Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Di Hunter Women's Race

Michele Boulay in first place in
the Di Hunter Women's Race
     The race announcement was broadcast over the VHF Hopetown Cruisers Net. The Di Hunter Ladies Race aboard Sunfish sailboats would be hosted by the Hopetown Sailing Club on Monday, March 14, 2016. Hmm...that's an announcement that peaked my interest. I listened again the following morning in the event I was half awake and dreamt I'd heard the news the day before. Once again the announcement was broadcast over the net.
      I had been bothered by an upper back spasm for a week or so and wondered if I should dare mention the race to Joe assuming he would offer a host of reasons why I shouldn't race. I'm rarely keen on listening to the voice of reason, therefore I thought better of mentioning the race and decided to monitor race details hoping I'd recover in time.

Joe skippering Nothing's Easy an Abaco Dinghy
     On Sunday Joe was invited to skipper one of the iconic wooden Abaco Dinghys crafted by boat building legend Wyner Malone of Abaco in the Hopetown Sailing Club's Sunday Race. I was told that I could join him. Seven dinghies raced and it quickly became apparent that the dinghies were built as work boats not racing boats. Don't over sheet the main and don't try to point above 45 degrees! After racing three races I felt fine setting my sights on the women's race the following day.

Simple Life & Nothing's Easy after the race

     Time to get serious. Now where did I store my sailing gloves & my mouth guard? That's right I do wear a mouth guard when racing Sunfish since the boom is only a fist above the deck. I've smashed my teeth on deck a few times while ducking during a quick tack.


Rigging Sunfish on the beach after the skippers meeting
     Skippers meeting was at 9:00 AM Monday at the Hopetown Sailing Club. Five women registered including 87 year old Di Hunter for whom the race is named. Di is a credit to our gender. She is a solo sailor who lives alone aboard her catamaran in Abaco where she agilely moves about her boat and dinghy like a teenager. She is an active member of the Hopetown Sailing Club often serving as race committee boat. Di also raced in her namesake Women's Race finishing third in blustery conditions on race day.


Friendly banter among competitors on race day.
     On race day March 14, 2016 while rigging Sunfish on the beach I attempted to "size up" the competition. There were no obvious clues. The women who ranged in size from petite to tall rigged their boats and waited for race time while lending a hand to each other when needed. With an 11:00 AM start time fast approaching mounting tensions became apparent.
     The race course was set with a Le Mans start horn signal from the beach in front of the sailing club out the narrow, bustling channel around the Parrot Cays, back into the even more chaotic channel with a finish line on the beach at the sailing club.

Lynette & Michele match racing around the course
     Due to the congested situation with sails flogging and everyone trying to push off the beach at once I laid back while the others cleared out figuring I'd catch them off the wind. By the time the boats were out of the channel I was in second place with a freshening breeze. My kind of sailing began to take shape. The boats were race rigged and equipped with hiking straps that allowed the skipper to shift weight out over the windward rail. Conditions seemed perfect for my height and weight. I felt good. My closest competition was slightly ahead at the windward mark. Lynette Edenfield who got off the beach ahead of me knew what she was doing. She clearly had considerable racing experience and we match raced each other on all points of sail especially on the reaching and upwind leg toward the finish. I shot ahead on the reaching leg which is my favorite point of sail since it is the fastest. My boat reached planing speed and I hiked out keeping her as flat as possible. The most challenging part of the race came while entering the narrow, dogleg, channel on the return to Hopetown Harbor where the tide was rushing out with a strong gusty breeze on the nose hindering our progress. Let's throw in a ferry boat, small tourist charter boats and a giant catamaran for kicks and giggles. I had to calm myself in order not to blow a tack or run aground giving Lynette the opportunity to pass me on a mistake. After clearing the channel it was a matter of covering Lynette and touching the beach first. We finished 19 seconds apart! The entire four mile race course took just over 50 minutes!

The Di Hunter Perpetual Trophy presented to Michele Boulay
for finishing in first place in the race.
     Following the race, Hopetown Sailing Club member Catherine Allin from Solitaire I prepared hors d'oeuvres in the club house for race participants. The Di Hunter Perpetual Trophy was presented by Di Hunter and RC chairman David Allin at the awards presentation after lunch. I was honored and thrilled to accept the first place trophy! I've always made a bold statement that sailing is a lifetime sport. I sure hope I'm right because I'd love to be out racing when I'm 87.

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