2014 Ditch Run – Winner’s Report from Morjito

Morjito’s Ditch Run

Well, that was unexpected!

After coming off a lackluster performance at Whiskeytown (which was a blast nonetheless) we were ready for a little Ditch Run Redemption. Actually, I should explain that the desire for Ditch Run Redemption started in 2010 when we brought Morjito down for what turned out to be a largely upwind Ditch. At about 11:00 PM on that race, frustrated by the prospect of a post midnight finish, stressed out by our one-year-old daughter waiting with her grandparents at SSC, we pulled out a paddle in a moment of near zero breeze. DSQing ourselves, we managed to get in a few strokes before the breeze filled again and we proceeded to sail to the now irrelevant finish line. Earlier in that race we had been somewhere in the middle of the pack when we skipped mark 19 (never bring a charting GPS) and only realized the error when we crossed tacks (yes, still going upwind) with another boat who informed us of the error about ¼ mile up the course. Well, at least we got to do SOME downwind sailing that year while untying the string…

Anyhow, after Whiskey Town and a great week spent camping at the Redding Elks and Sherman Island, I dropped wife and child at SAC and set up logistics for the Ditch. This is, in my opinion, was key #1 to our success. Getting the boat set up and staged, and all the provisions laid in in a relaxed manner left us free to focus on, and enjoy, the sailing. Seriously, you can’t be expected to go fast eating power bars and drinking tepid water.

Boarding the Saturday morning bus was a pleasure after driving all over the valley and the bay over the prior two days, and it felt good to have the rest of the Hood River crew, Matt McQueen and Phil Nies aboard as we sailed out to the start. That brings me to the next key to the race for us… Matt McQueen. Matt is much better than a charting GPS. He knows the course, where to lay low and where to make your move, and he keeps us moving Morjito forward faster than par.

Setting up for the start, we planned to start on port after watching all the prior fleets take this (ahem) very civil approach. We should have known the Moore fleet was not going to just roll over and die in a port start parade. With a port pole setup and a right side approach, we pretty much just ducked transoms until we could jibe and sail over the line.

After the start we had plenty of fun playing leapfrog both forward and back as the fleet converged on the piers looking for current relief. “Hey, I think we are in 1st… hey, I think we are DFL…”

Crossing San Pablo Bay we focused on staying as low as we could, while keeping off the mud and out of bad air. We got lucky choosing this path as the boats outside (I think they call it the great circle) had separated aft by the time we hit the Carquinez Bridge. At the same, Paramour was launched, and we were just trying to keep a foot in the top ten.

Shit, there was some nice sailing for a while there. I could not hope to give a play by play for the next 20 or 30 miles, but the sailing was sweet, the boat was going well under the Ballard Sails “green Room” kite and we were able to hang in with what turned out to be the front 5 or 6 boats. Paramour was still launched, but at some point things compressed and there started being more lead changes mixing it up with White Trash, Gruntled, Moortitian and others.

Mark 19 found us rounding on the correct side (a weight lifted off my shoulders from 2010) and then sliding back as we opted for the #1 while White Trash and Moortitian carried their kites right by us. Oops. Kite went back up and we settled back into the rhythm of racing up the river.

Around this time we rotated positions on the boat, giving everyone a break and putting fresh eyes and hands at all stations. I think this was key #3 for us; having three crew who could rotate and keep it fun and focused.

As the sun headed for the horizon we felt great to still be in the top 5, though we began to worry about Moore Uff Da doggedly working their post-great-circle way up to the front of the fleet. Per my pre-race plan, I went below and brought out margaritas over ice and the happy hour snacks. Remember key #1? prep… and morale. I make a good drink, but something about those were extra special and with Matt at the helm we got in a few solid tactical jibes that put us iinto the lead. This was unfamiliar territory for Morjito, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to jinx it by saying anything, so I sent up the last of the margaritas and took over the kite trim from Phil as we headed toward the finish.

Needless to say, the Morjito crew was STOKED to cross that finish line in Stockton. Even so, our high fives were tempered by the latent fear that we had missed something and would find a Moore hanging from the hoist when we pulled into the marina. Once we hit the dock to the congratulations of Scott Sorrenson (round of drinks in hand) and others we began to believe it!

As we put the boat away, I came to realize the best thing about our winning the class was how stoked people were that Morjito (lets be honest, not exactly an A fleet contender most of the time) had done it. We could not have been happier and the fleet could not have been more gracious.

Thanks to all the fleet for a great race and for all the support of the travelling boats!

PS. It looks like we will have a solid turnout of both local and travelling boats for CGOD, and we are on track to have record breaking attendance at this year’s Double Damned. See you in The Gorge!



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