This post is about racing this weekend, but it requires a lot of back story. So bear with me, and hopefully you’ll enjoy the tale.
Just about a year ago, at my oldest daughter’s birthday party, my father and I got to talking about sailing and racing after dinner. We talked about the racing I was getting back to at the time, and the racing both of us had done in the past, and what parts of it we really liked. As always with us, the Mercury came up, as did the High Sierra Regatta. More than anything else, that boat class, and that race series, dominates my happy memories from childhood. We got to joking around about how fun it would be to find a Mercury to borrow and do the High Sierra Regatta again, and that joking turned into planning. For the next couple days, I couldn’t get it out of my head, and on the Monday of the next week, I asked my dad how he would feel about finding a boat, and racing a whole season with me. It took a bit of convincing, but after I told him that he would be switching off with my wife racing with me, instead of him having to be at every race, he loved the idea.
Now began the search for the boat. My first stop was the Mercury class website, and there were some likely boats on there, including one built by my father, but it was a bit out of our budget. We were trying to keep this as cheap as possible until we knew we wanted to stick with it. I didn’t see it the first, or even second time I looked, but I soon noticed a note on the top of the add page that said “Mercurys that need reconditioning and are available for little or no cost contact: pax580@….”. That seemed like exactly what we were looking for, and I remembered a Paxton from my childhood experiences with Mercurys, so I sent off an email explaining who I was, and what we were looking to do. I got a phone call 15 minutes later. It turns out that the Paxton of my memories now goes by Pax, and he was very excited to have us back in the fleet. He gave me a lead on a couple boats, and also offered to help us find anything we needed, offered to give us any hardware we might need, and told me that he had a brand new set of sails he could sell us cheap if we needed them. One of the boats was also on Craigslist, being sold the the Encinal Yacht Club Youth Foundation. It was in pretty rough shape, but it was cheap, and I was told they were also very interested in getting rid of it, and would probably be very willing to negotiate. We went to take a look at it, and it was rough, but we could fix the issues. We ended up getting the boat for $300, with the trailer, and we were up and running.
After an epic fight with the trailer wiring, and a slightly tense drive due to semi functional trailer lighting and no license plate on the trailer, we got the boat back to my house, got it in the side yard, and started tearing into it. The boat was put on the trailer wrong, and sat that way for well over a year, so there was some distortion to the hull, but we decided we could live with that for now, and concentrated on getting it sail-able. I went over all the standing rigging, and decided it would work for a while, so I reworked the traveler, rebuilt the main sheet turning block and swivel in the cockpit, and scrubbed and power washed everything. It was a bit of a struggle to get the trailer registered, since there was no paperwork on it, but a couple visits, and then a half a day spent at the DMV got it all straightened out, and now there is a new title for it, and it’s all legal. I rebuilt the wheel bearings on the trailer, and put on new lighting, and called it good to go (for now).
We haven’t had as much time to practice and work out the bugs as I would like, as I’m trying to concentrate on bigger boats for the sea time for my captain’s license. But every time we sail it we have a blast. We are in no way competitive, but we’re getting better. Now it feels like the boat is holding us back as much as our skills.
We’ve made it to two Mercury regattas. The first race day in the NorCal Series at Encinal Yacht Club, and we just raced in the Summer Sailstice small boat races, also at EYC. In the NorCal series, there were 12 boats racing in 5 races. We came in dead last for the first 4, and then managed an 11th for the last race. For Summer Sailstice, there were 6 boats registered, but only 5 made it. The official results aren’t out yet, but here is a run down. In the first race, we got a horrible start. We were supposed to be the 4th fleet to start. We got out on the water, and had issues with the jib. We got well clear of the start area to fix it, and were working our way back when the committee working boat came flying up to us to tell us we were in sequence and about to miss the start. While we were fixing the jib, they changed us from the 4th start to the 1st, and we were too far away to hear it. We started well behind the fleet, and since it was only a single sausage course, we did not have time to catch up and finished dead last. The second race (another single sausage), we did a little better on the start, and managed to finish 4th, and the third race (a double sausage), we had a much better start, and our handing of the boat was getting much more solid (as well as a helpful hint from another racer on proper weight distribution in the boat) and we managed a 3rd. We were super happy with the 3rd, and celebrated by sailing for an extra half hour before heading in.
I wanted to get some sailing action shots, but that proved too risky to both the boat, and my cellphone. It’s a small enough boat that it’s incredibly hard to take pictures while sailing. You need both hands most of the time, and it’s a wet ride. I’m going to see if I can work out a rig for a GoPro style camera soon and try to get some good stills and video.