December 9, 2007
To those who do not race with us, I feel somewhat obligated to inform you that those of us who DO race are out there sailing strictly on a voluntary basis. We are not getting paid to do this, there is no money on the line, and we are not serving out some type of twisted community service sentence imposed on us by some eccentric judge. Can you believe we are out in these conditions simply because we want to be? And can you believe further that we actually enjoy this? What I have said in many race reports past is worthy of repeating: yes, there is a fine line between serious sailing and being sick in the head. But then I always follow that with something justifiable like "it really wasn't that bad today. No, really - it wasn't."
The title photo above no doubt accurately depicts the conditions that we set sail in for Race 4. Fortunately the rain had tapered off about an hour before the skipper's meeting and the temperatures certainly weren't December-like as we were expecting to top 70 degrees today. Now the only questions were would the fog lift as the day progressed or would it thicken? And would the light southerlies that we were promised for today show up and enable us to...well do something other than just kind of hopelessly sit there?
Before we get on with what appears to be another race report about sailing in agony, we must give thanks to Ellen on Sassafras for providing the ham biscuits at this morning's skipper's meeting. As I was about to dig in and help myself, Chuck intervened and said, "whoa, you're on the race committee, that would be like taking a bribe." Or something to that effect. Regardless of his exact wording it is race scoring suicide to deprive an RC member rightful access to breakfast. Might be something in the rule books about that, too. Chuck has been sailing quite well in this series but somehow I sensed that Freya's success was about to come to an abrupt end today - call it a hunch.
Today we would be without the services of Tim on Maniac, which meant the race was wide open for anyone's taking. Awfully nice of him to give us a chance this year by sailing in only half of the races. But just when we think we don't have a fast boat like that to contend with, a familiar boat with a new captain returns to the Shackleton Series. Yes, the Ranger 33 True Blue is now being skippered by Shawn Douthat, the new owner of the sleek looking blue hulled sailing vessel. Shawn claims limited sailing experience on a boat like this but as always, we treat those kind of statements with great caution. We certainly welcome Shawn and will soon find out the accuracy of his words, which if found to be contrary to what gets witnessed today , the welcome might be short lived. Just kidding of course!
We opted for an 11:30 start. Yes that was kind of early considering the conditions but as David on Alexa stated, "the sooner we get out there, the sooner we get the 8 hours of drifting over with." As we started the race amidst the fog, it was David himself who had another great start and was leading the fleet early on. Last race I reported that David was too modest regarding his good start in that one. Obviously he is a quick study as he made quite sure that everyone in the fleet knew about his position on the course - I won't repeat his exact wording since this IS a family web page but let's just say it involved him presently kicking a certain part of everyone's anatomy. And yes, we all heard it. Everyone in north Hamilton County heard it. It echoed across the lake. Of course once it was discovered that we had our own personal echo chamber several experimented with the classic, 'hello...hello...hello...echo...echo...echo...now batting...now batting...number 24...." Anyway, you get the idea that we were quite bored.
Did I mention that Alexa lead the race for about the first 20 minutes or so? Did I also mention that in that amount of time we STILL had not exited the secondary channel (including Alexa)? For those who still hadn't started the race yet it was encouraging to still be in sight of the front of the fleet. Well technically it was talking distance and yes, there were a couple boats still lurking behind the starting line waiting for the opportune time to strike, and for once it wasn't me who normally gets trapped back there in these types of conditions. Not that my start was worthy of bragging rights. But it was no big deal since excitement would soon flare up throughout the fleet as we witnessed ripples - yes RIPPLES on the water just to the north... and those ripples were headed our way! The fact that we caught a northerly draft instead of the southerlies that were promised was of no significance. We were happy with anything at this point and soon we were all making our way to the dreaded Grasshopper Creek buoy.
Mike in the nameless J 24 lead the way, who had taken over the lead position from Alexa, which had fallen from grace back to the number 7 spot . There were some other choice words David had for the fleet regarding a scenario such as this - more of a general statement that was made prior to the start of the race should something like this arise and we will leave it up to your imagination as to what it was. Hasta La Vista followed in 2nd position. Carol Lynn, one of the late starters was making a nice comeback and broke even with Sassafras. Freya and Dutchess followed closely behind while True Blue was bringing up the rear.
Rounding the mark and starting our descent downstream I overheard Mike and Mark's conversation on the J 24 about getting ready to set the spinnaker, since by all practical theories, we should be sailing off the draft now. Yes I said sailing off the draft, not wind - wind would be too strong a word. But according to our telltales and wind indicators (or should I say draft indicators?), the stream of air was more from an easterly direction. Then shortly after it was more of a westerly direction. And then it would disappear completely again and our draft indicators would be rendered useless. So no spinnakers would go up yet...oops, spoke too soon. The mighty chute on Dutchess was airborne and actually filled, for maybe a minute. But this got Andre up from 6th position and even with Carol Lynn. Perhaps the most amazing thing out of this feat was that even when the chute was simply hanging limp Andre was still passing boats and moving up in rank.
Also amazing was the sun was trying to work its way through the fog which was creating "blue-out" conditions as seen in the picture on the left. The downstream red buoy was still not visible about a mile and a half away. The current was not being of any assistance as they were only dumping about 8000 cubic feet per second at the dam today (as an added note for comparison, the worst current we experienced in a race was when they were dumping 133,000 cfs). It was actually kind of difficult sighting downstream as it was somewhat blinding - who would have thought to bring sunglasses out on a day like this?
Hasta La Vista (the light air machine) had taken over lead position and as we approached the "three hour nun" across from the Camp Vesperpoint slough, I could now see another dark colored buoy in the distance which appeared to be our turning mark . Perhaps the fog and flat calm waters were deceiving but it didn't appear to be that far downstream, which was a comfort because the wind still was not blowing. Still, it didn't seem right that it was so close. I caught a glimpse of Clarence and Mary's Irwin 37 Third Angel steaming by. Clarence was supposed to crew with me on Hasta La Vista today but opted out due to the conditions (gee, I can't imagine why). There was also talk about Third Angel entering the race but not really to compete or even have any intentions of finishing. I know what you are thinking: "WHY would anyone enter a race under that pretext?" Ah, if you race this series, you realize the golden value of each point you score. And I'm not referring to the single point Third Angel would have received - it's not like we can trade our Shackleton points at the end of the series for some cheesy merchandise or free airline tickets. No, by Third Angel's participation we ALL would have received an additional point and therefore even gain one more on the absent Maniac. MMMWAHAHAHA! But it didn't happen. I am going to have to work on my recruiting skills for the next time we know Maniac will not be in attendance.
Back to the race, the fog was indeed clearing and a very light southerly wind announced itself. We were actually finally able to get some decent sail shape and start tacking downriver to the turning buoy. And speaking of that turning buoy - the one I mentioned earlier that seemed closer that it really should be - turned out to be an out of place green buoy. It had broke loose from its mooring and had drifted over to the opposite side of the lake and was now pretty much in line with all the other red buoys - perhaps trying to cleverly fit in with the other reds and trick all us racers. We disregarded it as part of the race course and continued on to the proper mark. The wind was building ever so slightly but the water remained flat. Kind of neat moving a long around 3 knots or so when the water was still glassy. Hasta La Vista remained in the lead, followed closely by the J 24 and then Dutchess, again sailing remarkably well in the light air.
The three front runners hoisted spinnakers without hesitation to begin the downwind course. And they actually remained full this time. The fleet really wasn't all that spread out considering these types of conditions, though. Carol Lynn and Freya were not that far behind and True Blue was now working its way up now that there was a little breeze to work with. Sassafras had fallen back a little but maintained their lead over Alexa.
On Hasta La Vista I maintained a lead just big enough not have my wind blocked by the following boats and was really "sailing by the lee". But I really didn't feel like jibing since...well, no real good reason other than I was comfortable where I was at and just plain lazy. Besides I would have to jibe again when rounding the 3rd and last mark. And if I could get away with it, I wouldn't have to jibe at all. Well, that didn't work and I ended up jibing anyway, once to get on the proper heading to the last mark, and once again just before rounding that last mark since the last leg would be sailed with the chute up on a reach. I wonder if whoever invented the spinnaker had in mind for the sail to be used while sailing single handed - we seem to do a lot of that around here and I know all of us flying them today were sweating from the workout. Of course, even thought the calendar says "December" it WAS t-shirt weather.
There was some discussion at the Grasshopper Creek marker between Dutchess and the J 24 regarding room, two-boat lengths, and all that jazz. I was happy I was in the position I was and didn't look back after snapping the photo on the left. It was a fun reach to the finish line as the wind picked up even more. Hasta La Vista would get the undisputed victory today. It looked like 2nd would be between Dutchess and the J 24 and there was some position swapping during that last reach. But Andre would gain the advantage and cross the finish about 27 seconds ahead of Mike and Mark. However, it doesn't end there. Chuck and Edge on Freya and the Drozdeks on Carol Lynn were picking up time as they caught some nice wind. And also gaining fast was True Blue. During the dead downwind leg, they probably both gained on the spinnaker boats. Freya would cross the finish line just 9 seconds in front of Carol Lynn. But the PHRF correction would place Chuck in the number 2 slot today - now just imagine how well he would have done if not for blocking my access to those biscuits!. Dutchess would place 3rd and the J 24 took 4th. Carol Lynn and True Blue both did an excellent job making up a lot of time after their late starts finished 5th and 6th respectively while Sassafras would get the upper hand on Alexa today. Despite the duration of this race and the very light winds experienced, the fleet stayed together. Excellent job! Oh, and I almost forgot - it really wasn't that bad out there today!
We take our annual holiday break and will resume racing on January 5 of the new year. Happy holidays to everyone!
RACE 4 RESULTS
(S) - Spinnaker, * - 170% genoa
Race report and photos by Eric Almlie. ęCopyright 2007. All rights reserved.