February 9, 2008
After sailing in the conditions of today's match, a motion has been brought forward that we enact a new statute to the lone strictly adhered to bylaw of The Shackleton Series. Wow, that would make TWO rules we would have to remember and commit to memory. That would be in addition to all those REAL racing rules that we are supposed to have knowledge of and actually adhere to (pause for laughter to subside). And let us not forget about those buoys out there. Whew! That's already a lot to keep track of and now this gets thrown into the mix? What could possibly be the reasoning for such thinking? And now that your curiosity is aroused as to what this new rule under consideration could possibly be...telling you now would just ruin the suspense of this entire write up so you will simply have to read on...
First off, the weather. Notice anything peculiar about the J24 crew on the left? Well the fact that you can actually SEE the crew should be enough of a clue that we weren't bundled up beyond recognition because of the cold weather. No, we would actually be flirting with 60 degree temps today. And if you have followed our racing here for any length of time, you are no doubt aware of the fun we have with breezes coming out of the west. Well, today was going to be one of those encounters with the wacky west winds. Add all this up and you would expect a record turnout! Well, not really. There were a few with prior commitments so I guess we can understand only 8 boats out there today. But it always seems that we have the MOST participation on the coldest and worst days. I really am afraid to know what that says about us!
Yes, sadly we would be without True Blue, Asylum, and the J 92 today. And what has happened to Seaductress? We have only seen Rodger in one race this year. Has yet another one of the original Shackletonites finally come to his senses and abandoned us? But at least we haven't scared off two of the crew pool from last race. Both Ron Harr and Mary Cable returned to offer their services today. Ron would again join Andre on Dutchess while Mary sailed with me on Hasta La Vista. And we had two others available for recruitment - Kent Kindervater and his wife teamed up with Tim and Lynn on Maniac.
Well enough of the roll call and onto the race. When we arrived out in the channel we were greeted with a good southerly wind, not that much out of the west at all. I went conservative on the San Juan 24 and prepared for the working jib, instead of the standard 155%. Having never raised this sail before I was alarmed at its miniscule size after seeing it hoisted -at the MOST it ran only about two-thirds up the forestay. It was a bit undersized for the conditions so with the 5 minute horn fast approaching, we attempted a quick upgrade to the 155% (and remembered to bring those fenders in). What could have been a very ugly scenario with all the bustle in those very short five minutes, the sail swap was successful, the starting horn sequences were dead on - okay, MAYBE a half second late with the one minute horn (so sue me), and somehow we were right on the starting line in a decent position at the start of the race.
And we all know how important a good start is, or even more important, how detrimental a bad start is. After all in serious match racing, say like The Americas Cup, a bad start can often mean the end of the race right then and there. And as the J 24 was a little early to the line in today's race and would have to circle back, I thought about the match racing comparison and could hear a Howard Cosell commentary in my head, "ooh, a tough break for the guys on the J 24. Not only will that cost them the race, the entire season is in jeopardy! What a bitter blow!" Well, if you haven't noticed, this ISN'T the America's Cup and the race certainly wasn't over for them. And Howard Cosell providing play by play for sailing? I think not. So in reality, the crew on the J 24 turned a TIGHT circle that only seemed to give them more speed and when they did cross the start line, they had good momentum and sped off to Buoy 1 (Grasshopper Creek, where else?)
The wind had now definitely shifted to the west. After rounding Buoy 1, we went across the river to the next downstream buoy - this was a very brief upwind leg, which for some, still didn't mean any tacking - it was simply a rounding of Buoy 1, remaining on the same tack and pointing high enough to round Buoy 2 before falling off a little to head directly downstream a few miles to Buoy 3. With the west winds now doing their thing in full force, it was the normal combination of close hauled, close reaching, and beam reaching work downstream. A little shifty, a little gusty but at least there was no tacking down to Buoy 3. There were some good puffs that leaned us all over from time to time. In the Buoy 2 rounding, Hasta La Vista caught a gust that even with the boat a good distance to clear the mark, the genoa was just mere inches away from making contact with it due to the extreme angle of heel. Chuck on Freya, who was directly behind kept a keen eye and was ready to blow the whistle if a foul occurred, but the rounding was clean.
Meanwhile, on Alexa, David had crew consisting of Steve Cobble and Carl Kiefer. During the trek downstream Carl was sitting in on the cabin top in front of the mast, feet down on the low toe rail. Alexa, too got a puff that leaned them over, sending water over the rail and over Carl's ankles. Then after rounding Buoy 3 and heeling the boat the other direction, it was Carl's head that got close enough to the water for the river monsters to reach out and snatch his hat. Gotta watch out for those river monsters. I lost a shoe to them in a race a few years back - they are vicious!
As expected, Maniac was out in front of the pack. The J 24 and Dutchess were keeping an excellent pace and having a good battle amongst themselves, neither able to get much separation from each other although the J 24 held a slight lead advantage over the Trintella. Hasta La Vista was in 4th position until all of a sudden James and Kristen on Carol Lynn made a move and passed almost effortlessly to windward. Chuck and Edge then pulled the same trick shortly after, passing the San Juan to the leeward side. Did we fall asleep or something? It happened so suddenly! One minute we were several boat lengths ahead and the next, several boat lengths behind. And Sassafras and Alexa were back not too far lurking and looking to move up as well.
Rounding Buoy 3 and reversing our course, it was really more of the same type of winds and similar points of sail. And it wasn't long before Carol Lynn, Freya, and Hasta La Vista began a rousing game of leap frog. Now when the wind is up like this the fleet can really get spread out - well, it gets that way in light air, too. But in heavier wind, even though one boat might be a good bit behind or ahead distance wise and hard to see on the course, don't forget about those wonderful handicaps that have a HUGE effect on the outcome. Peering upriver I saw 3 boats - I knew one was the J 24 and another was Dutchess. I wasn't quite sure of the other - couldn't have been Maniac - they are normally out of view at this point in the race. And there appeared to be a white spinnaker flying - well, flogging more than flying to be technical. Who IS that? After careful observation for a few minutes I confirmed, "HEY! That IS Maniac!" And the J 24 and Dutchess are definitely ahead on corrected time! This could be interesting as we headed down the home stretch.
An interesting finish indeed. But before we proclaim the results of those 3 leading boats, the middle of the pack was involved in a nail biter as well. Rounding the last buoy and going into the final stretch, Hasta La Vista, Freya, and Carol Lynn were practically sailing on top of each other. Chuck was ahead on corrected time and it appeared that he would win the middle of the pack battle. But the wind swirled greatly as we entered the secondary channel and all of a sudden shifted directly on our nose. Short tacks followed and by a margin of 1 second - yes, 1 second, Hasta La Vista would finish 3rd overall and Freya would take 4th.
3rd and 4th? Yes, you read that right - our math is correct. Which means, of the 3 frontrunners, one of them would not finish in the first or second slot but rather, in the 5th after all the time corrections were factored in. If there is an Achilles heel on the J 29 in these waters, it is in races that involve lots of reaching and less upwind work, like today, for example. And yes, as we hear Howard Cosell exclaim, "The champion is down! The champion is down!" it would be Maniac who would fall to that 5th spot. So who won? Andre, also known affectionately as "The Mad Dutchman" among a few of the regulars here said, "we gave them all we could, but we couldn't catch them" (or words similar - it was a couple weeks ago, I can't remember!). The J 24 would taste victory today. Congratulations to Mike, Mark, and the other crewman (sorry, I didn't get the name) for their win and very well sailed race. Same to Andre and Ron, and everyone else out there today.
And not to forget the captains and crews on Sassafras and Alexa . Earlier this year in Race 1 we displayed the special Shackleton plaque that was hand painted by Mike Miller to be awarded to the skipper who best exemplifies the spirit and character of Shackleton at the end of this series. Mike, can you get busy and make another one? Both Ellen and David are well deserving of this award! And a huge thanks to Mary who did an excellent job crewing for me in only the second time she has ever sailed. She has also shown a lot of Shackleton character in the last two races crewed.
In summary, today an empire was toppled! Well, for now, until the next race when Maniac obliterates us by a 40 minute margin. That is, unless we enact SHACKLETON RULE #2 which states - "From this, the 9th day of February, 2008 A.D. on forward, each and every Shackleton race shall have a race course in which 95% of sailing consists of beam reaches." Anyone up for sailing back and forth from Sale Creek to Grasshopper Creek about 30 times next race? See you then!
RACE 7 RESULTS
Race report written by Eric Almlie. ęCopyright 2008. All rights reserved. Photos by Ron Harr and Eric Almlie.
BONUS PICTURES BELOW!
The crew on Sassafras maneuvering around before the start no doubt discussing top secret race strategy!
James and Kristen on Carol Lynn doing the same!
Mary at the helm!
Hasta La Vista
More pictures to be published soon! Stay tuned!