October 14, 2014

Harvest Moon Regatta | J-120 "Aeolus"

The 2014 Harvest Moon Regatta was another success.  The annual regatta is one of our favorites so check out Keith Magnussen's report from the race on board James Liston's J-120 Aeolus.

The annual Harvest Moon Regatta (HMR) is also my annual trek to the great big state of Texas.  In the past this race has throen some very challenging and interesting weather my way and this year was no exception.

If you are unfamiliar with the HMR then let's get you informed.  If you know about the HMR skip to the next paragraph.  The HMR is a 150 mile race from Galveston to Port Aransas Texas.  The coastline is littered with oil rigs, unlight platforms, oyster beds, shrimpers and a whole bunch of other stuff.  Galveston is a beach community close to Houston and Port Aransas is a spring break town close to Corpus Christie.

After meeting up with my fellow crew members at Houston Yacht Club we headed down to James Liston's J-120 Aeolus.  James has been a great customer and friend and I always enjoy sailing on his boat.  This year we were sporting a brand new Code-0, Carbon GPL Genoa and an AIRX Code 1A spinnaker.  We felt we had a pretty good arsenal to compliment the 3A, Max class running spinnaker and spinnaker stay-sail.  Mark Michelson from Dry-UV not only supplied some fantastic crew shirts he also supplied us with a weather routing synopsis.  Not sure it would benefit my good friends on the Viper 640, they were looking at a wet ride!
Viper 830

HMR starts of the Galveston pier and our class was due to start at 3pm.  We handily won the start as we jumped out to an early lead.  The Santa Cruz 50 quickly passed us on the tight jib reach which she is essentially made for.  We held off the J-122 for a bit as we traded off lanes looking for clear air.  We ended up with the low road and Rebecca (the other J-120) took the high.  Low road was not the way to go as we ended up fighting for clear air with the smaller boats we were all passing.  Our speed was great as we pushed 10kts of boat speed right on rhumb line.

The low road was truly not stellar as I "think" there was a bit more pressure above.  As we made the correction and neared the Freeport buoy it became clear that we would be just behind the J-122 and J-120.  We really wanted to get the Code-0 up and we eventually did just that as the wind clocked to around 135 and gave us the angle we needed.  As soon as we got it up we started to move on the boats above us.  Only downside was the wind did not cooperate and we had to switch to the jib top.

Unfortunately for us we had some issues on our headsail changes and ended up losing a lot of time.  Won't go into details but having the right set up for the bowman to work at night is crucial to success on overnight races.  Eventually we had to switch to the number 3 as the wind went more forward and strengthened.

Back to the race!  I forgot to mention the beautiful sunset.  Sunset's on the water are exceptional.  The colors, anticipation of night sailing and promise for some adventure make this time of day very special.

We were plugging along in around 15kts of wind (I think as our TWS was way off most of the time).  The wind was steady and some of the crew (no names) were getting a little sea sick.  One in particular had an unfortunate incident and slipped down below hurting his shoulder and rendering him incapacitated.  Sort of dropping like flies which put more pressure on the guys on deck.

Around 2am (I think) the fun really started.  In come two squalls for some excitement.  The first one was relatively tame with rain and wind in the 20's.  The second one... well thats the one to talk about.  Full on downpur, rain going sideways, 30+kts of wind, visibility 5 yards, rain hurting your face means it is about time to reef the main.  Job well done on this one!

After the squalls passed the real breeze settled back in.  It must have been over 25 at times because we had to flog the main, which was reffed, and only had a #3 headsail up.  If you sail J-120's then you know how much breeze it takes to do this.

Morning arrived and we zeroed in on the Port Aransas turning buoy.  It always seems to blow hard here and this was no exception.  Big swells and big wind, fun times.  Plan was to turn the buoy, pop the 3A, shake the reef and have the best sailing of the race (for the last 2 miles).  It was pretty clear that no one in front of us was putting spinnakers up as we could hear the delta between rounding and finishing.  The 3A was a good call because the channel is really narrow and a tanker was coming out.  The 3A is a great sail in 25kts as it does not hide behind the main and allows us to maneuver relativley east.  Our thoughts were that this is a chance to make some time back and have a bunch of fun!

Fun it was!  16kt top speed with an average of around 13 made this the best sailing of the race!
We finished the race, put the boat away, rented a golf cart (seems to be cool thing) and checked the Texas waves for a surf session.  All in all it was another amazing experience and even though we did not finish where we like (full results) it was a learning and bonding experience.

See you next year Texas!

Dolphins surfing the legendary tanker waves Texas are known for