Write-up: Bruce Fleming; Photos: Mischa Lopiano
Ever had such a good weekend away that it spoiled you for going back to work on Monday? You know, how when you get to work and say to yourself, “man, do I have to go to work now?” and then declare, “I need to have more weekends like that!” Last weekend was one of those for seven Wetas who sailed in Ventura. We had a blast sailing together, in fantastic weather, on some of the longest days of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Everybody came to learn something, and then went home having filled up on sailing, fun, and new experiences.
Paul Martson, cofounder of Pierpont Performance Sailing, and I conceived this event to be a weekend to give newer Weta sailors some time on the boat in medium air conditions. Ventura seemed like a great location, far enough North on the coast of California to have better winds than San Diego and Los Angeles, but not so far that our target audience in the southland would find too far to drive. The weekend we chose was random—not too far after the last weekend we sailed and not too close to the next one we’re planning to sail on. It was just coincidence that the date landed on the weekend following the Summer Solstice, and the annual world-wide sailing festival called Sailstice.
The shortest description of the weekend is here, provided by Paul, who is currently editing a video of the weekend: Geared for basics and fun on Sat, and racing practice on Sunday w/ super short course & lots of races. Nice venue, nice weather. Brian from SD won the Most Improved award, a Weta hat. We all had so much fun, we better make this an annual get-together!
Here’s a longer description…
- David and Erika Neagley, father/daughter from San Diego, sailed their yellow Quite Rightly
- Tim Corcoran, Claremont (east of Lost Angeles), sailed his yellow Shaheen
- Brian Grover, Encinitas (northern San Diego), sailed his bright red boat, formerly known as the Wealy Wed Weta
- Mitch Yount, Ventura, chartered a Pierpont Performance Sailing boat, white Ginger
- Bob Shirley, Ventura, sailed with us ion Saturday aboard classic gray Empress
- Bruce Fleming, San Diego, sailed the notorious yellow Akahele!
- Craig and Roger Coutre, Newbury Park (east of Ventura) chartered a Pierpont Performance Sailing boat, white Marianne on Saturday
- Paul Martson drove a monstrous RIB (loaned by the crew of famous catamaran, Afterburner) and provided RC duty on Sunday aboard a Contour 34 trimaran, Orange.
- Jared Brockway, San Francisco (co-founder of PPS and coach for the weekend) sailed Marianne on Sunday
Saturday began with boat launching and rigging at Ventura Harbor, followed by a pow-wow in Pierpont Bay Yacht Club to discuss the plan with coffee and donuts. Around Noon we got our boats off the docks and sailed out of the harbor to a crescent sand trap slope originally called Mommy Beach. We have since renamed it Weta Beach. Google Maps have not yet updated their database. At Weta Beach, we took photos of the seven boats lined up and lunched on sandwiches provided by Paul and Jared on the monstrous RIB.
Fueled up and ready to go, we sailed out to open water off the beach, and formed a flotilla to sail a mile and a half up the coast on a close reach to Ventura Pier in building breeze and gorgeous blue skies. Winds blew 6 to 10 mph…not quite what we wanted for the weekend, but better than nothing.
Once we all arrived at The Pier, we sailed back and forth in the building breeze and enjoyed buzzing the RIB and riding the gentle ground swells in toward the beach. Bob Shirley sailed a little further up the coast to a surf spot and spent the next 45 minutes buzzing the longboards there.
Since many of our newer Weta sailors have not capsized in yet, Paul and I felt a primary objective of the weekend was to give them that experience. Viewing Wetamarine’s capsize recovery video, edited by and starring Wetamaven Miranda Powrie, had been assigned as homework. Today was the day to apply that learning in a real-world situation. They soon experienced how difficult it is to flip a Weta, especially in light winds. I figured out one way: sheet in both sails, drop the tiller, run to the bow and lean into the jib and hold the mast by the 3 halyards. The boat should trip over the lee ama and then cartwheel over.
From his position driving the RIB, Paul announced that there was a prize to the first boat to go over. I think I was first, but I shouldn’t be counted in the prize giving since I’ve got prior experience. After some initial struggle, David and Erica got their boat over, and while Erica set to work getting the boat back over, David casually took pictures with his camera from a short distance astern.
Tim got his boat over too, and righted it with the graceful style seen in Miranda’s video.
I got my boat almost completely righted, but then it wind vaned around (the sails were still cleated) so I had to uncleat before starting the roll over again. I was fortunate that the wind had dropped, since the flooded ama was now my lee ama, so the boat was on the verge of flipping again. Once I got moving, I tacked and sailed off on a reach to empty the flooded ama.
During our debrief later, all of us credited Miranda’s video for showing how it’s done, and we all rehashed the surprise that the Weta is not an easy boat to capsize in the first place.
While we were having a great time in the bright sun and light winds, flipping our boats under the watchful eyes of Paul and Jared on the RIB, a muscular and tanned beach lifeguard got a bit riled up about the apparent sailboats in distress offshore. He scrambled a paddleboard and padded out to intersect Mitch as he sailed near the pier. He gave the strapping young man a ride out to our sailing area and he proceeded to read Paul and Jarred the Riot Act. The poor guy was riled up because he was originally concerned about the multiple sailboats in distress off shore! (Okay, I guess we should’ve notified the coasties or the county lifeguards we would be doing this…) I think he needs to lay off the Monster and Red Bull.
While Paul and Jared gave the guy a ride back to the pier, the Weta fleet began reaching back to the harbor and then enjoyed an hour of sailing around in the freshening breeze in the open ocean. Around 3 p.m. we reconvened on Weta Beach and decided on one last sail out to the harbor buoy before heading in. Back at the dock, the next learning experience for a couple of our crew was docking. Not easy for any new sailor, and definitely a challenge on a Weta in the cul-de-sac of the finger piers in the very back corner of the harbor! Happily, no gel coat lost was today. Squeezing all the boats into a couple of slips and floating dock was also a challenge. Props go to Erica, who swam under a dock to thread a dock line where there were no cleats. Not 10 minutes later, we sighted a bat ray and at least two white tip reef sharks swim by the area she dove!
Tim Corcoran provided sail lube, otherwise known as beer and chips and dip, to aid in our de-rigging. Later, after showers and laundry management, we enjoyed a hearty BBQ chicken dinner with a couple dozen old codgers at Pierpont Bay Yacht Club, and sat through their general membership meeting. Many of the members asked Paul for an introduction, and so we told them a little about our activities of the day, and put on a quick slide show of 50 of visiting photographer Mischa Lopiano’s best shots and 10 minutes of raw edit video from Paul’s GoPro.
Sunday dawned a bit grey and cooler with a typical marine layer that slipped in overnight. The Wetas met for another Pow-wow in the PBYC clubhouse with coffee and donuts and discussed basics of racing – start sequences, start tactics, windward buoy approaches, tacking angles and gybing angles, basic right-of-way rules, and mark rounding.
Bob couldn’t join us today, having Bar Tender duty at the PBYC, and Craig and Roger didn’t return, so there was a spare PPS boat to sail. Paul motored out and anchored Orange, the 34-ft Contour Tri about half a mile off the beach to the north of the harbor. Jared drove the RIB out with a PPS weta alongside to drop a pin and then anchored to windward as the top mark. Paul juggled starts, filming with a GoPro, taking stills with his camera phone, and noting finishing orders. Jared managed to rig a Weta while bouncing all over, side-tied to the RIB in chaotic chop created by swells bouncing off the harbor jetty. Here’s the micro description of the snappy little practice races we had:
#1 Mitch and Bruce won the start
Mitch was first around the weather mark! Followed close by Bruce
3rd was Brian
Order of finish: Bruce by 5 seconds, followed by Tim, then Brian
David and Erica didn’t know that we substituted the RIB as the wx mark! (Paul’s bad)
#2 David and Erica won the start at the boat, with Mitch looking fast off the pin end
Wx mk was Bruce, Mitch, D+E, Tim, then Brian
Order of finish: Bruce, Mitch, Tim, D+E, then Brian (close!)
#3 D+E start really well! Bruce was late due to weed on his blade (not really, but it’s a plausible excuse for being lazy)
Mitch banged right side, and it paid as he was first around
Jared finishes rigging his boat and joins the fleet for the downwind finish
#4 Jared wins the start mid-line
Bruce had the boat end nailed at speed at +4 secs
Jared first around the wx mark, and second to finish behind Bruce who is wicked fast OTW
Third was photo finish between Jared and Tim, then Brian, then D+E
#5 Jared won the start by lurking at the boat
Bruce tried to port tack the fleet but had to duck two boats
He made up on the leg and rounded first.
Brian showed HOT speed upwind (Paul likes to think it was a result of some coaching)
Order of finish: Bruce, Jared, Mitch, Brian, Tim, D+E
#6 Bruce and Mitch take the start at mid-line, and Jared at boat
Mitch went right again with D+E. Brian fast again upwind
Jared first around by a WIDE margin (like 15 seconds) followed by Brian
Order of finish Jared, Bruce, Mitch, Brian (yah!), Tim, D+E
#7 No notes. Did it even happen?
#8 Brian and Tim at the start
Jared went WAY left, leaving the whole fleet
It paid as he was first to the top mark, followed by Brian, then Tim
Order of finish: Jared, Tim, Brian, Mitch, Bruce, D+E
#9 Race Committee announced a course change: Double sausage
Mitch and D+E at the start
Mitch won the first two legs but didn’t know the new course!
Only Bruce, Jared, and D+E sail the whole course
After racing, we sailed back to the harbor and to de-rig at the ramp (Dave, Erica, and me) or the beach (Tim and Brian). Mitch enjoyed docking his charter going upstairs to enjoy a drink at the bar. This is a significant perk of chartering a boat over owning it!
We re-grouped after showers for a final de-brief at the bar with discussion of some of the close-calls on the race course, and some rigging tricks such as the Velcro autopilot. All agreed it was a great weekend of sailing and learning together. There was real enthusiasm for making this an annual event. Many of us are looking forward to reconnecting in just a couple weeks at the High Sierra weekend on Lake Huntington, and the race practice helped the un-initiated feel less apprehensive about joining participating in that regatta.
Many thanks to Paul Martson and Jared Brockway at PPS for spending their whole weekend in Ventura, juggling boats, keeping an eye on all of us, and putting it all together. Thanks to the good folks at PBYC for the use of their bathrooms and showers, and for letting us crash their club party, meet in their clubhouse, and join them for dinner on Saturday night. Thanks to Bob Shirley for donuts and coffee, and for sharing his local knowledge and years of Weta experience. Many thanks to photojournalism student, Mischa Lopiano, for all the great shots of us on the water. A special shout out to Raging Red Bull Ronny, the Ventura County lifeguard, who gave us a good chuckle at his expense. (Really, Ronny’s genuine concern for our welfare is no laughing matter.) And of course, many thanks to Miranda Powrie and Wetamarine for helping us defray the costs of putting on this great Weta Weekend.