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by Dave FarmerĀ - Tum Tum, Washington - USA

March delivers my 61st birthday, and Kathy sends me off to the Mojave Desert to celebrate! The North American Landsailing Association once again kindly holds its annual regatta for me, so I journey south to play with my friends.

I roll onto the playa late Friday afternoon, there's breeze, and I commence to assemble the Rocket. Lots of sailors are already established here in camp, and many hands are available for the task. She comes together just prior to sunset, and with it the wind moves elsewhere, but I can retire knowing that I'm ready for action.

Dawn offers up glorious sunshine, a much appreciated commodity for a boy just escaping a Pacific Northwest winter. Out come the tools and the myriad pieces of the little boat, and the puzzle comes together. Today's the tune up day, so I join the brethren scampering across the lake bed, returning frequently to make adjustments. The temps rise into the 70s, the boats are running well, and I'm settling deep into contentment. A grand beginning. Official racing got underway on Sunday, there's moderate air, and the race committee efficiently spools thru two complete rounds of races. We've got eight classes run in five starts, from the flourishing mini class with it's open box rule and innovative home builds, to the well represented and fiercely competitive Mantas, singles and doubles, and on up to the sophisticated big boats, capable of speeds into the seventies and eighties given the right conditions. Excitement on offer for every taste!

NALSA caters dinner in the big tent, daily results are announced, and participants wander off to congregate in small groups to bullshit and consume libations. A few campfires arise around which we gather, til we straggle off under desert stars, to find a bed. Monday delivers another couple of full rounds of competition in more delicious sunshine, I miss a couple of starts because I'm off free sailing and not paying sufficient attention, but I hardly care. The Santa Cruz club hosts the next dinner (always stellar!), more evening camraderie, and as I once again head for the van I hear rumours of an approaching front, fuel for my dreams.

The next morning can only produce teaser puffs, so the DRZ gets fired up, and the search for adventure takes me into the surrounding hills. A small peak gets bagged, a couple of desert tortoise biologists get met, and I arrive at the dirt track behind the big casino just in time to see one of the thousand horsepower offroad race trucks practicing there, go up in smoke. I hang around the semis for an hour chatting with the mechanics, til I hear lunch calling. The afternoon is filled with camp hopping, wrenching, reading, and a little guitar, as the breeze is on holiday. The MOOSE men (my club) from Montana put on the evening feed, the stars are as entertaining as ever, and the weather predictions are still promising a big blow, so all the wings and masts come down, and loose items are secured. As we all retire, it starts to ramp up, and I start to get a little giddy.

It's blowing 20 to 25 by dawn, and with the mercury barely breaking into the forties, I scrunch a bit deeper in the bag and wait for it to warm some. It does so, and rigging commences. Up goes "the Handkerchief", my smallest sail, 2.5 meters, reserved for just such days! I launch onto the empty playa, and hang on!

It takes a couple of hours of running back to camp to make adjustments, and then back out to test, before she finally gets dialed in and I can fully power up and cover ground. Few of my compatriots have sails small enough, or are willing to risk their equipment in these conditions, so I've got the place to myself. Normally the race course occupies the best surface on the playa, and the recreational sailing takes place around it. But now it's all mine! It's crankin' a steady 30 now, gusting into the mid 40s, and I can keep the Fed running over fifty mph for long periods of time, allowing the miles to rack up. The boat's feelin' good, steady at speed, leaping forward in the substantial puffs, scrambling to keep her footing, tires desperately trying to resist busting loose when we get slammed. As the sun again drops below the western horizion, I've covered 120 mile of lake bed, and decimated two front tires. I'm just back for another adjustment, and I get a tap on the shoulder. Dale offers me a warm meal and respite from the elements in the Eisenlohr palace, so I exchange a few more miles for a memorable evening with the family that's graciously adopted me.

Thursday takes a while to wind up, but the race committee again brilliantly pulls off another couple of rounds in light and holely conditions. I get out a bit in the Rocket, but I'm mostly satiated, a rare condition for me. The Wind Wizards from SoCal again feed the horde, the daily firsts are awarded, and we wander off to small groups to while away the wee hours.

Friday's our last scheduled day of racing, and both the predictions and the reality are grim, so by noon the racing's cancelled and we gather in the big tent for the last time, to distribute the awards, applaud the successful, and make tribute to the revered race committee. The packing starts, the goodbyes are tendered, and we slowly drift off the playa, to return to our other lives. I leave with another pocketful of memories, and an aching desire for more. Bring on the catamarans!

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