January 7, 2007
The eve of Race 4 began as a peaceful day for me, not unlike any other for the most part. I generally always have a reason to be happy, optimistic, and upbeat. But as the day wore on, a sense of uneasiness came about. And it continued to grow into an agitated and disturbing state, almost like a major force in the universe had shifted. They say dogs and other animals can sense these things but all the pooches hanging out at the marina that day were their typical dog selves - feed me, scratch my ear, and wake me if something important happens. Yet I could feel something big was on the threshold - bigger than all of us. Supernatural maybe? There was some excitement on the docks about a UFO (Unidentified Floating Object) but it turned out to be only Mike, Mary Poppins lesser known and somewhat eccentric half-brother. He was merely floating along with the wind in an inflatable kayak. So that wasn't it.
My sleep that night was restless. I dreamt the entire world was closing in and then suddenly I was awoken by a thunderclap. Sitting up, gasping for air and drenched in sweat, I noticed an odd glow in the bedroom. Glancing forward I saw a silhouette of a little girl in front of the snow pattern being broadcast from the television screen. And then it all came clear...well, I had to put my glasses on first. I knew what was coming now. The fair haired little girl turned and in a sing song voice simply said, "they're baaaccck." I let out a yell in terror - not because of what the little girl said or even the fact that it is kind of horrifying to see a little girl in front of the tv when you don't have any children in the house. Her presence wasn't important enough to concern our slumbering dogs. No, it was the true horror of horrors. Seeing snow on a tv these days means only one thing - the @!#%$% cable is out again! Oh, and the "they're baaaccck" thing? Maniac, the racing force from Shackleton Series' past has returned to Sale Creek Marina.
Yes, we welcome back Tim and Lynn Chambers still sailing that speedy J29 - and it hasn't gotten any slower! So not only did we now have them to contend with but if you look at the title photo on this page, we needn't elaborate on today's setting. "Just what I dialed in," said Mike Rice at the skipper's meeting. Could have gone a little further down the dial there, Mike. That is unless you dig sailing in the rain. Actually, there was a 5-10 south wind prediction for today and the radar showed a dry gap approaching before more heavy stuff this afternoon. And for the most part, we were all eager to get out there... Sensing readers' doubt on that last sentence, allow me to retort, yes, we were. Therefore time was not wasted at the skipper's meeting and we set out for an 11:00 start.
Well at 11:00 the wind did not arrive and the rain did not leave. Yet, the Shakcleton Series waits for no one or no condition. There were no postponements and we played the hand we were dealt. It was Hasta La Vista over the line first with Maniac, I Soar, and A Shot in the Dark all in pretty good position as well. Just Ducky, Victory, and Beago were also in close proximity but out of the photo. Where was Comfortably Numb you ask? Well I was performing my signature poor start - all the great ones have their own style, don't they? As I blew the starting horn, my crew, Mary Bricker-Jenkins (Cal 22 Socks) asked, "why are we going away from the starting line in a different direction than all those other boats?" A logical question perhaps. And since I couldn't seem to formulate an answer that would save face, I thought of changing the subject. Actually, it was taking a bit of time to get some momentum going on the Numb, and although I knew we had to turn, we still had to get enough speed for the boat to respond to the helm. I think a few of us would run into that scenario while we lumbered around early on.
The one other race that Mary crewed was with me was also a drifter - during one of our ill fated attempts in the summer Wednesday night races a couple years back. I think I said something during that race to the effect of, "well it could be worse, it could be raining." Today's reasoning..."it could be raining..., harder." But then as we witnessed Maniac and Hasta La Vista approaching Buoy 2 while Numb and a few others were not even halfway to Buoy 1, a funny thing happened. The rain slackened and an actual breeze arrived. And then we all took off.
And another funny thing was happening that was just alluded to. That being the fact that Andre was keeping pace with Maniac. Andre, who's crew mutinied well before the skipper's meeting even commenced, was doing a great job single handing the San Juan and blocking Tim and Lynn whenever possible. Hasta La Vista wasn't too far behind rounding Buoy 2 and dare we even say, maybe ahead on corrected time? (Picture Dr. Evil pinky finger on the mouth gesture here). An upset seemed to be in the making but then...Andre tried his luck at "land sailing". Hasta La Vista ran aground and ran aground good. It wasn't long before he was passed by I Soar, and then Just Ducky, and then A Shot in the Dark, and then...well, let's just say we all passed him. I don't know about anyone else, but whenever I witness someone aground during the race, my first response is, "gee, that's too bad, they we're doing so well. That's going to cost them. Hope they can get off soon and get back in the race." But deep down inside, that little competitive bug comes out and says, "YES!" and laugh's fiendishly. That said, it will most likely be me who runs up into the shoals the next time. But give Andre extreme credit for hanging in there and not giving up as it cost him at least 30 minutes time to get clear of the muddy bottom.
The upwind sail was really very nice. The breeze had picked up to get us going around 4 -5 knots and the rain had momentarily halted. And for being January, it was quite balmy. Kind of surprising not to see other boats out there enjoying the day...Yes, really!
Buoy 4 marked the turning point to head back upriver and begin the downwind segment. In a single swift move Maniac's spinnaker was hoisted and set while the jib was dropped before the rounding of Buoy 4 was even completed. Obviously Tim and Lynn haven't mellowed any! Following in their footsteps was Warren on I Soar who also did an excellent job setting his chute single handed. Yes, those ferocious black and red spinnakers were up and flying, looking as intimidating as ever. But the most menacing of spinnakers was yet to be hoisted because, well Numb was still en route to Buoy 3 chasing A Shot in the Dark. Looking back, Victory and Beago were following close and Hasta La Vista was still trying to push off the shoal. (YES!) Wait! Andre was now free and sailing with a vengeance. Uh, oh! Better pick it up. And as Numb finally approached Buoy 4 the spinnaker was prepared. And after rounding Buoy 4 and sailing the next 100 yards the spinnaker was still being prepared. Not quite matching the rapid fire deployment of its chute flying predecessors, Numb's fierce looking off-wind sail finally filled. Okay, so at first glance those 1980's pastel colors don't exactly strike fear into opposing captains. Hey, what can I say? It came with the boat! And a spinnaker need not look like it came off the Black Pearl to be effective. For the spinnaker run propelled Numb into 4th position. My sights were set on Just Ducky but Mike and Clarence were just too far ahead and sailing too well to be caught by us.
It would be Maniac finishing first, so the welcome back for Tim and Lynn is still up for debate. Just kidding, of course. Congratulations to them for their victory. Warren would finish second after sailing a great race throughout, as always. And taking 3rd would be Mike Rice on the J 24.
Meanwhile, Andre was working his comeback on the downwind leg when apparently, not convinced that his earlier grounding was good enough, he went for a second on the opposite side of the river. Although this one certainly lacked the duration of the first, it scored well in style points. Andre was quickly off the bar and took advantage of the San Juan's light air sailing properties. Even sailing without a chute, Andre was able to work his way up 6th position before crossing the finish line.
Great sailing by everyone today. Craig did an excellent job soloing on Victory, Chuck and crew sailed Beago competitively as always, and Mark and the other Mike, although not quite recapturing that magic in Race 3, sailed a very solid race. Thanks to Mary for crewing with me and doing a fine job at the helm - we expect to be seeing Socks out there on the course soon. And thanks to ALL skippers and crew for battling the elements and hanging in there. And a BIG thank you for Mary and Ashley Myers for the warm chili, chips, and hot chocolate waiting for us all when we returned. A nice touch to end the day. It is always a pleasure sailing with this group of people. See you at Race 5!
RACE 4 RESULTS
*Sailed with 170% genoa
Race report written by Eric Almlie. ęCopyright 2007. All rights reserved. Photos also by Eric.