By Kevin O'Neill - Angleton, Texas - USA

... of 2007, er, that is, June 2008, no no,
October 2008!  Yeah!  This time for sure!

There are, for some reason, several proa sailors along the Texas coast.  Something about all that water, and the natural urge Texans feel to re-invent anything they come across, even as simple a thing as sailing, I guess.  We all know each other a bit through the Yahoo chat group proa_file, and we had emailed back and forth about having a race, which we had even rather imprudently announced dates for once or twice; we were supposed to race at the 2007 Duckworks Messabout at Magnolia Beach, for example, but when John and I got there we felt that the winds were a bit high for experimental boats with new rigs.  Then again we had declared a race for after the Texas 200, at the 2008 Messabout, but I at least was pretty tired of having a wet butt after five days of sailing, so we sailed a bit, sat around and ate and chatted, and then went home.

But we were determined!  And so we’ve had our race, finally, at Lake Somerville, on Oct 4.  Attending were:

  • Kevin O'Neill, with Skate, my 21' x 8.5' schooner rigged proa
  • John Wright, with the smaller of his proas, 14' x (approx) 7'
  • Skip Johnson, with P52, (approx) 23' x (approx) 11'
  • Laurent Coquilleau, with his 21' x 11' proa
  • Pete Brigaitis, my sailing buddy who volunteered to come and take
    pictures, ride on the committee boat or crew, as needed.
  • Susie, Skip's wife, who very kindly brought her ski boat to act as
    committee boat, rescue boat if needed, and tow boat for Laurent's tow

Pete and Laurent and I got there the night before and camped out, looked over Laurent's new A-cat mast and sail, and drove down to the local grocery to get some steaks to grill, and some beer to fortify us during the arduous grilling process.  The campsites are nice, a couple of parking spaces and a big grassy area for tents, a picnic table and a grill, all surrounded by trees.  The place was quite full of wildlife, we saw racoons, possum, and a cute little owl about the size of my fist, which we thought was very rare but which turned out to not be. 

Still very charming, he sat on a branch and watched us for ten minutes or so, during which time Pete got an excellent flash picture of him, which appeared to disturb him not the least:

Pete and Laurent brought tents, I slept in my Lawson tent hammock.  Lovely, a very civilized way to camp out.

John and Skip and Susie arrived early in the morning, it was a beautiful day, and we had wind!  About ten knots, which eventually built to a nice steady fifteen by late afternoon.  Here’s a shot of us all setting up in the parking lot:

From left to right, Laurent’s very dramatic tilting trailer setup, my boat, you can just see John’s mast, and P52.
Here’s a better shot of John’s boat on the trailer

Soon we were all set up on the beach.  Ok, “soon” might be an overstatement.  Pretty soon.  Soon enough.  Both P52 and John’s boat were ready much quicker than I was.  I got the masts in, launched the boat, carried the sails down to the beach, went back for the stuff I forgot, and in general wasted time tramping back and forth to the truck. 

In between all that and chatting I had to rig the baby stay between the masts, which someone took a picture of:

Really pretty easy, but everything takes time.  I’ve got the whole setup time down to half an hour from pulling up to sailing away if I can make myself just rig the boat rather than chatting, which I never can.

P52 started off with a big 110 ft^2 boomed jib, which turned out to be too much for the conditions.  He switched to this smaller boomed jib:
John’s rig was an interesting sort of tethered kite with elements of the Bolger/AYRS rig, but less drama.  I was a bit mystified as to how it would actually work when looking at it on the beach, but on the water it looked perfectly natural and the boat zipped along fine:
I sailed my boat as a cat schooner, leaving the jib on the beach to help with quicker shunting:

Laurent had brought his boat, but only to take a tow test, his rig is still under construction.  So we headed off, Pete and I on my boat, Laurent and Skip on P52, and John on his boat.  We did a bit of zooming around before the start:

Those conditions held throughout the race, about ten knots of wind and very little chop. 

We finally lined up and made a running start, and headed for the dam about five miles from our launch. The course was a close reach out and a broad reach back, as we thought a minimum of maneuvers might be nice for the first race. Pete and I on my boat took the lead, got close to the dam, looked for a mark to round, couldn't find the buoy we thought would be there, so we just shunted and headed back. We had opened up a good lead on Skip and Laurent in P52, who had in turn opened up a lead on John. The issue of boatspeed seemed settled, so we adopted the 'turn when the lead boat gets to you' handicap system, which reduced the margin some.  This is P52 in the middle of the course:

And this is John:

The final finish order was:

  1. Skate, sailed by Kevin and Pete
  2. P52, sailed by Skip and Laurent
  3. Pi (ok, I made the name up, but it's appropriate), sailed by John

The boats were so dissimilar in type and length and rig, a beach boat vs a cruiser vs a small experimental boat with a really unique rig,that we decided to forgo further formal racing for just messing about and taking rides.

We had lunch, Laurent got his boat in the water and did a tow test to establish where his board and rudder should be when he's sailing with a mast rather than a kite. 

Here’s a shot of his boat from the tow boat:

That thing is going to be a monster when he gets the rig worked out.

We took turns sailing in each other's boats, lots of zipping around in a building breeze, we had a good fifteen knots of wind and lots of whitecaps by the end of the day.

So the First Annual Texas Proa Championships is done. One immediate conclusion is that this is a fine time of year for it, nice and breezy and not too hot. So I would like to take this opportunity to announce The Second Annual Texas Proa Championships, which will again be held the first weekend of October, 2009. So come on out!

It seems like a good idea also to continue to hold it at Lake Somerville, as nice as the lake and campsite was and as nice as it is to have a central location like that.  If you're a Texas area sailor who's interested in bringing a proa to the next one please keep an eye on this page for updates:

Please do email me as early as possible; if you want to come you get a vote on number and format of races, as do each of the founding members, of course. We're willing to entertain suggestions of almost any sort of race one can imagine from someone who’s planning to bring a boat.  I hope we can attract more than a few boats next year;

It was nice to see a few proas together lined up on a little sandy beach and later on the water together racing.

See you next year!

Kevin O'Neill


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