February 3, 2006
Before anyone gets excited about the title photo, let me explain that it was NOT taken on race day but rather 2 days prior. The reason for its inclusion here? To remind everyone that at times we do actually have a winter here, which will maybe give our little series a little more reverence...and it was too pretty a picture to pass up. And yes, last Thursday's snowfall did close all area schools and cause a brief shortage of milk and bread in the tri-state area. Although the snow has melted (except for the remnants of mutant snowmen in area neighborhoods) it remains winter here in the Tennessee Valley and we would all receive an extra cold point for sailing today.
Taking roll call at the skipper's meeting it was noticed that we had a few absentees. We were "Mikeless" - captain wise, anyway. Mike Edge was back crewing with Mark on A Shot in the Dark and if you follow Sale Creek Racing closely (how could you not?) you will recognize Michael Moore who sailed with Andre on Dutchess in last year's River Drop. Michael would be crewing on Maniac along with Lynn, who was not taking an instant shine to the conditions we were about to set sail in. This brings up a question - is it possible for a crewmember to protest their own boat? But I digress...In addition to the Mikes' boats, we were also without the presence of Victory, Banana Split, and although the USS Georgia remains moored in its slip, we have not seen nor heard from Anthony since Race 3.
Today's match was a wild one. Indeed that has come to be expected, especially when the winds are out of the wild west. The forecast today was 10-20 and that was pretty accurate. And typical with west winds, it would oscillate from time to time making sail trimming and course setting extremely challenging. And the theme for today was "big wind means big sails." Andre asked my opinion of which sail to use on Hasta La Vista, "150% or 170%?" Unless it was drifting conditions, I always preferred the 150% on that boat. Needless to say as I strolled down "B" dock after the skipper's meeting, I observed the San Juan was armed with the larger of the two sails. A Shot in the Dark was also sporting a 170% and the rest of us all had at least a 135% up. A bit reckless in our sail choices today you think? No, not really. Although we would experience some heavy gusts today, I think you will find yourself underpowered more than overpowered if you reduced sail on days like this. With the gusts come a lot of light patches.
And gusts and lulls were predominant at the start of the race. We all had good speed, some were in a more favored end of the starting line but as we exited the Sale Creek secondary channel we all got trapped in a dead area. Then the wind picked up and Beago and Comfortably Numb were in the best position to get it first and quickly propelled to the front of the fleet where Maniac was in its usual reserved spot. Had the race ended right then and there, Chuck would have walked away with first place and I second. Unfortunately we had just completed about .2 miles of a 7.2 mile course.
Things changed quickly for Numb at Buoy 1. A mark rounding, some strange shifty winds, and sailing quite close with A Shot in the Dark were a recipe for disaster and sure enough, there was a collision on the course. The bow on Numb kissed the aft port quarter of the Ericson 29. Fortunately, speed was down and there was nary a scratch on either vessel (I lead with my anchor anyway, which is placed strategically on the bow). It was purely my fault as Numb was the give way vessel and yes, we would do a penalty turn later on. Both Mark and I made light of the situation afterwards and I apologized profusely, still trying to figure out what went wrong. It was really an opportunity lost for me. After it happened I failed to quote the classic Rodney Dangerfield line from Caddyshack, "hey, you scratched my anchor!" One thing in my favor is was that my crew consisted of Stan Lanzo, a big time Chattanooga attorney, so if by chance this thing went to litigation I considered myself pretty well covered.
After the incident Mark and company zoomed off, chasing Maniac and Hasta La Vista. Beago and I Soar moved ahead of Numb while we were still trying to regroup. For the first time this series, the fleet did not have to round a mark every few boat lengths. Buoy 2 was almost 2 miles downstream and that would give us all some time to get in a groove as we anticipated little tacking with the westerly winds. Well, that was the thought, anyway. The wind shifted and changed velocity almost continuously making it hard to get comfortable out there. And we did plenty of tacking.
Maniac continued its lead but Hasta La Vista was fighting tough, with the frontrunner and the giant sail. Kevin, one of Chuck's regular crew (Chuck had brought extras) from Beago was crewing with Andre. Earlier at the skipper's meeting Chuck mentioned that Kevin will find out what it is like crewing on a boat in the front of the fleet. Some one else quipped in, "well, either that or find out what it is like watching it while being aground." Actually, Andre and Kevin were sailing very well and were about 6 minutes behind at the Buoy 2 rounding. Although not quite enough to the comfort on board Maniac, Captain Tim mentioned that the spinnaker would not be hoisted here. His crew responded with, "you got that right!" The next leg to Buoy 3 was about a mile back upstream before we would turn around again and head back to Buoy 2, which would then be Buoy 4. And to really throw a monkey wrench in there, Buoy 5 was the same as Buoy 1. Confused? Yeah, so were we but AMAZINGLY not one of us has missed a buoy all series.
The legs to Buoy's 3 and 5 were off wind but with the fluky winds, for most of us, those legs would be everything from a wing on wing run to sailing on a close reach. So a spinnaker run would be ill advised anyway. On the journey to Buoy 3 we did not see one. However, on the 2 mile leg to Buoy 5 (1), we saw the familiar black and red chute on I Soar flying as Warren and Katie boogied to Buoy 5. They must have had guts of iron and did a fine job of taming the wild beast. Except there was one moment that where they released the sheet completely and the spinnaker flew perpendicular from atop the mast, waving proudly like a giant flag. Although Warren said it was his ugliest spinnaker flight ever, it was still effective as I Soar pulled within striking distance of A Shot in the Dark.
The entrance to the secondary channel and to the finish line for these two was untimely as it suddenly got crowded. Exiting Sale Creek was the Blue Moon cruise ship , all 77 feet of her with passengers aboard. Also trolling between the outer two buoys marking the narrow passage was a bass boat. And it's occupants were adamant that this is where the fish were. (I pictured Lieutenant Dan telling Forrest Gump, "that's where we'll find those fish, my boy!") After the two sailboats finished weaving through the blockade and crossed the line, I Soar would correct out in front very close for the second straight race. For third place that is. The battle for first...well, it really wasn't as close as earlier indicators thought it might be...Maniac would finish first with a little over 9 minutes to spare over Hasta La Vista. And bringing up the rear, Comfortably Numb and Beago also tangled with the bass boat. Had the fishermen known Numb's proneness to slice through other boats without any regard whatsover, they might have moved out of the way sooner. Actually, Numb stayed clear...it was Chuck who mentioned that he set a layline course for a direct hit (run, Forrest, run!). We sailors are a ruthless bunch. But there would be no more collisions and Beago would finish close, but not quite enough to beat Numb.
Great job by everyone on this challenging day. Today's casualties were plentiful - a folded whisker pole on I Soar, a torn genoa leech on A Shot in the Dark, and a winch handle (non floating) that abandoned ship on Numb. Did I mention it wasn't exactly a banner day for me? That's okay. It is always fun. Race 7 will be here quickly. See everyone there.
RACE 6 RESULTS
* Sailed with 170% genoa
Race report written by Eric Almlie. ęCopyright 2007. All rights reserved. Photos by Eric and Andre.