad and rosemary leg of lamb out of our plastic boat bowls. We’d all been looking forward to this occasion, for which Jeff had donated and prepped such luxurious grub. However, we’d expected to meet the halfway mile marker about two days earlier, and we certainly hadn’t expected to be sailing the 34th latitude.

That was three days ago. Today, Elizabeth gave Connor a break from his usual duty of traveling to the top of the mast to check the halyards for chafe. 70 feet up, she hung on to the shrouds, and scanned the Pacific for competitors. The ocean’s so vast, it seemed we were floating not on the Earth, but a smaller, windier planet made up entirely of glimmering blue sea blanket. No land. And, most notably for us, no competitors. All according to plan.

JH sailing team’s rolled the proverbial dice in hopes that our competitors will follow a short, conventional route, falling victim to the low pressure zones likely to pop up in Hurricane Dolores’ wake. Victory depends on our superior northern velocity. Risky? Affirmative. We’ll win or lose big. But consider this, landlubbers: Is it not risk—in love, art, and Monopoly—that makes life zesty as a pickled sweet potato? Affirmative again.

So, the rainbow chute’s flying as we surf these northern waves. We’ll have to turn down south eventually, but that time has yet to come. For now, the Lil Jon’s blasting from the stern speakers. The pit men and women trim and crank the spin pole in time to the beat. From the helm, Gus murmurs to his watch team: “We are now lords of the north. We own it.”

As a non-profit dedicated to helping kids develop life skills through sailing, we believe that working together as part of a competitive sailing team will help them build perseverance and new ways to make decisions. Check us out at jhsailing.org!