Yacht racing is a whole different animal to cruising. When you’re racing you’re taking the yacht to its limits, hoping that the extra knot or two of speed will win you the race, and not spell disaster.
Bob and wife Pat lived that adrenalin-filled experience aboard a twenty-eight-foot trimaran—light and fast—in the race from Maui to Honolulu. On a multi-hull yacht like this, the crew is mainly there to act as movable ballast. Shifting the crew’s weight six inches fore or aft can maximize the yacht’s speed.
They left Maui in a fresh wind, making six to seven knots and leaving the traditional mono-hulls in their wake. But when they got out of the lee of the island and into the channel between Molokai and Oahu, the winds picked up until the yacht was hurtling along at fifteen knots in a big sea.
With one eye on the knot meter and one on the wind angle, Bob could just keep the yacht under control. It was at that point that he thought it would be a good idea to launch the spinnaker for some extra speed. He was soon to be proven wrong!
Even with Pat hanging off the windward amah to try to keep the yacht stable, the bulging red chute lifted the yacht until it was almost airborne. They accelerated to eighteen knots and the only way to get the yacht under control was to head off the wind—in the direction of Japan—and try to cut the spinnaker free.
It took some doing, but they were finally able to bring in the spinnaker without driving the yacht under in the process. That’s the big risk with racing multi-hulls. You’re moving so fast that if you aren’t careful, you can drive the hulls into a wave and bury them, bringing the yacht to a sudden halt and causing it to flip over. That’s what happened to America’s Cup contender Oracle Team USA.
Once the danger had passed there followed a spirited debate between skipper and crew that went something like this:
“You maniac! You could have killed us both!”
“Well, it seemed like a good idea!”
“You don’t have any good ideas!”
“How would you know? You wouldn’t know a good idea if it hit you on the head!”
“Don’t give me any ideas!”
When the vessel and its crew were once again under control they resumed their original course, having lost a good deal of ground to their competitors by their detour. They made good speed, though, and by the time they rounded the buoy off Diamond Head they were gaining on the fleet.
In the relatively calm waters off Waikiki the trimaran was in its element. With the windward amah out of the water it sped along at sixteen knots, racing the winds of paradise and passing the mono-hulls like they were glued to the bottom!
Bob and Pat finished the race in second place in their class and second out of twenty overall, missing line honors only due to their unplanned side trip.