Travel 2015-2016

UCI 2015 Bicycle Race in Richmond

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This race is huge. Huge. World-Wide. Organizers said to expect 400,000 people. We were confused by that, but it turned out to be the total number of people attending all of the races. (Not the number of visitors to Richmond looking for hotel rooms.) And apparently, we blew that estimate away.

Opening Ceremonies on Brown’s Island. A little marching around with flags. A little music. Some speeches. A pleasant summer evening.

The week of racing ended with Elite Women on Saturday and Elite Men on Sunday. Oh. My. Goodness.

On Friday the Brompton folks sponsored a race where you had to dress for work (coat, tie) run to your Brompton. Unfold it. And then race the circuit.

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Some of the time trials and various age groups involve a number of different routes. The elite races were on the primary “Road Circuit”: a 10-mile loop through town. 

For the elite men, the final race on Sunday was 16 laps. Over 160 miles at an average speed of over 20 mph. Insanity. And don’t forget the cobblestones.

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Of course, the streets are closed. There are barricades everywhere.

Some streets (Main, Broad, and Monument) are being used in both directions. This means barricades along the sides and an extra barricade down the middle to separate the two halves of the track from each other.

A proper international crowd has assembled. There must be racers from 100 countries. We’ve seen serious bike racing fans from Norway, Ecuador, Colombia, Germany, Belgium, Poland, Sweden, England, and Denmark. I’m sure there were more.

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Fans are draped in national colors. Or sometimes just wearing a team T-shirt. Or a team bike hat. There are “trade” teams as well as national teams. A bunch of fans are rooting for “Sky”. We had to ask. It’s a British TV network.

The televised coverage on the weekend was fun.

I’ve watched my share of Tour de France coverage on the TV (back when I had a TV.) It’s very scenic, but it’s some place in France I couldn’t even find on a map without the ESPN narration and commentary.

Glance at the Jumbotron TV in the fan zone, and we knew exactly where they were. Out Broad. Left on Belvidere.  Right to head west on Monument. A very long scenic run down the flat divided road. This is the place to attack before the insane U-turn at Davis Ave. Then back part-way on the other side of Monument. 

If you didn’t get your attack in, you’re stuck for a few blocks. The course goes right on Lombardy to shoot down to Main, then a hard left onto Belvidere to go back up to Broad. After only eight blocks on the wide, flat Broad there's a hard right to shoot down 2nd street to take a left onto Main.

They come flying east down the long hill of Main from 2nd street to Canal street, right past the front door to our building. I watched the first few laps of the men’s race from here. They have twelve blocks (almost 2km) downhill ending in a hard right onto Canal. This is a place to attach, knowing there’s that right turn where everyone will bunch up. There are just three blocks on Canal before the hard left onto Dock street. 

Dock street is as flat as Monument. Wide open, along the old canal, under the railroad tracks. If you’re going to attack, that’s another opening. At Rockett’s Landing, there’s a U-turn on Nicholson back up to Main. 

And then the pain begins.

The first cobblestone hill is the switchback path up Libby Hill. We watched the peloton charge up the hill. The noise of the fans is outrageous. They had bands. Food trucks. Big TV. Announcer. Celebrities like former Olympic Gold Medalist

They come roaring out of the park on 29th, left on Franklin, left on 25th to Main.

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They only get two blocks on Main before the next challenge. The cobblestones of 23rd street. For the elite races, there another immense crowd here cheering the riders up the cobbles. 

CA took a picture of a junior race where the grass is open with only a few people watching.

After the right on Broad, the attacks can begin again. There’s a five-block downhill followed by a wide left onto 18th; three blocks later it’s a wide right onto Main. Then a long downhill to Shockoe Bottom where Main starts going back up.

The final big hill is “Governor’s Hill” which we think of as 13th. The street actually goes diagonally from 13th to 12th. It’s a hard right off main, and a place to cut off the competition who were trying to attack on the last run down main.

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The top of the climb is a gentle left turn onto Broad where it’s maybe a kilometer to the finish line at 5th street. 

They had a fan zone at the top of this turn. I watched the entire women’s race from here. The TV was positioned so you could watch them until they got the the hill, then you could see the racers go flying by, and then back to the TV for the next lap.

We watched the end of the men’s race from the bar at Seven Hills Brewing. This is at the turn from Canal to Dock, so we could see the breakaway leaders and the Peleton fly past, then check the TV for status. 

Preliminary estimates put the fans at something like 645,000 people. We watched three races, so there’s some duplication in that count. But the roar of the crowds at the cobblestones hinted at a huge gathering of fans.

This is a coveted sporting event, so we’re unlikely to see it again in Richmond any time soon. Perhaps other US cities will bid for this. Perhaps Richmond will get some other races and position itself as a cycling destination.

Jackson Creek — D Dock

To recap: Saturday was really bad; one of our worst sailing days. See “Dymer Creek: 37°40.281N 076°21.201W” for gory details. Sunday was really good; one of our best sailing days. See "Yopp’s Cove: 37°39.070N 076°26.073W” for details.

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The forecast for today was flat calm. 

After we got the anchor up, we drove up Carter’s Creek to set eyes on the famous Tide’s Inn.

It may not be famous to you, but around here, it’s Something Important.

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You hear more-or-less constant radio traffic from big yachts to the Tide’s Inn Marina. It seems like it’s a notable destination for boats from around the Chesapeake Bay.

Conditions were — as predicted — flat. Calm. Almost windless. 

Monday was nothing like Saturday. No five foot seas. No waves breaking over the bowsprit. 

Today we motored down the Rappahannock to the Stingray Point lighthouse. Conditions were flat.

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How flat were they? 

Conditions were so flat I didn’t spill any olives from my martini. 

Conditions were so flat that we played billiards in the saloon.

Conditions were so flat we put the boat on autopilot and played Jenga.

The wind at the lighthouse was less than 5 knots. But the direction was fair to enter the Piankatank River. We hoisted the Yankee to do a little sailing.

We drifted partway into the Piankatank for about an hour, making 2 knots. We tried rigging the whisker pole to grab a little more air in the Yankee. 

We count this as great sailing. We weren’t going fast, but we were going. Indeed, at these speeds, the boat is almost silent.

How silent was it?

It was so quiet, we could here the buzzing of the instruments and it was bothersome because it was so loud.

It was so quiet, we didn’t dare fart because other boats would hear it.

Since conditions were flat, it was ideal for fooling around with a giant aluminum pole on the foredeck.

We’re back in D-dock. Labor Day weekend was a delight.  

Yopp’s Cove: 37°39.070N 076°26.073W

As long as nothing breaks, today might work out well. After being beaten down by weather yesterday, we find our plans are quite humble.

The forecast was for 13g15 (13 knots gusting to 15). When the tide turns, the seas will drop from over 3’ to just 3’. This can be still be rolly and uncomfortable. Since we’re weekenders, and we have to get back on schedule, well… we just have to deal. Yesterday was bad, today can’t be that much worse. Can it? 

We didn’t have too far to go, so we waited for the wind to moderate a bit. We watched the speeds and sea state on the WindFinder app. We had a hearty lunch at 11:00 and we were pulling up the anchor at 11:40. 

There’s a long motor out of Dymer Creek to the bay. It was gray and mostly cloudy but wasn’t threatening rain.

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We listened for the buzzing of the water-in-fuel alarm. It was  quiet today. That gave us some confidence. When we get back, we’ll change the fuel filters.

Once past the day board that marks the north extent of the shoal, conditions in the bay matched the predictions: 3’ seas 13 kt winds.

These are great conditions for yankee, stays’l, and mizzen. It an easy combination to set and — if conditions get worse — it’s easy to douse. If conditions get lighter, we can hoist the main. 

The steady winds and flatter seas allowed us a glorious beam reach down Windmill point. CA put Red Ranger on a track that gave us 5-6 knots of boat speed in 12 knots of wind. Under sail, the motion is much nicer than under power.

We had a controlled gybe, and an epic broad reach right up the Rappahannock River. The wind slowly died away, but we were able to squeeze consistently good boat speed out of it. At about 16:00, we reached Yopp’s Cove and had to drop sails. Something we did reluctantly.

Other than getting the flag halyard hopelessly entangled with the mizzen spreader, we had a perfect sail. Perfect. The wind was steady, the seas relatively calm. WindFinder claims waves were 4½’. We think it was 3’ at most.

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There were two other boats in Yopp’s Cove. A Hunter 44 and a huge green ketch.

We’re delighted. 

Just to make us feel extra salty, we rigged the mast steps for the mizzen mast. Our climbing hardnesses are in our apartment, so we used an offshore PFD with it’s big D-ring as a safety harness. 

Getting up the mizzen is similar to many V1 bouldering routes: there’s a bad hand-hold and a couple of bad places to put your feet to get up to the mizzen boom gooseneck. In the rock gym, you’d just jump back down. Here, I had to climb the rest of the way to the spreader and disentangle Old Glory.

Nothing serious broken. We had perfect weather and a perfect sail. I logged 20 nm from Dymer Creek to Yopp’s Cove in 5 hours from end to amazing end.

Tomorrow, if conditions continue to flatten, we’ll have a long motor to Jackson Creek.

Dymer Creek: 37°40.281N 076°21.201W

Labor Day weekend. The weather on the Chesapeake is (potentially) delightful.

We had — well — a bit of weather. Technically, it was more sea state than we like. The wind was tolerable. The waves? Not so much.

For much of the summer, we’ve been working (steadily) on refinishing the brightwork. Once you’ve put a layer of Epifanes on the wood, you’re sort of stuck for 3 hours until it hardens enough to be stowed.

The container says 24 hours between coats, 3 hours to set up before you can touch it without making mess. To get your second coat on around 13:00-ish on Sunday means you have to get the first coat on by 13:00-ish on Saturday. That’s the weekend.

With a three-day weekend we could pile on plenty of Epifanes. Or we could go sailing. 

Saturday Plans

My idea was to go up to Reedville, VA, then come back down to Dymer Creek, then to Deltaville. Some sailing and some overnighting in quiet creeks.

The weather was predicted to die off on Sunday leaving us with near flat calm on Monday. Perfect! A spanking sail up and a dawdling sail back. Maybe a motor sail on Monday.

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We set out at 13:30 — as the sailors say — bound for Reedville. We’re not going there; we’re bound for there, we could end up anywhere.

It’s a little hard to judge from the photo, but Red Ranger’s bow is pointed way up into the air. We’re about to slap down hard with water spraying up over the bowsprit, white water on the dodger, and a bit of green water rolling down the deck and gurgling through the scuppers. 

It might look cool on video. But we could not break out the GoPro Hero 3. Indeed, we couldn’t do anything more than steer and hope we didn’t hurl up our lunches. The WindFinder app said 5’ seas. We don’t disagree. 

The Chesapeake waves are tightly spaced. Generally about 7 seconds. Not like the ocean.

Winds were 15 to 20, gusting higher, from 070 (ENE). This is the rhumb line from Stingray point to Windmill point lighthouse. So we bashed directly into wind and waves. Directly. Into. The. Waves.

Decisions

Once past the lighthouse, we could fall of the wind. Speed went from 3 knots in bashing mode to 7 knots in rolling mode. ETA close to 18:00. 

We thought we had prepped for sailing. A few things had come loose and were slamming around below decks. CA was too sea-sick to go below. Indeed, she was too sea-sick to steer while I went below.

Bonus. The fuel-water alarm started buzzing because of crap in the fuel filter. Sigh.

CA called it about 15:00 — “Find someplace sheltered. Now.” We’d been to Dymer creek before. It’s exposed from the E, but this was wind from NE, and we’d have some cover. 

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At 17:00 we had the Rocna anchor down in 12’ of water with 80’ or so of chain. 

The creek is wide with plenty of room to swing. It’s not much used, so it’s very, very quiet. There’s a bend a quarter mile further in that offers a bit more shelter, but you have to anchor mid channel, something CA doesn’t like to do.

Sunday Morning

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Dawn was spectacular. A day of mostly-cloudy is rolling in. Sunday’s forecast is 13g15 (13 knots gusting to 15). When the tide turns, the seas will drop to just 3’. Better. But far from our preference of “flat”. 

Our revised plan was to have a leisurely morning. An early lunch, and then scoot back around Windmill Point and run up the Rappahannock to Yopp’s Cove and spend Sunday night there.

If the weather’s like today, we’ll at least be sideways to the wind, and then running from the wind. We’ll see what tomorrow holds.

  © Steven Lott 2017