Sailing Fast in a Big Wind
After a weather front passes, we get a day or two of brisk winds blowing 12-18 mph and gusting to 25 on the York River. The operating procedure is to reduce the sail space by reefing, in my case rolling the sails out only halfway. The boat can run on one sail half reefed, but it achieves better balance with two.
Here comes a group of two couples looking for excitement on the water. Todd Ruthemeyer and his wife Michelle are looking to buy a boat someday and leave Cincinnati for St. Thomas in the Caribbean. “Just for a year or so,” she stipulated. They already have a Sunfish to get started with the basics. They were ready for some extreme sailing.
Sailing Fast in a Big WindTheir friends Jennifer and Jason Schafer went along for the ride and had a blast. She is an electrical engineer for Amazon and he is a double E for Google. They served in the Navy on aircraft carriers. “I was on the George Washington and Jennifer was on the Nimitz.”
I asked about rough water. Jennifer recalled, “Oh yes. We were rounding Cape Horn in a storm when the seas were so high as to lick the lifeboats right off the side of the ship. The high seas also took out a Ram launcher” for missiles. “It was an exciting experience.”
Jason said his experience in storms was different. “They usually tie down the planes on the deck, but sometimes they take them below deck.”
Sailing Fast in a Big WindThe water is alluring, and so is speed. Jason said, “The fastest ships in an aircraft carrier group are the aircraft carrier and the submarine. We could get up to 38 miles an hour in a ship weighing 189,000 tons. Amazing! At that speed we have to stay inside the ship, but I got out to see the rooster tail. It rose up over the fantail in a spectacular arc.”
Jennifer said, “When the seas were calm, the moon was especially bright on the water because it’s the only light out there. You can see the prop wash behind the ship and it’s luminescent, all sparkly with phosphorus.”
Sailing Fast in Big WindMichelle took the wheel and learned the resistance theory of holding the helm so it doesn’t turn upwind.Todd ran through the Close Reach and found it somewhat overwhelming in a reefed situation. We turned sharply out of the wind to a beam reach and headed downriver on a flat, speedy run. 
All day long we tacked and shifted position with swift aplomb. We practiced the collision course and a few boating rules of the road as other vessels came along. It was invigorating on every level.

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