The Adventures of the Wasatch
When you reach the horizon, you're near your journey's end
The Hobie From Heaven
Like sand through the hour glass the years have passed and the older I get the more often I find myself looking back. One particular
instance came as I was sorting through and attempting to organize the multitude of pictures that I have taken over the years. I came
across a picture that the Utah Hobie Assoc. had taken of me and my girlfriend standing beside my Hobie 18SX on the shores of Deer
Creek after winning the Open Class for the Defenders Cup one day late in September a number of years ago. Although I had sailed a
Hobie Cat for nearly 20 years, this was the only picture that I had of the boat, and the picture brought back a lot of great memories,
not just of the race, but of the many other great times I had trapezed out on the Hobie 18SX flying a hull into the wind out on Deer
Creek Reservoir in the Wasatch Moutains of Utah. I had always been planning to take more pictures of the boat, but it seemed like
once I got out on the water sailing there just wasn’t time to stop and take pictures. No longer sailing Hobie Cats, this picture is the
last tangible evidence of that time and of the last race I was ever in, a race which turned out to be a particularly interesting one.
I didn’t race very much. After sailing a Hobie 16 for a number of years, I traded up to a Hobie Cat l8SX in the early 90's. She was the
latest and greatest of the Hobie models. But her limitations soon surfaced and she was supplanted by the Hobie 21. The main
distinguishing feature of the 18SX was her wings, which would allow her crew to trapeze out an extra two feet or so, and hold the
boat down in stronger wind. However, in practice this was an advantage for two crew only in nearly storm force winds. In any less
wind, the wings were just adding extra weight and windage to the boat and slowing her down. In addition, once the vinyl covering
on the wings became wet, they became very slippery, even a little dangerous. I soon learned not to let anyone venture out on them
without spider sole wet boots, and even then I lost more than one sailing partner to a slip out on the wings. I had even taken a fall
myself from time to time.
Despite these limitations, the Hobie 18SX was perfect for me. I often like to use sailing as an escape from the rest of the world, and
enjoyed the solitude of sailing alone. For single handing on Deer Creek, the boat was often over powered, so the wings did help to
keep the boat down. And although it was a bit precarious out on the wing, if you could stay on, the 18SX gave you quite a ride.
Trapezed out, under a crystal clear Utah sky, in a cool fresh breeze coming down from Mt Timpanogous and across Deer Creek Lake,
with the sun beating down on your shoulders, was exhilarating, even intoxicating. Just being a couple feet higher up and farther
out over the water, gave one a sense of freedom, of floating on the wind, of being immersed in nature and the universe. And
looking up at that big beautiful blue sail reaching and merging with the sky, made the mind float up into an Eastern Religious Zen-
like state. The wings of the SX could carry you to heaven on earth.
I kept the Hobie 18SX at Deer Creek Reservoir, because it was known in the area for its good wind. Deer Creek Reservoir was in
between Mt Timpanogous to the Southwest and Heber Valley to the Northeast, so that by noontime, sometimes a little before, the
sun would heat up Heber valley and the rising air would pull the cold air from up on Mt Timpanogous’s ice field down across the
lake, often producing some fierce wind, particularly in the spring and fall. In addition, often the wind was a bit wild and capricious.
The 18SX came alive in these conditions. Going upwind, the sheets were close in and the boat heeled over. A single sailor often
needed the extra leverage that the wings provided, and needed to react quickly with the sheet and tiller to keep the windward hull
down near the water, power in sail, and the boat driving forward. Even then, a good stiff gust of wind would often toss you in the
air. Not only was it exhilarating sailing the 18SX up wind in these conditions, it was exhilarating sailing her down wind as well. Down
wind was completely different, low and fast. Sitting on the aft windward corner of the trampoline, the sheets, and sails eased all the
way out, it was a sleigh ride down the lake with the spray kicking up from the forward hull and flying back past you. In strong wind
conditions the trick was to keep the top edge of the leeward bow just above the surface of the water. Any higher and the boat
wasn't going as fast as it could, and any lower and.....well, game over. The forward hull would dig into the water and the rest of the
boat would trip over it, and turn upside down.
I didn’t race very often for a couple of reasons. The 18SX didn’t fit into the usual Hobie classes because of its wings. In addition, I
liked the convenience of leaving the boat by the lake, rigged with her mast up and ready to go. I could just drive out to Deer Creek,
put the boat in the water, hoist the sails, and I was off sailing. Although racing could be fun, it was a lot of work and effort derigging
the boat, taking the mast down, then trailering the boat to the different lakes where they were having the races.
However, every September at the end of the racing season, the Hobie Association had a race at Deer Creek. And usually I tried to
make this race. The person that I usually got to crew for me had not been able to make it the last couple of years. I had even
missed last years race. So I decided to ask my girlfriend, Linda, if she would like to crew for me. She had been out sailing with me
on the Hobie a couple of times earlier in the season and seemed to enjoy it very much. I explained to her that it would just be more
of a nice day out on the water with other boats than a real intense race. She was a little reluctant, and suggested that we might have
more fun going for a hike in the mountains, as the leaves were beginning to turn colors. Needing more enticement, I sweetened the
proposition. I had just recently bought a condo at Deer Valley with cathedral ceilings, pine log walls, river rock stone fireplaces, and
a hot tub on the balcony. So I suggested that since the condo was near Deer Creek, we could stay at the condo over night in
between the two days of racing. We could race the first day and if she didn’t want to race the second day, we could go hiking. They
say the difference between rape and seduction is salesmanship. I guess my sales pitch worked. When race day came Linda and I
were headed to Deer Creek with smiles on our faces and songs in our hearts.
The race was called the Defender’s Cup which was inspired by Dennis Connor’s going to Australia to bring the America’s Cup back
from the Australians. In its conception the challengers of each class would race on Saturday and then the winning challenger of
each class would match race with the winner of the previous year’s race on Sunday. In practice, last year’s winner was allowed to
race on Saturday, and all the runners up of Saturday’s race were allowed to race on Sunday in their respective class with the two
boats that were match racing. This kept everybody active and interested for both days.
In past years some of the time the 18SX had been put with the Hobie 18s and some of the time it had been put in the open class.
This year there were no other 18's sailing. I guess most of the interest in the 18's had shifted to the 21's. There would be four
classes, the 21's, the 16's, the open, and the dingy (a group of small monohulls). As it turned out, there had not been a good
showing for the open class. Last year’s winner had not been able to make it, and this year there were only two boats. Linda and I
would be racing a Hobie 14, not at all a good match up, as the 18 SX was quite a bit faster than the 14. Essentially the only time we
would see the l4 would be at the starting line, then Linda and I would sail around the course essentially by ourselves. After the race
was over, the winner would be decided on time and handicap points. As I was talking to the head of the race committee about this
dismal situation, he came up with a great idea. Since there were only two boats in the open class, he would start the open class with
the 16's. That way the 14 could sail with the slower 16's and Linda and I could sail with the faster 16's. Although the 18SX was clearly
a faster boat, many of the 16's had been racing all summer, and would be pretty fast. And Linda and I were just out to have a good
time. I would be handling the mainsheet, steering, and trapeze work, and Linda would be handling the jib sheet.
The two races on Saturday went very well. Linda and I let the first line of boats cross the starting line and then crossed with plenty
of room. We then worked our way up through the heard giving them plenty of clearance. One of the races we even beat all of the
other 16's. There was no need for a third race on Saturday, as Linda and I had easily beaten the 14 even with handicap points and
two of the 16's had come in one, two both times.
As we drove back to the Condo that evening, I was in peaceful, satisfied exhaustion from an exhilarating day out on the water, and
feeling pretty good about the days sailing. But I began to sense that Linda’s mind wasn’t in the same place. Then she hit me with
the news that she didn’t think she wanted to race the next day. I explained to her that we had done very well that day and the next
day we were almost certain to win the cup. We would have to go back anyway just to sail the boat from the sailboat beach back to
the dam where I stored the boat. But she persisted, suggesting that Sunday would be a very nice day for a hike. For as little sailing
experience as Linda had, she had done quite well that day. But I realized that for a lady approaching 50, there was a lot of jumping
from one side of the boat to the other, hopping up to sit on the wing, then back down to sit on the trampoline, then ducking the
boom, not to mention working the jib sheet, all with split second timing. Indeed, Hobie Cat sailing, particularly racing was for the
young. Most of the others out on the race course that day were nearly half our age. Indeed, I was beginning to see my own days on
the Hobie Cat numbered. I could understand Linda’s reasons for wanting to go hiking. And I realized that I was in an indefensible
position. I had promised Linda, if she went sailing with me on Saturday, that I would go hiking with her on Sunday if she wanted. So I
soberly began resolving to the fact that we would be hiking on Sunday. I saw cup beginning to slip through my grasp, not to mention
a fun day out on the water. Then Linda suggested that I sail the race alone. She knew I often sailed alone and this might be the last
sailing weekend of the season. She said that she would enjoy watching the race from the shore and going for a little hike along the
shore. At first I had resolved that I would go hiking with Linda, but as I though about Linda’s suggestion, it began sounding better
and better. The actual race for me on Saturday had been with the 16's. Sailing alone against the 16's on Sunday would be a more
competitive race. I would give up the extra weight of a second person on the boat and consequently not be able to hold the boat
down as well, and sail as fast in the stronger wind. In addition by sailing alone I would have decreased and slower maneuverability.
To tack a sloop rigged hobie cat quickly and efficiently takes the skill and speed of two crew working together. One person just
doesn’t have enough hands to do everything that needs to be done at the same time, so they end up having to do things
sequentially. I would be giving up time to the 16's on every tack, mark rounding and every other boat maneuver except perhaps the
gybe. All in all it would make for an interesting race....and the chase for the cup would still be alive. Although Linda herself was not
up to the challenge, she was beginning to understand the importance of the cup.
Sunday morning Linda and I got to Deer Creek early. I was going to race and she was going to support me from the shore. As we