Fours members of The Force, Tommy, Cooper, Solomon and myself (David), along with owner Buzz Blackett and designer Jim Antrim, sailed on California Condor, a Class 40, in the Spinnaker Cup, a race from San Francisco to Monterey over the Memorial Day Weekend. We had 12 to 15 knots most of the day with a moderate 10 to 12 foot swell. Boat speed was in the low teens and all was going well until around 6 pm.
We were about 8 miles off Santa Cruz when the wind picked to the mid twenties, and it was time to change to a smaller kite. While I was on the foredeck with the smaller kite bag hooked to the lifeline, the boat broached and a large wave ripped the clips off the bag and swept the bagged kite with me hanging on to it halfway down the length of the boat on the leeward side. We recovered from the broach, but the wind continued to build.
We knew we had to get the big kite down ASAP and decided to go bareheaded for the drop. A fouled lazy sheet made for an awkward and difficult drop that became more complicated when the boat broached again. I plunged from the cabin top into the water on the leeward side with my knee bent around the stanchion by the tremendous water pressure. Cooper also landed in the water to leeward and his inflatable vest deployed, greatly limiting his mobility.
Solomon (fortunately an EMT) realized that my knee was injured, and pulled me into the cockpit. He gave my knee a quick exam while we were still broached, the kite was flogging and the wind was escalating. Buzz later said that he saw the wind speed peak at 40. I decided my knee was good enough for the moment. We had to get the kite down by any means necessary.
Tommy ran to the bow to trip the martinbreaker, and then Tommy, Solomon, Cooper with his vest still inflated, and I, lying on my back in the cockpit, wrestled with the sheet until we could get the clew and gather the kite. I traded my uninflated vest for Cooper’s inflated one so that he could go forward to drop the staysail, then crawled below to tend to my knee. Cooper, Solomon and Tommy set the #4 jib and reefed the main, and we limped over the finish line at Monterey.
The next day I got my knee x-rayed (no fracture) at an urgent care facility and was asked how the injury occurred. As I struggled to explain, the doctor jokingly said
” You’re not in the America’s Cup are you?” I replied “well actually…” When I pulled up an action shot of The Force on the Ac45 on my phone, he was so excited that the he hurried out of the room to show his nurse, who returned with him asking for a photo of himself with me.
We were very glad to have the opportunity to sail on California Condor. Even though the race did not go as any of us had hoped, it was a valuable experience in teamwork. We had to trust one another in very difficult circumstances and work together without a lot of discussion. This race has helped prepare us for the demands and challenges that we will experience racing the AC45. Thank you, Buzz.