Hummus the hard way

So there we were last Friday evening, sitting on the rail of Tom Hill’s magnificent new Reichel/Pugh 75 Titan XV during the 2009 Ida Lewis Distance Race off Newport, Rhode Island, happily munching on carrots and hummus, when a curious thing happened: a torrent of saltwater exploded over everybody seated at the back of the sled. It happened so suddenly that all I could do was hold onto the munchies and try not to inhale the water that was doing its best to ventilate my sinus passages and peel back my eyelashes. In the humble words of those around me, What the hell?!

Thankfully, the water was warm, and soon it washed the hummus in my lap across the deck. A gentle spritz this was not. But again, WTH?!

Fire hose treatment is generally reserved for those brave souls on the pointy end of the bus, but back in fantasy things had been dry and “comfortable”. Hurricane Bill had delivered a wonderful groundswell and perfect 18-20 knots of breeze, and we had just rounded the turning mark off Montauk, ditching our powerful upwind wardrobe for a jib top and a genoa staysail.

SOG hovered in the high teens, occasionally peaking into the low 20’s. Smiles were huge, the vibe onboard borderline ecstatic: this was Titan’s third race since emerging from the shed at New England Boatworks this spring, and the crew was clearly pleased with her performance. Still, expectations were high as she had handily won her first two outings, and all aboard were expecting greatness today, especially given the perfect surfing conditions.

But that hummus…

Titan XV uses twin rudders, each splayed out at an angle designed to keep the leeward rudder perpendicular to gravity when the boat is healed over. This being fantasy land (the boat as well as my real estate aboard), Titan is equipped with a system that allows the angle of the rudders to be changed while the boat is sailing. Call it science fiction, but you’d be better advised to consider this the future of twin-rudder boats. It became obvious that the rudder angles were being tweaked when the windward rudder inadvertently spun, kicking up the impressive plume of saltwater that was now running down my neck. (Thankfully, the hummus didn’t spray up that high.) Given the fact that the rock-star boat is sailed by a crew that can be described as a “who’s who” of maxi racing, the issue was immediately dealt with, the rudder angles optimized, and BAM! — we were off again on our fantasy-land sleigh ride.

But about that hummus…

What was left of it was donated to Poseidon, the plastic container carefully stowed belowdeck. The carrots were mostly swept overboard, and those sad little sodden members that remained are likely being digested by fish at this exact moment.

And oh yeah, Titan nabbed a string of impressive accomplishments that night: line honors, first in class, and a new record for the 150 nautical-mile “short course” that started in Newport Harbor, then zig-zagged around Block Island Sound (the previous Titan already owns the record for the long course, so her legacy has been cemented). And perhaps most impressive, Titan XV’s spotless record of wins remains intact. That’s amazing considering the quality of the competition, but not surprising given the boat’s performance and the crew’s prowess.

Which was perhaps best defined as we came screeching into a gybe off Martha’s Vineyard in the wee hours of Saturday morning, our speed hovering at 20 knots. Not a single crewmember seemed the slightest bit nervous, save myself. After all, it’s not every day that you get to munch on saltwater-flavored hummus and see a flawless gybe performed in pre-hurricane swell, but then again it’s also not everyday that you get to sail aboard a boat as unleashed as Titan, nor sail with guys as capable as Hill’s team.

That said, don’t expect to see saltwater-flavored hummus catching on anytime soon, but that might be a better question for the fish.

Look for the feature-length story about Titan XV in the Ida Lewis Distance Race in an upcoming issue of SAIL.

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