January 25, 2009
We have all heard the phrase "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry." John Steinbeck, who authored this quote, must have organized regattas on the side. Regardless of how much preparation is done or how many variables are accounted for, something is going to throw a monkey wrench into the plans. In today's race, we had it ALL figured out, though. Despite the fact that the wind was howling out of the NW at about 20 knots yesterday, we were provided a grim wind forecast today. You all know the words so let's say them together...light and variable. And the fact that the hourly discharge of water at the dam was starting to increase as the morning progressed (although nowhere near last race's flow) meant that a leisurely drift downstream might be all we could accomplish today. Okay, so when life gives you lemons..., yada yada, make margaritas and forget about it, or something like that. Anyway, we had a plan to deal with this. In the case of no wind and lots of current, we sail downstream, yes downstream (but not before rounding the GC Nun, of course) to the green can at Camp Vesperpoint, take our times there, try to sail back upstream to GC and then to the real finish line. This way, just in case we are unable to crawl back upstream (it has happened before), we could simply count our finish times as those taken at the buoy. "Well this actually makes sense," quipped Tim at the skipper's meeting upon hearing of the plan. Sense? Dang, making sense was the LAST of our intentions!
But yeah, you get the idea of what we were expecting to sail in and how we planned to accomplish our task. But as we ventured out onto the river there was a pleasant northeasterly breeze in place. Concerned that our perfect plans were in jeopardy I assured Mike and Mark on Beatnik, "fear not! This surely won't last!!" So we eased our worried minds and began to concentrate on starting positions and the other boats on the course. We did see that the D&M mentioned in Race 5 was out there today - apparently with a repaired chainplate attachment. This would better insure that the mast would stay upright during the race and not fall on any leeward boats. Well I always say, if you are going to get knocked out of the race for something, you may as well take some of the competition out with you! It was Bill Simon mentioning to me that they were sailing "Ugly Red" today. I asked if that was the official name of the vessel and he said something to the effect of, "I can't see it being named anything else!" During the pre-race maneuvers Chuck made the observation that there were a few "scuff marks" on the sides of Ugly Red and hollered over to the crew "Hey, you might have rubbed up against a buoy or something." Bill replied, "yeah, it was a red buoy. The hull used to be white!" Well regardless of its actual color, some of us were soon to begin questioning that "soft" 258 PHRF rating of the D&M! (Refer back to the Race 5 discussion on handicap assignments for more insight on that if you are just tuning in!)
As the race began and the starting horns blasted we witnessed a bit of an anomaly. The wind kept on blowing. That was okay, though - it would probably die on our way over to Grasshopper Creek, and the currents would make even fetching that buoy a challenge (it has happened before). It wasn't too long into the first leg over to the GC Nun that spinnakers began popping up randomly throughout the fleet. We certainly might need them to catch the last puff of wind that was surely going to arrive any minute now. The chutes went up in a hurry on Maniac, Beatnik, and Ugly Red. Also, Carol Lynn, Smoke on the Water, and True Blue hoisted theirs as well. Andre was single handing on Dutchess and felt the short spinnaker run we were anticipating (distance wise) was not going to be worthy of the effort, so the spinnaker was never set up for racing today. Also sailing solo, it might have been wise for me to keep mine out of sight as well on Hasta La Vista. But I didn't and after seeing all those other pretty sails puffed out I gave in to peer pressure. Needless to say the the rest of the fleet got to observe a textbook hour glass shaped spinnaker on the San Juan. In addition, half of the genoa went into the water during all of this as well. But in just a few short minutes things were under control (at least in my mind) and the chute was set... just in time to have to jibe at the GC Nun! Did anyone else work up a sweat this day?
Looking back up river from where the wind was coming from, it did not appear that it was going to diminish anytime soon. Well, that's good from the standpoint of having wind...but NOT good because of the very short course - this thing could be over in 30 minutes! Sailing along side of Smoke on the Water, Chuck delivered me a message from the lead boat Maniac that he received over the VHF. My first thought was, "what, is Tim giving us his finish time already?" No, it was worse - apparently Tim was not seeing Buoy 2 anywhere. Wow, another buoy gone missing! Chuck mentioned that his first inclination was really to tell Tim, "how about if you turn where you THINK the buoy was supposed to be and we will...yeah, uh, we will turn where WE think it is supposed to be, too!" But it was decided, as we did in Race 3, to sail down to the next green can downstream. Then the realization hit just how far downstream the next green buoy was.
Now that we more than doubled the length of the course, the wind was sure to die! But we were committed now and still could take times at the downstream buoy just in case. Hopefully those in front would do this - I had no means of communication since I was told I had exhausted the funds in the Shackleton treasury with the aerial photographs in the last race instead of a new battery for the handheld VHF. Hey, style beats practicality any day. Besides, the VHF radio is a bit of an annoyance out there and the race committee needn't be bothered by petty little things like missing buoys, especially when he is busy unwrapping spinnakers and such!
It did turn out to be a really nice spinnaker run. Tim, soloing on Maniac, led the way of course. But Ugly Red was very fast with the chute. Although I couldn't say for sure from my vantage point, if the race was going to end at Buoy 2, Chris and Bill might have the edge over everyone else here. Beatnik and Carol Lynn were doing a fine job downwind, too, with some fine spinnaker handling on both boats. I have concluded that 3 jibes and a takedown while soloing on a San Juan 24 would make an excellent weight reduction program if I stuck to that every day! It was nice seeing the BIG yellow spinnaker on True Blue - Shawn and Kristen were doing a nice job but it appears that the Ranger 33 needs a little more wind in the light air. Smoke was also moving along well and was gaining on me as we neared Buoy 2 - we seem to get these pretty interesting groupings at the buoy roundings as of late. And although the spinnaker clad boats were leading the fleet, don't feel too bad for those who didn't fly them. Dutchess, Sassafras, and Wavelength were holding their own and doing a fine job downwind as well. Again, if Buoy 2 ended up being our finish line, we could have some interesting results in this one.
Turning upwind, the breeze was still holding all over the lake, which was a very fortunate thing now as we had a much further distance to sail home. The J Boats took off like..., well like J Boats do. The wind was decent and the current would be a non factor. Well except for floating a 99.2% submerged log into the field of play. Unfortunately, Edge and Chuck would discover this log the hard way. First thinking they had run aground, they looked at the depthfinder which indicated otherwise. Then they noticed the small visible part of the log and the large mass just underneath the water's surface. Verifying that the log was NOT the rudder itself (it was a boat stopping and course altering hit) they quickly concluded that the rudder shaft had bent slightly. Being an inboard rudder the back edge of the rudder was now rubbing against the bottom of the hull, making steering quite interesting for the remainder of the race. But in a true Shackletonian spirit they finished the race and still finished pretty strong.
Although not having the upwind sailing strengths that they did downwind, Ugly Red was still sailing quite well to windward. True Blue was also very fast on the upwind leg overtaking Smoke, Hasta La Vista, and Ugly Red boat for boat. As we rounded Buoy 3 (the GC Nun, of course) and headed to the REAL finish line it looked to be another tight finish. There would be a couple of boats moving up in ranks due to corrections but once again, no one would topple Maniac. Congratulations to Tim again who has a pretty safe lead in the series now - but probably not enough to warrant missing a race. For some reason, he feels there is a high probability that we will recruit about 30 or so boats to pad the overall standings while dropping him down a few notches in his absence. Drat! He knows us too well!
And congratulations to Beatnik for their 2nd place finish and to Ugly Red, which was able to correct out in front of 3 boats (258, are you kidding me?!?) to get 3rd place. Although our original blueprints for today's race had been rendered obsolete, it turned out for the better. The extra mileage on the course and the northeasterly breeze turned out to be a blessing. Even with a cold point awarded (it was below 40 at the start) it was a really pleasant day to be sailing. And for concerns over missing buoys, we are expanding our efforts to insure that we have the most up to date buoy information possible. That's right. Look up in the skies for the Shack 4000 Satellite to be in orbit soon. And no need to worry about our budget for all this - it is all part of the bailouts!
See everyone in Race 7!
RACE 6 RESULTS
*Sailed with 170% genoa.
Race report written by Eric Almlie. ęCopyright 2009. All rights reserved. Photos by James Drozdek, Kristen Thomas, and Eric Almlie.