January 20, 2007
As I began drawing out today's race course that Andre and I discussed, the waters in the marina harbor were flat calm and there were no leaves rustling in the trees. Before you say it or even think it, yes I KNOW that there are no leaves this time of year. The exception here are those many brown ones still clinging to one of the oaks outside the office window and THEY were not moving. The stillness was somewhat inline with the forecast. We heard 3 different ones, winds N at 5 - 10, N at 5, and light and variable. We banked on the conservative side and set a short course. Completely different than Race 4, which was completely different than Race 3, the course, for the 3rd straight race, would total 3.2 nautical miles. And before the ink was even dry on the charts, those very charts that would guide us safely through the dangers lurking out there, a steady breeze cropped up and wavelets began to appear in the harbor.
Although there was some concern about the distance of today's match at the skipper's meeting, the race committee held strong in its convictions and allowed for no alternate version of today's sail plan. The course was complex enough without adding further to the quandary. Yes, figuring our courses out at times is like trying to solve a riddle or puzzle - but they are much more fun than that simple and boring windward/leeward stuff.
At the skipper's meeting we were introduced to a new boat in the Sale Creek family. Not a racer but rather a cruiser - in fact a cruise SHIP. Although I tried to convince everyone it was the new race committee boat (really stretched those $15 entry fees), Larry Mashburn, one of the owners of the Blue Moon, described the excursions to Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge that would be taking place and thanked us for allowing them to "invade" our marina. By making that statement, I think a decision was reached that in exchange for the Blue Moon to dock here we would all get turns driving the boat. Will have to review the minutes of the meeting to see what the actual wording was there. We welcome Larry to the marina and to the Shackleton series as he was joining Andre today to see what this sailing stuff was all about.
In spite of the building wind, we all exited the harbor with lots of cloth ready to hoist. The San Juan 24s were boasting 170% genoas, while pretty much the rest of us were 150%ers . But by the time we approached the mouth of Sale Creek and witnessed some whitecaps and the heaviest light and variable I have ever seen, a few did an about face to perform sail changes. Banana Split downgraded to his 150%, Beago put in a reef, A Shot in the Dark went with a small working jib, the J Boats also went with smaller foresails, and even though they had the crew, Craig and Brenda on Victory kept their spinnaker stowed securely below, out of sight, out of mind. Although there would be an off wind leg or two, or three (yes three in a 3.2 mile course), wrestling with a spinnaker would not be an option for any of us today. The rest of us stuck with what we had even if the wind was hitting us at about 15 knots. If this continued, we would finish this one rather quickly.
Although it was a bit on the cold side, we were all working hard enough to keep warm. As we started the race I noticed another new boat out on the course. Mike Burrus, who regularly sails on A Shot in the Dark was maneuvering his Hunter 30 around and was indeed in the race. Also in the race but sailing blind, metaphorically speaking, was Mike Miller in the Tanzer 22 Asylum. Mike, who keeps Asylum privately moored on the river across the lake had motor troubles and sailed to the marina only to be met with the exiting fleet. He had missed the skipper's meeting and was therefore, sailing chartless. To make matters worse, Mike would lose two battens in his mainsail. Meanwhile, Mike Rice, soloing on the swift J 24 Just Ducky was a tad tardy to the starting line but was doing an admirable job making up ground early on. And crewing for Mark on A Shot in the Dark was Mike Edge, the newest Mike and boat owner here at Sale Creek - albeit a power vessel (not that there is anything wrong with that). Edge has actually sailed several times with Mark and Mike. By the way, if you happen to be walking around the marina and forget the name of the person who just waved to you, simply say, "hello, Mike," and there is a high probability that you are covered.
As we exited the Sale Creek channel and rounded Buoy 1 Hasta La Vista had a tight lead over Maniac and the rest of the fleet. There were two questions being asked on board as Andre steered upwind to begin the second leg. The first was, "how do we keep this lead?" and the second was by crewmate Larry, this being his first sail ever, asking "is the boat supposed to lean over this far?" I think all of us have asked that last question the first time we ever saw a toe rail bury into the water. And although the 2nd leg was quite short, before it was completed it was obvious that the first question was not answered as Maniac took over the lead position.
For it being such a short race there was all kinds of excitement. Two of the Mikes ran aground near Buoy 2 (Just Ducky and the nameless Hunter 30 - and no Mike, although we have joked about it, I will NOT let you name it Comfortably Dumb!). A Shot in the Dark discarded their Dacron swatch and went for broke, hoisting the 170% on the 3rd leg. Things unraveled on I Soar as a near knock-down scooped up some lake water in the boat. Warren mentioned in a VERY short span, everything that could go wrong, did and I Soar lost a few positions. Comfortably Numb and Banana Split got real friendly on the 5th leg as Captain Freye tacked in front. The maneuver was licit as David was clear ahead and completed his tack in time. However, it was close since Numb was unyielding and as the 150% genoa blocked my view of Split entirely I kept asking, "where are you, David?" When a gust leaned Numb over I had visions of the rigging of our respective sailing craft becoming intertwined but as I finally got a clear view it was confirmed that Split was still clear ahead. And it would remain that way as David worked his normal magic and continued pulling away.
Actually, it is rather difficult to shake another boat in such a short course - makes it kind of fun, really. Beago did a great job keeping pace with Asylum. Just Ducky was freed from the shoals and sailing fast. A Shot in the Dark had not let up since being overtaken by Numb at Buoy 3 and finally surged past me at Buoy 7 (which happened to be the same buoy). Meanwhile Warren had recovered nicely and was on my tail after rounding Buoy 7 and heading to the finish, which we would sail on one close hauled tack. And speaking of finishing, yes Maniac had crossed the finish line already. Finishing about 7-1/2 minutes real time ahead of Andre in Hasta La Vista we thought, surely, any boat that finishes that close to a J 29 will correct out ahead. But no, remember it was a short course, and once again, Maniac would prevail. Congratulations to Tim for another fine job and for doing it solo. And at the post race press conference, Tim mentioned that the blade jib utilized on Maniac today was the perfect sail and rarely was it necessary to use a winch handle to sheet the foresail in. (Pshaw!)
Banana Split would cross the line in 3rd position and also take 3rd. "What, finished already? Within an hour? Can't be," we heard David say. But it was another great job done on the San Juan. In contrast to the blade on Maniac, the 170% on A Shot in the Dark was Mark's perfect sail as Numb was unable to keep up. A Shot in the Dark roared over the finish line in 4th position. But would they be far enough ahead to pick up fourth place bragging rights? Although I Soar was unable to escape the shadow of Numb on that entire last leg, I knew Warren would correct out in front of me as I was unable to put any distance between our respective boats. The question was, how would we correct out in comparison with the Ericson 29? It would be a mere half a minute that would separate the three of us, the edge going to Warren, who again, made a nice recovery. A Shot in the Dark would correct at 5th followed by Numb.
We are quite certain that Craig on Victory was happy that the final leg in this race was NOT another light air off wind trek and that Beago (the Hunter nihilist) was not in the vicinity. Great job by Victory. And speaking of the O'Day 222, although officially finishing in the last position, Beago would correct out in front of not only Asylum but Just Ducky as well. Nice job by everyone and thumbs up to Mike and Mike (J24, Tanzer 22). As far as the other Mike (Burrus), that evening he stopped by the office and reported, "I finished at 5:00! Actually, no it was 12:45, we just stayed out there sailing around afterwards." Well, there were a few did go back out sailing after the race, the wind was so nice. But correct me if mistaken, was that not exhaust smoke and cooling water being emitted from the Hunter 30 transom while escaping the shoal? And we do have photographic proof of the Hunter 30 sails stowed on deck and boom while the fleet had completed about two-thirds of the course. Of course the argument of completing the race when the rest of us all returned to the marina was a compelling one. From now on, until further notice, the Hunter 30 will be known as the The Negotiator. Seriously, Mike, thank you for sailing with us - glad to have another boat out there. And for everyone, although it makes no difference in this particular case, for future reference, use of an engine during the race is an automatic DSQ!
Thanks to everyone who participated, crew and captains. Again, more thanks to the Myers' family for more hot foot and drinks when we returned. We will miss you for Race 6. See everyone then.
RACE 5 RESULTS
Race report written by Eric Almlie. ęCopyright 2007. All rights reserved.