October 24, 2009
By the look on everyone's face, one would have thought I handed out pop quizzes to those present at the inaugural skipper's meeting for this year's Shackleton Series. No, it wasn't a quiz but rather a summary of some basic sailing rules we should all be familiar with as well as some rules and guidelines for our winter escapades - sort of a Shackleton Series Syllabus if you will. Rules, you say? RULES?!? Why start now? Well, as we enter our 8th season of (yes, this is still strictly voluntary) wintering on the water, we thought thought it prudent for all captains and crew to be aware that there actually is some sort of method to the madness we come up with. Participation seems to be on the upswing with 12 captains and a fairly healthy crop of crew present today- and to think just a few years ago crew was just a novel concept, a twinkle in each skipper's eye. And with some new folks present, it might be a good thing to educate them as to just how things operate around here. (If you have wiseacre tendencies about you, comments regarding the prior statement are strictly verboten!)
One thing for certain, we tend to be a little less laid back when sailing this series. The heat of competition is certainly elevated as seen by Captain Mike on Beatnik. Maybe it has something to do with trying to stay warm. Opening days have normally been greeted with mild, sunny, autumn like conditions - today, not so much. No, we weren't moving in cold point territory but it was only in the mid 50's and the sun refused to come out - and those dastardly western winds kept us moving about and hampered any intentions to fire up one's grill during this race - although Shawn did mention that the bratwurst kept rolling off the grill during the heeling, a similar fate commonly experienced by Shackleton and his men on the James Caird.
Why things are getting so serious here, we even had an official photographer instead of seeing lots of skippers veer off course attempting to get that action shot. ( I am still amazed that after all these years there have been no cameras lost to the depths of this river.) Actually, many of us skippers were still messing around with our cameras and veering off course, but a friend of the Beatnik crew, Tyler Menne, motored around the lake with his canine friends and snapped some very nice action shots throughout the race. This is not meant to discourage future photography from participating vessels by any means. ALL pictures are welcome as they are always very good and we do not know how long Mr. Menne will be providing this service once discovering the average starting salary of your typical Shackelton Series photographer is not very attractive. This is due to the fact that once again, even before the series has started, the treasury is already operating from a deficit.
Yes indeed, funds are tight but the fleet shall rejoice in knowing that the race committee is again armed with a proper communication device, having acquired a handheld VHF in the off season. But now that the VHF void has been filled, it still does NOT mean everyone can start hailing me again during the 5 minute countdown and ask me how many minutes before the start! In fact, those of you who have your list of Shackleton Series Rules beside you (can't imagine going anywhere without them) get a pen THIS INSTANT and add an amendment making it a felonious crime to even THINK of hailing me for such information. Any breech of this measure will result in the lopping of heads. Or even more severe, a deduction of series' points! See, that is the only problem once a list of rules are established - someone is always tacking on further regulations and restrictions! And truth be known, I didn't hear any chatter taking place over the radio waves this day. Of course this might be due to the fact that my VHF that was tethered to the backstay had bounced around a little during the day and upon observation after returning to the dock, it was now tuned in on channel 74 instead of 72. Oops!
Quickly changing subjects, it is necessary to introduce some new boats and skippers (and even some old ones returning from extended absences) to this year's series. First, although having plenty of winter racing experience, this will be the first year that David Barrow sails his Mariner 36 Moriah. Already this classic looking ketch rigged boat has proven itself on the race course, taking 2nd Place in this year's Great River Drop Regatta. Yes, David backed up his tough talk prior to that race and now only a few broken doohickeys and a couple busted battens are all that stands in the way of "taking down Chambers." Regardless if David would be successful in this endeavor or not, one thing for sure is the rest of the fleet now has a case of flag envy - that thing is huge! But it looks great!
Speaking of "doohickeys" (better known as sail slugs - flashback to Race 8 in 2005 for this reference), Anthony West makes his return to this series as well and is back sailing his Alberg 24. Over the years Anthony has pulled out many a secret weapon with a creativity and cunningness surpassed perhaps only by Wile E. Coyote ("sooper" genius) and we can only imagine the tricks up his sleeve for success in this year's series. Look for the boat parts division of Acme to have a banner year. We would also like to welcome Patrick Sweetman sailing his O'Day 25 Stella and Bob Rupe in his S2 24 Nightwind. Patrick's O'Day 25 is a very nice boat and he has been been getting acquainted with her by sailing often throughout the summer months. Meanwhile Nightwind has been docked at the marina for eons but has seen somewhat limited use over the years. That is until Bob purchased her a little over a year ago and got her in good sailing form. Both boats are a definite welcome addition to our fleet.
It certainly was no surprise seeing the all girl sailing team back in action. Ellen, Brandi, Amy, and Michelle are always competitive and exhibit the true spirit of what this winter series is all about. What was a bit of a surprise (to me anyway - perhaps others were in the loop) was that we did not see the familiar Sassafras out on the water but rather, Brandi's Seafarer 22 Athena. This is another boat that has been moored at the Sale Creek docks for a long time that Brandi acquired earlier this year - it is great seeing her back on the race course again as well.
The remaining participants should all be familiar if you have followed this series - once again we will be attempting to gun down Maniac, last year's champ. We will also be watching Carol Lynn closely, as James and Kristen are getting better and better with each race. The crew on Beatnik is fired up as always as are the crews on True Blue and Smoke on the Water. And rounding things off, Andre chose to sail Dutchess which left Hasta La Vista up for grabs - so I grabbed it!
It was a record turnout for opening day and all of us sailed with crew with the exception of Andre and Bob who both decided to single hand in this one. Chances were though that we were not going to do much tacking with the westerly winds. And sure enough, I can't really offer a "tack by tack" report here since that there really weren't that many tacks and jibes. In fact, I think Hasta La Vista (and several other boats) made only two tacks and one jibe all race long. To say it was a race of reaching would perhaps be an understatement. And if you recall from races past, Maniac is most vulnerable in these types of winds and we were all anxious to get our licks in! Of course right from the get go, any outsiders might make the keen observation of, "okay, if Maniac is so vulnerable, explain why they are way up there and the rest of the fleet is back here!" Well, it just goes to show you that you can't always believe what you see (plus I know how to work the numbers in the end!)
As the starting horns blasted, it appeared that a good number of us (self NOT included) have been working on our starts during the offseason. It was a good beginning for many boats as we took the short downwind ride to Grasshopper Creek (new season, old habits) before turning slightly to make our way down to Opossum Creek. For being of the western variety, the winds were fairly consistent. Yes, some shiftiness and puffs were experienced but nothing that was unexpected or overpowering. Still, we all worked those sheets hard this day as they were constantly being adjusted.
Honestly, although this was indeed a very fun race, it was rather uneventful. The water was only a fraction down to winter pool, so we have no gory (and hilarious) groundings to mention. All marks were rounded properly. No one lost their doohickeys. There WAS a brief altercation between True Blue and Beatnik - something about both wanting to stake claim to the exact same patch of water. We remind everyone that sailing is NOT a contact sport and body checking is forbidden - add this to your list of rules. Actually it was just a little side-to-side bump and no protests were filed.
There were a few ambitious spinnaker flights this day on the return from Opossum Creek. Chutes can be difficult to tame with west winds but there was a portion of the course where the winds clocked a little more from the south. Of course you know everyone who did not fly a spinnaker was screaming, "no fair!" at this point. Not so much because the wind shifted a little but more because of envy - we can't stand to see someone fly a chute when ours is still stuffed in its bag. Unfortunately for the spinnaker clad boats, the southerlies would fade and everyone eventually sailed into a rest area - otherwise known as a dead patch of air. When the wind did return it was WNW and those spinnakers had to dump them quickly.
Making our way to the finish line, some boats had better wind then others as we tended to arrive in groups - sailors are such social creatures. Yes, indeed Maniac is very vulnerable on days that feature a lot of reaching. And indeed, battens and doohickeys would not be the answer as the Chambers took Race 1. Congrats to them again! Sailing very quietly but consistently is Carol Lynn and James and Kristen would take 2nd. Nice job by them as well. Although True Blue would cross the finish line next, it would be a couple of those pesky smaller boats that would correct out in front of the Ranger 33 - Hasta La Vista would take 3rd while Edge and Chuck would finish 4th in Smoke on the Water. Nice job by everyone today! It was a fun race but we must add one more rule, which is now the most important since we couldn't take them down in their "weakened state". And that rule is to bury Maniac at all costs! Race 2 will be here very soon!
(More pictures below!)
RACE 1 RESULTS
Race report written by Eric Almlie. ęCopyright 2009. All rights reserved.