January 5, 2008
This is what we like...ringing in the new year in a proper fashion. This fine winter Saturday we were provided the good fortunes of some moderate temperatures and a nice southerly breeze. This is in stark contrast to just a few days ago that never got above freezing, had northerly winds gusting to 30, and even a light dusting of snow in some areas. Yes, the latter would be considered ideal Shackleton weather...depending on who you are talking to and what kind of warped view you have of "ideal" weather. But you see, we have been spoiled in this year's series (not a single cold point to be had) and I don't think ANYONE has any remorse for sailing on a day like today instead of last Wednesday. In years' past it was common that crewmates were a scarcity by Race 5 - couldn't even bribe people to sail with us. Today, although there would be two boats being single handed, crew was still plentiful - by Shackleton Series standards anyway.
Of course if you think having crew is a good thing, you might think otherwise if you caught the tail end of the somewhat graphic conversation I did as the skipper's meeting was winding up. I overheard Mike and Lynn talking to Andre about their creative ways to "dispose of the body." Turns out they were referring to Tim, the skipper of Maniac. Man, talk about your mutinies - even Captain Bligh got a life raft! As we ventured out to the lake we were keeping a close eye on Maniac and noticed all 3 were still on board and accounted for. Little does anyone know that each boat that sails in The Shackleton Series is equipped with a black box to record intercommunication (yes, like those same ones used on airplanes) because you never know what kind of trouble is going to happen out there. The one on Maniac recorded the following conversation:
MIKE: "I don't want to work too hard today, so let's use the blade." (Wow! That IS really kind of horrific sounding if you don't know that a blade is a small working jib.)
LYNN: "Yeah, what he said."
TIM: "It might be a little light for that. How do you feel about the 145%?"
MIKE: "You can use that sail, but I'm not going to trim it. If you want me to pull on the sheet, it better be attached to the blade."
As you can sense the tension building here there was some "unintelligible" conversation that ensued but it was deciphered that there was an agreement that if the wind got light, they could change-up on the run. With about 3 minutes to go before the start the winds had subsided some and the recordings became clearer:
MIKE: "Let's not get too far from the line now that it has gone light."
LYNN: "Where IS the line, anyway?"
TIM: "We're on it right now."
MIKE: "I guess that's 'mission accomplished.'"
TIM: "I'm starting to think that we chose the wrong jib."
LYNN: "Oh, it'll probably pick up when we get back out of this creek."
Well, there was nothing really incriminating by that conversation so we figured Tim was relatively safe because of this and because the fleet was close by - you know, that safety in numbers thing. But things could change once the race started and Maniac was no longer visible by the remainder of the fleet so Tim was on his own now. Come to think of it, he would be on his own even if he did stay close to the fleet - once the race starts, we don't really care about what happens on boats other than our own! "You mean Tim didn't return with you? Gee, that's a bummer for him now isn't it? What was your finish time again?"
Anyway, Shackleton Race 5 was underway at promptly 11:15. We welcome back Mike Miller and his daughter Betsy sailing on Asylum and victors in Race 1 earlier this year - or later last year, whichever you prefer. They had a good start too, hitting the favorable end of the line at the right moment. We had expected to see Carol Lynn sporting a shiny new 150% but apparently it is still in patterns at the sail loft. Most of us would agree that it might be a tad premature to put it in commission just yet. James would also be sailing solo today as Kristen was out due to illness. In the last race I failed to report that Chuck and Edge on Freya were both sailing injured in that one - Chuck had a broken toe while Edge had an injured foot from stepping on a nail. Only 2 good feet among them last time and they finished in 2nd - imagine what they might do today with 4 good feet!
True Blue was also present today for the 2nd straight race. Shawn must be taking this racing thing seriously as the Ranger was armed with spinnaker, waiting to be deployed when the time was right - and Shawn was single handing too! We haven't seen the chute on True Blue in quite some time - during the last solar eclipse I believe, which is what results when a spinnaker of this grandiosity is hoisted.
The all girl crew on Sassafras was back - is there a group out there that doesn't have more fun then they do? At least ONCE each race we will hear a chorus of "woo hoo!" come shouting from their boat. But always enthusiastic as well, David was out in Alexa again, and this time with crew. Despite having favorable conditions for the Trintella, Andre passed on sailing Dutchess today and teamed up with me on Hasta La Vista. Yes, I called in the big guns to help me against my arch nemesis, that red J 24. Mike and Mark would definitely be on their game today (not unlike any other) to preserve their stronghold atop the standings. Actually I am just kidding about the nemesis thing. There are no bitter rivalries here, no enemies, no trash talking...okay scratch that last one. There is no shortage of that! But all in fun of course.
The first upwind course down to the Camp Vesperpoint red buoy (Three Hour Nun) was quite pleasant with a decent steady wind and featured some good solid sailing by everyone. Other than a couple short groundings, everyone sailed so well on this leg that I have no juicy material to post on this section of the race. The groundings early on were not worth mentioning because they are greatly overshadowed by the ones that would happen later.
We had a nice long downwind run. Maniac of course lead the way while the J24 and Hasta La Vista were neck and neck for a good bit of the run all flying our chutes. The wind picked up somewhat and I was thankful Andre was crewing - I would have been dead meat handling that spinnaker by myself today. Asylum was also flying their kite but since there were no dark shadows being cast over the water, we knew that True Blue's spinnaker remained packed and we needn't have to worry about how fast the Ranger would be downwind. But the non spinnaker boats were definitely holding their own and doing a good job, too. While the wind was picking up I made the improbable observation that we appeared to be GAINING on Maniac. Andre said, "I doubt that." I responded, "well, they're not getting any smaller!" Sure enough, we appeared to have the wind advantage at this moment and Maniac did not have things sewed up like they normally by this time in the race. It was still up for grabs. Unfortunately, immediately following this proud moment the spinnaker jibes on both Hasta La Vista and the J 24 were beaten to death by the proverbial ugly stick. And the wind began picking up for Maniac as well. NOW they were getting smaller.
But don't stick a fork in us just yet. As we rounded the leeward mark it was still a good race. Again, the J 24 and San Juan 24 were battling it out. Mike and Mark tried to pass us to windward but we would have NONE of that. After our respective boats got a little TOO close for comfort Mike changed course and Mark hollered out, "all right, we will just duck behind you and pass you that way!" Which they quickly did and seemed to do so rather effortlessly.
I know what you are saying now, "Eric, this is all fine and dandy but you mentioned something about groundings earlier?" Yes, it wasn't just a teaser, I was getting to all the gory details. It was Carol Lynn hitting first. Asylum, who was following closely, decided to use Carol Lynn's deeper keel as an indicator of safe water for their shallower draft centerboard. But once they realized that James was aground, it was too late, they were stuck in 10 inches of water. It took some time but the Tanzer broke free first. About the time this was going on, David mentioned that one of his crew on Alexa was talking about cold hands and how rough the cold weather can be on a sailor's hands. Another then began about Santiago's rough hands in The Old Man and the Sea and about saying his "Hail Marys". As they approached Carol Lynn, David said he was giving James a hard time and said, "them's my shallows!" And about the time Carol Lynn was finally free from the river bottom Alexa's forward momentum came to a complete halt.. "I didn't say my Hail Marys," David said Well, yes - salutations certainly can't hurt but would it not be a better plan that when you witness someone aground in a certain spot, avoid that spot? But then again we sailor's have a somewhat gregarious nature about us. And I do remember what it was like when I owned a shoal draft centerboarder. You are kind of drawn to shallow water as if it is mocking you and you feel it your duty to attempt to sail over it. Be that as it may, groundings are always costly and they would be so again today. As everyone was sailing so well.
Headed towards the finish line after rounding the Grasshopper Creek buoy we had one more short downwind run, barely over half a mile long to the favored red mark of the finish line. Maniac hoisted their spinnaker immediately. This meant only one thing, we were close enough to be of concern! Well, at that point, not really - we were close enough at the leeward mark to force that decision but by the time it was said and done, Maniac would score victory with plenty of time to spare and yes, Tim survived the race. Congrats to them for some great sailing as always. That ugly stick revealed itself again on the second spinnaker hoists by Hasta La Vista and the J 24. Note to self: it's a good idea to repack those things properly if you plan to hoist them again isn't it? In the end it neither helped or hurt either one of us. A great upwind leg on the way back by Mike and Mark but Hasta La Vista would correct out. I give full credit to my crew Andre as he worked hard today although now that I think about it, I was a bit too kind... I never put him up on the rail and used him as rail meat when we were getting over powered! Just as well as there are no lifelines on that boat to hang on to.
Good sailing by everyone and had there not been any grounding, things might have turned out a little different. Let's hope for winds like this always! Thanks to Ellen, Chuck, and Mark, for all the pictures today. See you at Race 6!
RACE 5 RESULTS
Race report written by Eric Almlie. ęCopyright 2008. All rights reserved. Photos by Ellen Long, Chuck Alexander, and Mark Welsh.