Race report: Dinghy Regatta, PGYC ASR 2010

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PUERTO GALERA, MINDORO–With a wary eye to the developing monsoon weather off Boquete Beach, the Sailability Philippines 2010 team nonetheless steeled their nerves to set off in 4 Lawins to compete versus or with able bodied partners in the Dinghy Open Class of Puerto Galera Yacht Club’s 2010 All Souls Regatta last 30-31 October.

We've  sailed in the same weather during the 43rd ASEAN Day Regatta, but then we were on the Access 2.3s, virtually impossible to capsize tiny keelboats. This time we were to sail on the fiberglass Lawins, similar to the double-handed Mirror dinghys, and some of us had already capsized on these boats during practice in Manila Bay. We were game, raring to sail and win in the beautiful waters of Mindoro. Most of the new sailors having never been to Mindoro island before.  

Having arrived early Friday in Puerto Galera, the team visited PGYC to check in and say hello to Peter Stevens  and sailor friends. The ambulant sailors managed getting down the steep hill path to the clubhouse, which was unfortunately located on hilly terrain–gorgeous view yes, however accessible to wheelchair users, very difficult. That path would have made a perfect tropical ski jump for the more adventurous, with a landing among the spiky mangrove roots bordering the club’s shore. This ocular inspection was likewise to review options on getting our wheelchair bound sailors down and up the steep hill as well as check if dock entry was easier.

Halcon Reef, our nice, airy bahay kubo past Sandbar Hotel on Boquete Beach was just a house away from where the Lawins would be launched. Sailing practice that Friday afternoon was made exciting by scattered whitecapped waves and gusts averaging 15-16knots. This weather pattern continued the next two days, starting 8am and settled to constant wind about noon, just when the open class sailors (anyone over 18years old) were scheduled to compete in the afternoon races. The wind speed increased at times on Sunday afternoon.
Rolly and Jojo paired on a Lawin dinghy. The girls - Cherrie and Clyte took off on another. Peter Stevens and Coach Jojo assigned Don Jhon “DJ” Cabaries and Gabriel “Gambi” Fetizanan, able bodied PGYC Lawin fleet’s top sailors to ensure the safety of Marcos and Jerry, our wheelchair-bound sailors. DJ and Gambi were currently Manila-based, training with the Philippine Sailing Association (PSA) beside MYC. No wonder they looked familiar!

DJ and Gambi and their friends showed us why local knowledge is a good thing to have, like knowing where to avoid patches of coral reef dotting the bay. Crunching your centerboard into the reef at mid-bay is not only an unpleasant surprise of a boat stopper akin to chomping on aluminum foil but destroys the reef as well, didn’t want marine critters to lose their homes.

The yacht anchored at the windward mark proved to be an annoying but interesting obstacle in determining how close one could sail without losing speed in it’s shifting wind shadow. Kudos to the entire small boat fleet who while tightly rounding the windward mark, had to gybe frantically to avoid smashing their Lawins into the anchored yacht’s port side during the sausage course. The “obstacle” yacht didn’t get a single scratch.

Due to the monsoon weather and strong gusts, the Sailability Team boats had memorable capsize close calls but we didn’t mind the resulting bruises and aches from slipping in the cockpits while scrambling to balance our Lawins. None of us  capsized, being a tad more modest with our sailing. We thoroughly enjoyed being part of or observing the merry mayhem on the water, this was a great learning experience.

Jerry decided that sailing backwards wedged in the narrow space between centerboard and mast, with skipper DJ manning the rest, was the best way to balance their boat while keeping an eye on the fleet far behind them. Marcos with his lucky lobster necklace meanwhile good naturedly heckled the rest of the team chasing after Marcos and Gambi’s boat.

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DAY TWO’S AFTERNOON wind stirred up more consistent whitecaps and gusts increasing to about 14-19knots, enough to prompt the Race officials to seriously consider safety issues and offer able skippers for the Sailability Teams. The girls decided to split up and took on the offer, while Rolly and Jojo stuck it out and sailed as before. Clyte’s boat encountered structural problems to sit out a few races while repairs were done. It was a change to observe someone else skipper as Cherrie with skipper Raymart, started leading though with amazing close calls of what appeared to be barging the start line. Rolly and Jojo had their own funny adventures as well. We loved every second being there and would not have traded the experience for the world.

Thank you PGYC and special mention to Peter Stevens and Coach Jojo for not just taking very good care of us but also for inspiring the team that when there is a will, there is a way. We likewise impressed the PGYC folk for having the guts to not just bravely sail in the challenging weather but also manage to sail as well as possible and not capsize. P H O T O S  > >