October 28, 2006
It is hard to believe that we are commencing our 5th year of the Shackleton Series. Seems like only yesterday that we ventured out into the cold, frigid, Arctic air for the first time - well, maybe it wasn't that way until around the 5th race, but regardless, the renowned, exciting, thrill a minute winter sailing convergence is back! Oh, yes, there are still the naysayers, the head shakers, and whatnot who continue to question our plight and denounce our achievements and the standards we have set for winter sailing...whatever those might be. But here we are again. And like an aging sitcom, we offer you the familiar, lovable cast of characters. And just to liven things up a little, we do have a fresh batch of raw recruits sailing with us this year.
Initially, there were to be 9 boats participating but we lost one at the skipper's meeting. NO, we didn't scare anyone off or have one come to their senses! Craig and Brenda Lenfestey (Hunter 28.5 Victory) formed a partnership with Mike Rice aboard his J 24 Just Ducky. We haven't even sounded the first horn yet and the fast boats are already gobbling the competitors up! Actually, with today's wind prediction (NW 15-25), having crew on the J boat was a good decision. Of course, since when is the wind prediction right around here?
Sailing in his first Shackleton Race, or any race for that matter, was Mark Welsh on his Ericson 29, A Shot In The Dark. Mark had a full and eager crew lined up, including Mike Burrus (Hunter 30) and one of their buddies, Richard. But as far as crewmembers go, none can offer the attentiveness, loyalty, and companionship like "Grizzly", the calm canine willingly perched on the foredeck, waiting for the first command to be barked (har, har). We would have to keep an eye out for these guys - they were pumped and ready!
If you read the report for the Great River Drop, you are then aware that Anthony West returned to Sale Creek and of course he is an automatic to return to the Shackleton Series after a 1 year hiatus. With some shiny new spreaders mounted on the mast, the USS Georgia was now back in commission. Furthermore, Anthony was introducing his wife to the exciting world of winter sailing. Also returning to the series after sailing in a race couple years back is Mike Miller on his Tanzer 22 Asylum. Mike explains that "Asylum" is Australian for "I sail them." It is always good having Mike, a very experienced sailor, sailing with us.
Chuck Alexander also made his Shackleton and sailboat racing debut, sailing a mid 80's model O'Day 222 that is slowly transforming into a 2006 model, with all the nice new additions, including a full batten mainsail and roller furling genoa. Although Chuck also had crew (boss and friend, Kevin) aboard he did NOT have the services of "Alice", his golden retriever/beagle hybrid pooch that the boat is named for (Beago). Hmmm...new gear on boats, full crews - what's going on here? We are going to have to remind some of these "rookies" (and veterans for that matter) that the path to gaining respect in the Shackleton arena is to sail solo, and with old broken down gear. Well not really, but for the record Andre, Warren, and myself were those that were unable to conjure up any assistance for today's match.
And today's match was a fun one. Early on it was obvious that many of us were out of shape, including my unique horn starting sequence - 5 minute warning, 1 minute warning, start. That's what it was supposed to be. In reality it was 5 minute, 33 second, start. It was around the 1 minute horn that I must have dozed off on and required a reminder by Craig, otherwise we might still be waiting to start this thing. (Actually I was fiddling with the camera and lost track of time.) Most race committees would have began a new sequence but since no one protested and we were all pretty much in a rotten position anyway, I trudged ahead. Andre and Mike Rice were basically the ones prepped for the start as they hit the line pretty good and began pulling away from the fleet early as we exited the Sale Creek channel and headed upstream leaving the rest of us to fight amongst ourselves for clear air.
It was Andre's turn to sail the "ringer boat". Yes, it only seemed fair that Andre sail the San Juan 24 Hasta La Vista since, well he actually owns it and I am the one who commandeered for last year's series. And besides, Dutchess is currently dry docked for bottom work and it is always a better race with him out there. And with his sailing Hasta La Vista and me sailing a separate boat, it can only mean one thing. Yes, Comfortably Numb is back in Shackleton contention. And sporting a modified working jib off an O'Day 28, I am officially stripping myself of the "Roundup King" epithet. A nice, flat working jib was the right sail for 15-25 mph winds. But as I said before, since when is the wind prediction right around here?
And as we began sailing upstream, the winds (which were never 15-25 to begin with), began to subside. Looks like I hoisted the wrong sail today. But to make things quite interesting, there were little pockets here and there that would crop up. There were times many of us would be creeping along and there were times each of us would find our own private wind. As Mike Miller said when I breezed past him while riding in one of those pockets, one can look like a genius when they find that little pocket. It wasn't a short time until he returned the favor and I thought one can look pretty sorry, too, when they lose it and some one else finds it. Yes, it was not an uncommon sight today to see someone just a few boat lengths away, making hull speed while you were at a standstill.
Hasta La Vista, Just Ducky, and I Soar lead the way to the bridge, which was our upstream mark. It is no secret many of us have problems missing buoys as marks so we figured it would be pretty hard to miss a bridge piling as a turning point. The fleet was fairly bunched together at this section in the race with the aforementioned Big 3 still leading the way. Following were Numb and Asylum who swapped positions frequently. And trailing closely were A Shot In The Dark, Beago, and USS Georgia, also often changing their order as well.
It was somewhere in this vicinity as we approached the Mile 498.1 daymark across the river that the wind began to strengthen and by the time we cleared the point at the Mile 497.0 daymark, it strengthened more and became a good bit more consistent, speed wise and direction wise. Although many of us were prepared for a good downwind ride, spinnakers armed and ready, it was beam/close reaching all the way to the next mark, which began a new twist in the course. Smack dab in the middle of the downwind leg that wasn't, Andre had drawn in a triangular course that turned out to be the most fun part of the race as the wind built to about the predicted levels we expected. Since when does anyone doubt the wind prediction around here? Although 25 mph might have been a stretch, it was definitely blowing and we were all having a good time and getting a good workout in the process. Looks like I hoisted the right sail today..
Mke Miller on Asylum (seen on the left a little earlier in the race - we were a little busy for picture taking later on) commended his son Tom, who did a great job crewing that day. According to Mike, Tom was "ready with the chute" but the wind was rarely behind our beam this day, unless you count the second leg of the triangle. It would have been worthy of an extra point if some one was gung ho enough to fly a spinnaker during that quarter mile run across the river. It was really the only off wind work of the day and when we finished the triangle, we had one more buoy to round (Grasshopper Creek, where else?) before heading to the finish. Now what are the odds of ALL of us remembering to round it? Before you submit your answer, remember how many of us love to disregard the map and sail our own course, and remember that the Grasshopper Creek nun is the most frequently missed buoy since the early Vikings sailed the TN River.
Well you will be thrilled to know (or disappointed, depending on how you bet) that we ALL managed to make the buoy and sail this course properly. There were no DQ's or DNF's to hand out today! Good, clean, solid racing by everyone. Hasta La Vista crossed the finish line first, followed by Just Ducky and then I Soar. And let it be known that we have done away with the Portsmouth scoring system and have reverted back to PHRF time on distance handicaps. Simple, raw, easy to score and figure, the way it should be for a winter series. Corrected time, it would by Andre still finishing first, followed closely by Warren, and then Mike Rice. Mike, who upon hearing of his 3rd place finish and scoring 6 points said, "heck, it used to take me 4 or 5 races before I was up to 6 points!"
Congratulations to Andre for his victory and to everyone for some great and fun sailing! See you the next race!
RACE 1 RESULTS
Race report written by Eric Almlie. ęCopyright 2006. All rights reserved.
Photos by Mike Burrus, Andre Rijsdijk, Eric Almlie