Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sailing the Great Texas by Ingrid Bakker

Sailing the Great Texas
By Ingrid Bakker

In my humble opinion, the Great Texas is one of the greatest races I have ever sailed, maybe the greatest, and I am going to be back next year for sure to kick some ass on another boat!  Let me tell you my adventure of sailing the Great Texas….
During the F18 World Championship 2012 in Long Beach, Steve Piche asked me: “Ingrid, would you like to sail 300 miles offshore in Texas next year and be the first female skipper in the GT300?“ I said “yes” of course and he was very surprised. Apparently he had asked that question to many more female sailors in the past few years and apparently I was the first one that was not scared at all.

Almost one year later, it was finally time to sail the race. On the 5th of June, I arrived in Houston. Aaron McCulley, my crew, picked me up at the airport. I stayed in Austin for a few days first. Then Aaron and I went to Corpus Christi where we stayed for another few days.

We decided to spend some time on the water on June 8th and sail the 40 miles up to the finish of leg 1 on our Nacra Infusion. Kate, our team manager, was helping us out with driving from town to town.

The sailing that day was great! It was the first time that I was sailing with Aaron but it felt like we had been sailing together for a few years. The weather that day was perfect, blue sky and a nice breeze of 20 knts. The sailing went so well that Kate was not expecting us to finish that early and she was still shopping a new bikini.

Two days later Aaron, Kate and I, aka Team Ki-Hara, drove to South Padre. Because the sailing went so well, Aaron and I decided not to have training anymore before the start of the race and to just have a great time. One day before the start of the GT300 we put the boat together and discovered that the rudders changed. The difference in the angle was 4 mm.

After spending some time fixing the rudders, we went on the water to see if the ruthers were working well. After being 15 minutes on the water we went back. The rudders were fine but one hull totally cracked! Aaron and I were both really disappointed.

In no time, everyone else who was involved in the race was trying to figure out if there was a boat that Aaron and I could use and the boat had to get there in time. Shannon, skipper of team Yo Baby !, said that we were allowed to use his Hobie Tiger! Kate had to drive that night for more than 8 hours.

That night others sailors were helping us with getting the mast down and putting the boat back on the trailer. We woke up the next day, race day, at 6 am. We got some help from team Yo Baby ! that morning as well.

Five minutes before the start we were ready to sail the race. I did not look a long time before we noticed that we had trouble with the rudder system. Every time we were sailing to fast, the rudders came up which is not very useful when you are both in the wire. At one point, we capsized and the boat turned completely upsidedown. 30 minutes later we were ready to sail again. We did not see the other teams anymore and our GPS stopped working. So I have to say, it was an interesting first leg for me on the Gulf. We did not see anything, no GPS and no one else.

Luckily Aaron was very experienced in the GT300 and had a pretty good feeling which way we had to go because of the TacTic. So we stayed really calm and actually we had a great day of sailing. The breeze was more than 20 knts and besides the popping rudders I realized what a lucky girl I was to sail on the Gulf that day. I must say I was pretty happy to see the finish.
After spending a few hours that evening on the rudders and some rest that night, we were ready to sail leg 2. I knew we could sail much better than we did the first day before because of the rudders. Leg 2 and leg 3 were both great days. We worked ourselves up to 3rd or 2nd position in the legs but we did not manage to keep it that way.

But at least we showed the others teams that it was possible to sail fast with a Hobie Tiger! Every leg we saw many dolphins, pelicans, flying fish and turtles. It was such a great venue to sail so I did not even mind to sail finish a little bit in the back sometimes.

The last day I woke up and I knew that it was going to be my day! There was not that much wind so it was gonna be a strategic racing day.  The sun was shining again and I went on the water without shoes on and was wearing a surf short.

I was standing up all leg looking at the gusts. That paid off and we were leading the whole fleet in no time!  Unfortunately, I did not manage it to keep it that way until the finish and in the last few miles two boats were passing us so we finished 3rd. But, at least I could say that I was the first female skipper of the GT300!

Besides that I had such a great time. The people were so nice, the venue was great and I fell in love with breakfast tacos and beerwetsuits. GT300 is one of the greatest races I have ever been sailing, maybe the greatest, and I am gonna be back next year for sure to kick some ass on another boat!

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