Kate Shaner was lucky to be asked to join the crew of Triumph, a Santa Cruz 52 owned by Steve Sellinger, for the Islands Race. As someone relatively new to big boats and offshore racing, Kate asked a lot of questions. Kate ran sheets and copied the rigging from side to side, correcting her mistakes as she found them. The crew all helped walk her through the safety protocol of the boat, showing her how to mark a MOB, and fixing my AIS to the inside of my harness. Kate asked their navigator Brad Wheeler about our route, and he sat down with her to patiently explain the sail chart for the boat as they motored out to the course. They started clean, with one boat between them and the pin. They tacked up the inside of the breakwater to Queens Gate, then split from their fleet and left the harbor. They tacked up the outside of the breakwater to gain pressure advantage off the land all the way up past Angel’s Gate to Point Fermin, before heading out to Catalina. The wind shifted left as they moved farther from shore, and we took small hitches up and played against the fleet to lay the tip of Catalina.
The rain squall that had been looming on the horizon all afternoon finally swept down over the fleet late afternoon. The rain blocked their vision of Catalina, barely a half mile ahead of them. By the time it broke, they were rounding Arrow Point, the northeastern tip of the island. They cut close to the island. Swell broke against the cliffs and bounced back—where opposing waves met their heavy hull was nearly bounced out of the water. Near sunset they rounded Catalina, set a kite, and headed south to San Diego. Lucky Duck, our main competition rounded just ahead and inside us towards the island.
The wind built after dark, with squalls closer to shore driving the pressure into the teens. Lucky Duck held just to leeward and ahead of us, and we pushed hard to close the gap. As crew members took turns sleeping and going below to warm up, she got a turn on the helm. Ian Klitza, who’s spent decades with the Santa Cruz 52 fleet, coached her through at the beginning; how to watch her bearing, what was too high or too low for the kite. With a clear sky and bright moon, she could see and feel the 10 to 15 foot swell pushing beneath her. She looked beneath our boom towards Lucky Duck. She began to call her driving to the trimmers—up five, down five, our hold. She wanted to surf. They started to catch the waves, slowly at first. The wind increased, our instruments read out in the low twenties. Finally we caught a wave just right. Our speed read out 17 knots, and the trimmers cheered. They pulled even with Lucky Duck.
Steve made the crew dinner and she took turns grinding, trimming, and eating. She got a couple hours of sleep between 10 and midnight, then came back on deck before the jibe. Brad called lay line to Point Loma, and we held the same kite for several miles, pushing as high as we dared. We fought to stay on lay line, the entire crew on the windward rail hanging on to the stanchions. Just miles from the finish line they letterboxed the kite and put up a jib to sail hotter. they crossed the finish line 26 seconds behind Lucky Duck.
Huge thanks to the Triumph Crew for having her aboard! She is excited to get back offshore.