October 20, 2007
It is going to be somewhat difficult to gain a whole lot of respect for sailing in a winter series when it is sunny and 80 degrees outside all the time. I think today was the warmest Shackleton race on record. Leaf Myczack, who used to be one of the main fixtures here at Sale Creek always full of humor and wit, e-mailed me the other day and said we might have to consider renaming our winter races to the Jimmy Buffet Series or something. He may be right as it was so warm some of us would actually get in the water today as well...voluntarily. What kind of winter sailing is that?
Up for grabs this year, in addition to the coveted first place trophy, is a consolation award. This was graciously provided by Mike Miller (Tanzer 22 Asylum) and is to be as stated, "awarded to the skipper who best exemplifies the spirit and character of Shackleton." There are a couple quotes of Shackleton written on there as well - "Difficulties are just things to overcome after all" and "If I had not some strength of will, I would be a first class drunk." Hmmm. That last one is kind of interesting. This is a really nice framed painting that will NOT be awarded to one of the top 3 finishers in this series who already get a trophy. Everyone really liked it at the skipper's meeting and I think we all said in some way or another, "hey, THAT'S the trophy I'm going for." I told the group at the skipper's meeting that there is a place already set aside for it on MY wall! Then Andre mentioned something about Shackleton's boat Endurance getting stuck in the ice and then Chuck added something about it sinking. That's when I reiterated the fact that I wasn't sailing my boat in this year's series but rather, the marina's San Juan!
Today was perhaps the most frustrating of sailing - racing or cruising - that I have ever witnessed on this lake. First off, the wind prediction was WNW 5-10 - which lead to the simple course design of sailing to the bridge and back. Making it even more simple, the only buoy we had to concern ourselves with was the last Sale Creek red secondary channel marker. We did also have to round the 2nd pylon from the eastern shore on the Highway 60 bridge. Other than that, we could go anywhere on the lake we wanted to. But when one combines that with the fact that the lake level had dropped down about 2-1/2 feet on its way to winter pool, well lets just say such uninhibited freedoms should not always be welcomed.
The course and its lack of restrictions was not the frustrating part. Once again the wind failed to live up to its expectations, which made the sail all the up to the bridge and back, a 7.5 mile jaunt, quite challenging. With drifters, you generally have a little bit of draft to work with and you can maintain your direction. Although there was some drifting today, when the wind WAS blowing, it was by no means consistent, out of direction or velocity, or in any one area of the lake, or on any one boat. Wind indicators would say one thing, tell tales would say something else, and even then it seemed to be a lot of guesswork. Trim the sails, set a course? HOW?!? I don't think I have ever seen the wind so fickle. The spinnaker went up on Asylum early on in the race, was lowered and then hoisted again on our voyage to the bridge. Speaking of the Tanzer 22, Mike and crew had followed the western shore all the way up to this point and gained a lead over the fleet. Hasta La Vista was following a little bit behind. The fact that neither of us never ran aground passing over the shoals north of Sale Creek was pure luck. But that's where the swirling wind was presently and we actually separated from the fleet a little.
And as we passed the Mile 497 daymark, the wind appeared to pick a direction, almost directly out of the north. The spinnaker went down again and stayed down on Asylum. Looked like we might have a tacking duel but my string of luck that I had received in not running aground in a place I should have went bone dry. Best wind of the day so far and I hit a shoal doing about 4 knots. And I hit it good! "Okay, no biggie," I thought to myself, "I'll simply shove off with the spinnaker pole - maybe lose about 5 minutes or so." Twenty minutes later, while the best wind of the day was still blowing I'll add again, all that my strenuous effort had yielded me thus far was a weighted down spinnaker pole full of water and maybe some entertainment for the rest of the approaching fleet. All I could do was spin around and I figured I was either on top of a log or simply corkscrewing the keel into the river bottom! Perhaps it was a dose of karma I was being fed for poking fun at others in their groundings over the years but I certainly wouldn't have blamed any passing participant for thinking or saying, "that's a tough break there, Eric, " and then laugh hysterically, " BWAHAHAHAHA!"
After further failed attempts to heel the boat over or kedge off I finally chose to do the thing I should have done first, and that is get in the water and push it off. Having my weight off the light San Juan seemed to do the trick because in about 5 minutes I was FREE! And now the wind had died again. Mike and Mark in the J24 and Chuck and Mike (Edge) in Freya had passed me up and were chasing the Tanzer 22. Andre in Dutchess had retired from the race some time ago due to the lack of wind. David in Alexa was now on my tail and Ellen and her crew in Sassafras were not far behind.
Asylum rounded the bridge first and was soon followed by the J24. Up went the spinnaker on the J boat. Only problem with this is that the wind was swirling again. Chuck observed while the J24 was sailing downwind from the bridge, Freya was sailing downwind TO the bridge. Just a few minutes later down went the spinnaker on the J boat. Freya continued their downwind sail to the bridge, rounded the pylon, and continued their downwind sail in the opposite direction. Yes, really!
By the time I reached it in Hasta La Vista, it was a beam reach. Five minutes later I am on a run crossing paths with Alexa. A couple minutes later drifting again. Five minutes after that, close reaching at hull speed crossing paths with Sassafras who was also moving along rather quickly.
Different wind patterns now seemed to be settling in over the lake. Seeing someone further ahead in the doldrums while you had some decent air was encouraging until you hit the doldrums and they hit the next pocket of air. The J24 did take over lead position briefly until I noticed from a distance they no longer had forward momentum. And it was not due hitting a dead pocket of air but it was their turn to find the bottom of the lake. BWAHAHAHAHA! Asylum skated away. Shoving off with the spinnaker pole on the J boat did not work either mainly because, well, it broke in two pieces! Oh, no! That is not a laughing matter and Mike would also have to get in the water to free his boat. Shortly after Freya became a grounding victim. BWAHAHAHAHA! I think all of us vowed never to sail outside the channel markers again. So in the next race...I'm sure there will be more laughing at someone's expense!
Victory in Race 1 would go to the Tanzer 22, Asylum. Great job by Mike and his crew. The other Mike would finish 2nd in the J24 followed by Chuck and the 3rd Mike would finish in 3rd. Soon after I crossed the finish line in Hasta La Vista the wind diminished all over the lake. Alexa and Sassafras were still out there and were in for a long crawl for the finish. We must commend those two boats, skippers, and crew for continuing on as it was getting late in the day and by 5:00 there was no wind whatsoever. David crossed over the finish line with an elapsed time of 8 hours and 5 minutes. That is dedication! The old record for hanging in there during a race was owned by Rodger Ling at around 6-1/2 hours. Even though quite willing to sail in the dark, the Sassafras crew was not too anxious to DRIFT in the dark - who could blame them? Great job by EVERYONE for hanging in there. We seem to be somewhat snake bit as of late regarding our race day wind conditions. As a footnote and to rub a little salt in the wound, the wind on Sunday the 21st was about 15-20!
The next race will be better - guaranteed....BWAHAHAHAHA!
RACE 1 RESULTS
Race report written by Eric Almlie ęCopyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Photos by Eric Almlie