November 4, 2007
Recent experience with crazy wind patterns is starting to make us a little leery about setting up race courses and figuring start times. Wind conditions have not always been as predicted (imagine that) and marathon sessions out on the water are becoming all too frequent. Not that that's a real bad thing because when you get down to it, being on the water is about the best place to be - better than any old stuffy, windowless office (I assume), better than doing chores around the house, or fighting traffic on the road. So although being stuck out on a windless day 4 hours into a race with a lot of distance left to cover IS frustrating, there are much worse places to be. Just wait until we have those same conditions paired with a nice cold winter drizzle.
But no need to worry about that today. The sun was shining, the fall colors were out, the temperatures were seasonal but quite comfortable. What about the wind, you say? The local wind authorities were not exactly in agreement as one promised us WNW breezes at 10-15 but not until afternoon while the other said, "bah, you don't know what your talking about! It's gonna be west 10 miles an hour or less!" I have often wondered if our local meteorologists ever get competitive about their field of work - like if the folks at Channel 3 call up Channel 9 and say, "you call that a forecast?" Or if there is ever any gloating if they got one right while the other missed it by a mile, "what were you thinking predicting 3 inches of snow? Go back to school, and pay attention this time!" But I digress...as we discussed our plans for the today's battle at the skipper's meeting, the wind was blowing out of the southwest at about 10. But we knew that was a guarantee ONLY until the starting horn blew, then it would die, or so we have been programmed to believe. Today we decided to outsmart the wind and delay the race start until noon. Adjourning the skipper's meeting at around 10:30 that seemed to be the right call. At 10:30 anyway.
Maybe it was the time change that confused us but despite the hour delay, most of us were out in the main channel by 11:00 anyway. And at 11:00 the wind was blowing steadily around 10 out of the SW. But surely it will die at 11:05. No? 11:15? Still blowing steady? Okay, the score this season is now: Wind 5, Exasperated Sale Creek Sailors 0, zilch, nada, doughnut. And a message to ALL those weather forecasters, we are going to obtain all your phone numbers and program them in our cell phones so the next time we experience wind conditions other than what you predict, you will experience the wrath of all the scorned Shackleton racers! And we can be a cranky bunch if we put our minds to it. Well to be truthful, although only mildly irritated that we could have started this race sooner, we were all quite happy that the wind was blowing nicely and looked forward to perhaps an actual race where we might all experience some decent wind!
Race 2 would welcome Maniac, Seaductress, and Carol Lynn making their first appearance this Shackleton season. Maniac is representing this year's J29 fleet in the Shackleton Series which has built up to...well, just Maniac. So although heavily favored in their fleet, they will still have to work hard not to finish in last position. Just kidding. Seaductress returns almost 2 years sailing in such exotic places as the the Exumas and the Turks and Caicos. But we all knew it was a matter of time before the Ling's would be lured back to their roots. Once the Shackleton Series is in your blood you can't escape it. And James and Kristen Drozdek on Carol Lynn were participating in their first Shackleton race ever. Kristen was kind enough to supply the hungry fleet with some home baked apple cinnamon muffins at this morning's skipper's meeting. Oh, I see BIG success for them already today (read the Great River Drop race report for more insight on that).
Of course we welcome those whose unquestioned loyalty to the series brought them back after a grueling and very frustrating Race 1. Mike Burrus and crewmate Mark Welsh were back in the red J 24 (is that boat ever going to have a name? I'm sure you don't want ME to name it for you - or do you?) Chuck Alexander and crew Mike Edge were back out in the Ericson 27 Freya. Although Chuck is still "watchless" he was kind enough not to hail me on the VHF regularly to double check the number of minutes before we started today's race. David Barrow single handing on Alexa and Ellen Long and crew Michelle and Brandi were sailing Sassafras. Both crews were gung ho as always and especially today since, well, finally this will be their first race with REAL wind for a change! Oh yeah, I was out there as well sailing Hasta La Vista.
Other commitments kept Andre in Dutchess and Mike Miller in Asylum absent today. Andre's race courses are always so much fun and generally have a neat little twist in them - so we were without that benefit today and Mike is this year's early leader and unless none of us happened to finish today that lead would be relinquished. Stranger things have happened on our mysterious waters here. I even sensed a hint of foreboding concern by Rodger when it was found out we would have not one but TWO roundings of the Grasshopper Creek buoy, the one bouy that has caused much anguish for generations of local sailors.
We would find out early if the Grasshopper Creek buoy still had some voodoo to it as it was Buoy 1 on the course. A good start of the race by everyone, especially Chuck and Mike in Freya as they reached down the starting line and were able to turn up JUST at the right moment before running out of room. You know, had I stalled and just been a FEW seconds late with the starting horn...well, lets just say its a good thing such fiendishly evil thoughts like that don't often cross my mind! Or at least if they do I don't act on them. We all made quick and short tacks to exit the narrow secondary channel en route to Buoy 1. Good tight sailing by everyone here and we all rounded the buoy properly in our first pass. Has the curse of the buoy been lifted?
It certainly didn't take long for the J boats to establish a lead in this one. Freya was hanging on to 3rd position tightly while I battled with Carol Lynn briefly until James and Kristen pulled away and set their sites on the Ericson 27. Seaductress, Sassafras, and Alexa weren't far behind and also sailing quite strong.
The southwesterly winds were steady and made for a nice first upwind course. We sailed just a short ways down river to the Camp Vesperpoint can (Buoy 2) and directly across the river to the Three Hour Nun (Buoy 3) before turning almost directly downwind towards that elusive Grasshopper Creek buoy (#4) again. Personally I think this buoy has a cloaking device on it that is enabled at will. As one who has missed it a couple times in the past I can assure you that for whatever reason it can easily be overlooked even if you are only a boat length away from it. Well I didn't miss it today, Rodger didn't miss it today, David Freye didn't miss it today...oh, wait - Banana Split wasn't on the course today. Well, he wouldn't have missed it either. The curse had indeed been lifted!
Both J boats flew their spinnakers downwind and kept their lead over the remainder of the fleet. It seemed to be quite the social event between Freya and Carol Lynn as they sailed practically the entire downwind course next to each other indecisive as to who should go first. It was quite thrilling to watch the number of times they changed position with one another. Sassafras and Seaductress were neck and neck also while Alexa was trailing closely. But as we continued the downwind leg enjoying the day I began to notice the speed on Hasta La Vista declining at an uncomfortable rate. And it wasn't just being in the shadow of the bluff on the eastern side of the lake because as I returned out to the middle of the lake there was no wind to be found there either. Was our wind disappearing? Oh no! Maybe we should have started at 11:00!
Well the doldrums were short lived (maybe about 10-15 minutes worth) and the wind began to build back up a little. By this time Maniac was eyeballing the finish line. And within a blink of that eyeball they were finished with a solid victory. Congratulations to Tim and Mike (Moore) for another excellent race sailed.
2nd place was going to be tight. The J 24 was moving along nicely and had a good distance between Carol Lynn and Freya. However, don't forget those swift sailing J boats have to give the rest of the fleet like a week's worth of time allowance in handicap. Okay, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration but that's the way it SHOULD be! Seriously it was going to be close. But entering the secondary channel for the last 100 yards or so, the wind got an attitude and decided it was time to bully this portion of the fleet. Shifting, stalling out, swirling, throwing a gust in the wrong direction, stealing our lunch money, insulting our mothers, it did everything to flout us. Yeah, we took it personally. It may be hard to believe if you weren't there but that last 100 yards was difficult to say the least. Anyway, as mentioned the fight for second was going to be close and when the final calculations were in it would be Carol Lynn edging out the J 24 by 5 seconds. Never underestimate the power of fresh baked muffins! And of course some really good sailing. Chuck and Mike also were close correcting out just over a minute and a half behind the J24. I finished an undisputed 5th in the San Juan 24.
Rodger in Seaductress made more tacks in the S2 today than all of the 2 years sailing in the big water! Did a fine job single handing that big boat. The girls in Sassafras made it interesting but Rodger was able to fend off the O'Day 222's corrected time by 1:43. Great job by all of them and by David in Alexa who finished just a short time later.
For added fun and attraction for the spectators there was a heeling and wake making contest at the end of today's race. Tim and Mike in Maniac showed us how to make a boat lean over while Mike and Mark in the J24 were the champion wake makers.
Great job everyone! Thanks for sailing today. See you at Race 3!
RACE 2 RESULTS
Race report written by Eric Almlie ęCopyright 2007. All rights reserved. Photos by Rodger Ling and Eric Almlie.