November 9, 2008
How about I just type "Race 1 - ditto" here and leave it at that? It was almost spooky how much this race and the last one were similar. It was another beautiful fall day (which we are CERTAINLY not complaining about!), we would have the same "interesting" winds out of the WNW, we would sail down to Opossum Creek making the mandatory Grasshopper Creek buoy visits along the way, there would be triumph and heartbreak, ill fated spinnaker runs, cries of frustration, cries of jubilation - well, when you get down to it, many of these things are not unlike what is seen in any other race!
But even with all the usual stuff happening there is some new to report. We would welcome Chris Cyrul and crew from PYC sailing his Olson 30 Opus Dei. This is one fast boat that actually did make an appearance during a Shackleton race a few years ago - if you blinked you missed it. Actually they were just out sailing around while we were racing that day in December 2005 - literally, they were sailing AROUND us while we were racing! The Olson 30 has an average PHRF of 102, which means we can now have two fleets - The Blur That Went By Fleet consisting of Opus Dei and Maniac and then the Laid Back Don't Understand the Rush Fleet consisting of everyone else. Actually we do understand the rush so we might call ourselves the Cool Looking High Tech Sail Envy Fleet instead. Those are some sharp looking sails on Opus Dei and we all know that high tech looking sails are almost as good for speed on the race course as matching uniforms are. But since none of us were donning the latter (or even the former) our chances against the Insanely Fast Boat Fleet were not looking promising.
And speaking of these fast rated boats, we set the handicap of the Olson 30 at 99 instead of 102. Not because of the high tech sails or anything like that even though it is tempting to have such an adustment! In our most recent ratings file there are 3 handicaps listed for each boat, a low (fast), high (slow), and average. Most of the boats in our fleet have been assigned their average handicap while a couple others are rated at their fast handicap, including Maniac, which is 3 seconds lower than their average. We will hazard a guess here and say that most likely Opus Dei and Maniac will be competing pretty close to boat for boat and therefore it only seemed fair that Opus Dei have their fast rating as well.
Early on we could see the aggressiveness of the Olson 30 crew as they popped the spinnaker right at the starting line. NOBODY does that around here! Is that even legal? Well just as soon as we saw that, Christopher on Banana Split made the same bold move. It was a gutsy call in a crowded area with fickle winds but Opus soon climbed to the front of the fleet while Split moved into 3rd position as we headed towards (where else?) Grasshopper Creek!
As we rounded the Grasshopper Creek nun and headed a little more directly down river, the wind was generally more on the beam and forward, making spinnaker flying a little more challenging. Split was unable to maintain their chute and soon abandoned the big sail, dropping back into the fleet. Opus continued on with it, surprisingly keeping it full but not putting much distance between them and Maniac. Hasta La Vista had moved into 3rd position and just like last race, there was a gap between the front runners and the rest of the fleet. It had started off as kind of a nice reach down the river and it appeared that we were going to get to Opossum Creek much faster than we did in Race 1. But we all know things don't always go as planned.
As winds began to get fluky, I looked back to see a spinnaker flying on Smoke on the Water. And they appeared to be making up some ground - or some "river" to be more specific. Ground is the LAST thing you want to be making in a sailboat! At present for me the wind was coming from abaft so I thought about hoisting my chute. That thought was entertained for only seconds as the wind shifted and put me on a close hauled course complete with lifts and headers. Thankfully no tacking was necessary. Then the wind would ease again and move off towards the beam and it would be even more enticing to hoist the big sail when I saw the chute go up on Beatnik this time. But again, same situation with wind shifts. Beatnik's spinnaker flight was briefer than they would have preferred but Smoke was still able to continue theirs. Carol Lynn and Banana Split were battling it out boat for boat and is my memory correct that the spinnaker went up again on Split? Not sure - I have to start writing these reports while the race is still fresh! Meanwhile, Andre was rallying on the trailing Dutchess, and would begin picking off boats one-by-one (metaphorically speaking). Sassafras would be the first victim.
As we approached Eldridge Slough. Opus and Maniac began pulling away even further and Opus finally doused their spinnaker and went with the genoa. Even though they were able to keep their spinnaker full on the trek downstream, the genoa was more efficient and soon the Olson began pulling away from Maniac. (Wow - that's the first time I have EVER typed those words, "pulling away from Maniac"!) And like in Race 1 Hasta La Vista found a nice flat area and drifted along, sails getting limp. In the calm I could hear the conversation taking place between True Blue and Beatnik still many boat lengths behind who were also slowing down. "I don't like the looks of Eric's sails up there," said Shawn fearing an impending drifter. "I don't either," Mark replied. Then Mark added, "well, I really don't mind as long as HIS stay like that and ours don't!" Yes, it is amazing how well sound travels over water now isn't it? I'll remember that!
But even more amazing is how the winds were now becoming so different for every single boat on the lake - and really it is not like the boats' waypoints are THAT different around here. Opus hit the downstream turning buoy first with a good lead over the rest of the fleet. Only one problem - since they were new to our fleet the crew was unaware of one of our regular rules here (even though it is written in fine print on the course maps) that states all buoys must be passed on the channel side unless otherwise indicated. We are a pretty lenient group and will let a lot of flagrant fouls slide, but we are picky about our buoys! Opus had passed on the wrong side of one and it was awhile before we were able to make them aware of it. (The curse of having too fast a boat where you are out of shouting range from the others and not monitoring the VHF.) The Olson crew did exonerate themselves by sailing back and correcting their course but it would cost dearly in time. But even with all that extra sailing Opus would STILL cross the finish line in 2nd position!
Once we began returning from Opossum Creek, True Blue and Hasta La Vista began exchanging positions and seemed to have a pretty good hold on their spots. Until Shawn and I both parked and waited for the rest of the fleet to catch up and after which we all swapped positions regularly. I don't believe reliving the rest of the race is not something ANY of us really want to do (plus I AM trying to meet a deadline here!) so I won't elaborate too much further except to say it was perhaps the most frustrating of sailing ever here. At no time did any of us have the same wind (when we did have wind) and there were several occasions where we all saw our wind indicators spinning in circles! But even with all the frustrating winds, it was a beautiful day to be on the water and we would have some very close finish times which always makes things fun! Congratulations to Maniac for another solid victory! The spinnaker run would pay off for Edge and Chuck as they would correct out for 2nd place on Smoke. James on Carol Lynn would take 3rd place and introduce his crew member, Andreas Montgomery into the wonderful world of winter racing! Andreas might even be sailing his Pearson 30 in the next race. And Andre DID make a good comeback to take 4th! Great job by EVERYONE on this day. See you next time!
RACE 2 RESULTS
Race report written by Eric Almlie. ęCopyright 2008. All rights reserved. Photos by Andre Rijsdijk and Eric Almlie.