February 25, 2007
The wind is coming! The wind is coming! All week long we had been watching the forecast to see what what would be in store for this season's finale. Of course sailors are known for tracking the weather, especially when it impacts our sailing activities. By about Wednesday or Thursday all indicators GUARANTEED some heavy winds on race day. Of course there was also the mention of severe thunderstorms but that part wasn't important. That kind of gets shrugged off along with any lake wind advisories. Actually, we are just kidding about the storms - about going out in them, not the prediction. That is the ONE condition we will not set sail in - nothing like a bunch of 40' lightning rods grouped together during a thunderstorm. But it would turn out that the storms would pass through early in the A.M. and we were fortunate enough not to get anything real nasty.
And today's race would be a pursuit race. You know, where we apply the handicaps up front and start the race one boat at a time, the fastest boat starting last. Of course that would be Maniac, which with the first boat (Beago) starting at 11:00, Maniac would start the race sometime Tuesday morning. As skipper of Beago, Chuck said, "you guys don't start the race until I start the race!" As we arrived at the mouth of Sale Creek and began starting preparations, a capacity crowd of American Coots were beginning to get settled in their seats, no doubt anticipating an exciting conclusion to this season's series.
With wind predictions of up to 35 knots there were those that planned their strategies well ahead of time (like 3 or 4 days). Mike Rice on Just Ducky discussed his plans of flying a spinnaker with crewmate Clarence. Of most concern was the .75 ounce cloth weight of both of his spinnakers. Realizing that they might be a little on the light side for the approaching gale force winds, the Just Ducky think tank came up with a plan of doubling up on them. You mean laminating the two chutes to give a total of 1.5 ounce of cloth? BRILLIANT!!! Well, in theory it is - some careful packing and an oversized spinnaker bag would be necessary. Unfortunately this historic groundbreaking event would not be witnessed nor take place since Just Ducky declared a non spinnaker status at the skipper's meeting. But instead we did get to witness some intense moments from the Ducky cam as Captain Mike displays the distinguishable Shackleton skipper face - authoritative, confident, determined, and in short, a force to be reckoned with. Race 8 (like all others) was definitely all business!
Andre, the captain of Hasta La Vista showed up shortly after 10:06 to the skipper's meeting. Upon his arrival, we informed him that being more than 5 minutes late to the meeting was an automatic disqualification. "What, is that a new rule?" he inquired. No, we all informed him it was an old one - it had been in the books for at least a minute and a half.
The San Juan would sail the entire race with a 150%. Yes, a few of us have observed that the San Juan 24 likes to be generously canvassed but in today's conditions, a 150% might have been stretching it and jib sheet duty becomes more of a hard labor sentence. Although the team of Andre, Jim, and Jack (mysteriously absent in the above photo) would do a great job of taming the oversized foresail we did note that despite being the only boat to declare a spinnaker status before the race, no chute was seen hoisted.
Meanwhile, it was noticed that Warren had reached across the borders to obtain his crew. Yes, the Shackleton Series is now an international event as 3 high school students, each from a different country sailed on board I Soar. The crew list (and the names that were used) were Danila (Dan) Manyakhin from Russia, Szymon (Simon) Rogacewicz from Poland, and Joao (John) Kummel from Brazil. We welcome these three to the country and were honored to have them in the race today. As Warren stated, "the English was a little broken but the smiles were big! I heard one of them say to the others while we were beating down the leak, 'I like this sailboat racing.'". Of course the winds always blow like this in Tennessee (note to self - delete all links to Races 3 and 7, and any other drifters) and Warren did mention that he was happy to have 3 high school boys on board in such conditions.
Today's winds would be perhaps the strongest we have had for a Shackleton Series race ever. At one point Maniac's wind speed indicated 38 knots apparent. Subtracting the J 29's speed from this meant that the actual wind was a paltry 5-10, so maybe it wasn't blowing that hard after all. But we will say it was blowing hard enough to witness a rarity on the water - there is photographic proof that Maniac's mainsail was actually reefed. It wasn't too long after this, however that the reef was taken out and the J 29 was under full sail.
The idea of a pursuit race is that with all the handicaps applied up front, the fleet should finish together. The only thing we could conclude was that Maniac must have done something wrong as the J 29 finished well in front of anyone else in the fleet. Technically speaking, the boats to cross the finish line first were Beago, Victory, and Comfortably Numb. So the three of us shaved a little bit of mileage off the course - what's the big deal? Seriously, Tim, Lynn, and Mike (you'll have to guess which Mike) sailed an excellent race as always and claimed a solid victory.
The race for second place, however would be intense. Just Ducky, I Soar, and Hasta La Vista began grouping together approaching the final leg. As all three boats rounded the Grasshopper Creek nun, Hasta La Vista had the lead but Just Ducky was closing the gap. It would actually come down to a photo finish. We took a few shots at the finish line and all were conclusive. By less than a quarter of a boat length, Just Ducky would finish 2nd. With Hasta La Vista taking 3rd and finishing just in front of I Soar, Andre takes this year's first place prize. Congratulations to him and everyone for a great job done all season.
I should mention that one other boat, A Shot in the Dark, was also still on the race course. Mark Welsh and crew had picked up the refugees from Beago and were sailing quite well but had lost some time early on picking up the additional crew. Nevertheless, they did an excellent job in the tough conditions today, so kudos to them as well.
A big thanks to everyone for participating in this years series, captains and crew. It is always a pleasure sailing with each and everyone of you. And also thanks to the Myers' family for having something warm to put in our bellies after those brutal days on the race course. It was always the perfect topping to a day of racing. See everyone next season!
RACE 8 RESULTS
FINAL SERIES STANDINGS
Race report written by Eric Almlie. ęCopyright 2007. All rights reserved. Photos by Kat Almlie and Clarence Myers.