In between running the summer series for the Flying Scots and the Classic Moth Nationals, I got the call to fill in as a Wednesday crew for John Jenkins on his Star boat. I hadn't been in a Star for 30 or so years but Wednesday nights are usually light air drifters .... so how hard could it be? Well when we arrived at the St. Michaels YC, the wind was a consistent fifteen and the tutorial on the sail out to the starting line was short and sweet; here are the cleats for the running backs, don't thread the whisker pole through the mainsheet on the way in or out, and here is a nifty fine tune adjust on the jibsheet. From my perspective, there looked to be plenty of lines, that, if pulled wrong, could pose big problems, not just in racing around the buoys but in keeping the mast up .... those thoughts I put out of my mind.
John got the best start at the weather end and we were ahead comfortably 2/3 the way up the first beat. Unfortunately his closest rival got out to the right and rode a nice starboard tack lift to lead us into the mark. Off we went downwind. John was intent on running down his rival; not only was the leeward running back off, he let off some 8 inches of the weather one and we pulled on a jib thing-a-majingy to bag the jib out. I got the pole out after a delay, my feet effectively cleating the sheets for a while until I figured out what the problem was. I hadn't screwed up too bad until we attempted what would turn out, for a neophyte Star crew, to be the equivalent of a an inward three-and-a-half somersault in tuck position ..... we did a gybe into a leeward mark rounding.
Well, lets say I did get the whisker pole back into the boat properly before we rounded the leeward mark but .......... the weather running back was not fully on, the jib sheets were in a huge ball right at the turning block, and I had pulled the jib thing-a-majingy on instead of out and the jib was a good three feet up the forestay. I did get the weather runner on before the mast went anywhere bad, I was able to miraculously free the jib sheet ball in about 20 seconds and we eventually got the jib down to the deck. By that time our rival was well gone. We were able to hang onto second for another windward/leeward but another boat ground us down just before the finish (I just don't have anywhere near the beef of a true Star crew).
All in all, I was pleased with a third. It could have been worse though we didn't do John's series lead any favors. Lesson, if you are going to be a pickup crew in a Star, definitely do it in under 10 knots when things happen a little slower.
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