December 5, 2009
It is not that we have never sailed in adverse conditions as we have certainly done our share of racing in situations that would make any casual observer stop, point, and laugh. Even "normal" sailors have raised a brow our two when hearing of our escapades. But after all these years, despite having chopped ice, battle near zero wind chills, blindly drift in the fog, and don the foulest of foul weather gear, we have never had to deal with actual snow during a race, other than seeing a stray snowflake perhaps. Well a snow forecast finally became a reality in the Tennessee Valley and we were greeted with a beautiful winter scenery while prepping our boats for Race 3. Snow is such a novelty in these parts it kind of makes one forget just how cold it is out there. Below freezing temperatures for some reason seem a little more tolerable when there is a little bit of white stuff on the ground and in the trees. What would it be like sailing in it? Well, we still do not have an answer to that question.
Like many of the snowfalls here, if you blinked you missed it. Yes, the sun peeked out, the temperature warmed up, and our beautiful and appropriate Shackleton scenery had disappeared.. Well "warmed up" is a generous statement since it never reached 40 degrees, so score everyone an extra cold point. But it was enough to melt off the snow meaning there would be no extra point for dealing with precipitation, and no spectacular winter sailing photos. But perhaps most disappointing was the fact that the armory of snowballs I had so carefully packed and stockpiled in the cockpit of Hasta La Vista had quickly been reduced to nothing but a puddle that drained harmlessly out the scuppers unspent. Makes me think now that I should have prepared better for the race than spending all that time inscribing the boat names on each snowball - and oh, there was a good one reserved for Beatnik!
Today's wind forecast had been downgraded from 10-20 to 5-10 which spoiled our initial plans to circumnavigate Hiwassee Island (be prepared - ONE of these days we will make our long awaited return to the refuge.) Instead a trip up to the Highway 60 bridge was drawn up and although we do not do this very often, we would once again tempt fate by NOT sailing to the Grasshopper Creek Nun. So there is no telling what kind of bad voodoo we might encounter today, if any. Well, the race hadn't even started when the "if any" became reality. Seen in this picture, it just appears that Dutchess and Nightwind were just sailing along early on in the race - business as usual, right? Well, looking just to the right of Dutchess' giant decksweeper, you will notice that Moriah was observing the race from the spectator seats, better known as The Sale Creek Shoals. Yes, David had grounded well before the start and would reside there until the several boats crossed the finish line.
And unfortunate events would not stop here. Just a short ways upstream we heard that familiar "BAM!" noise again. Apparently Andre wanted some battle wounds on his hull like the rest of us had from Race 2. Unfortunately crashing into buoys was not part of this race course - especially ones that are sitting idle out there and not serving as one of the rounding marks. Dutchess would do the appropriate penalty turn but not before losing some of the momentum they were gaining at the time.
Speaking of buoy roundings, this was not the normal straight shot up to the bridge and back race course. Good imaginations are necessary for developing a course each sailor will find not only intriguing but challenging as well. And at every skipper's meeting it is the same words that echo every time the maps are circulated, "what is THIS?" Today "this" would be the little zigzag thrown at about the halfway point up to Highway 60, which would also have to be repeated on the return trip. And "this" would lead to some frustration and heartbreak on the course. Buoy 1 (which doubled as Buoy 4) happened to be located near a giant wind vacuum that was working intermittently. And when the wind did escape the vacuum, it would shift from a different direction. And don't forget current. There was a little bit of that thrown in to make it even more interesting. But we finally made our way around Buoys 1 and 2 and soon all of us captains and crew were headed to the bridge. Or were we?
It was Chuck that made a keen observation about this picture of Carol Lynn and True Blue. Where are the people? It appears that the boats are eerily sailing themselves. It kind of reminded me of Stephen King's Maximum Overdrive, where all the machines and electrical appliances go on a genocidal rampage and try to destroy us humans. In the end (skip over if you wish to avoid the spoiler that is forthcoming) the humans are seen sailing off to an island of the coast of North Carolina where there are no machines. What they don't say is why they weren't terrorized by power boats (guided on their own OR by humans!) immediately upon leaving the dock under sail! But once again, I am rambling on. We were indeed in command of our boats. How else would you explain the groundings that would soon emanate?
Well, there were only two groundings - the one on Smoke on the Water was incredibly brief and I don't think they hardly lost any boat speed. I should know since our respective boats were involved in a pretty good tacking duel at the time. The second grounding, however, was a tad costlier Nightwind, who was sailing an excellent course and right on the heels of Smoke and Hasta La Vista, also found the bottom about a mile south of the bridge. Although Bob and his crewmate were able to free themselves, it was not until a good portion of the fleet had passed them... on the return from the bridge. But Nightwind would continue forth, displaying great endurance, the substance that makes us Shackleton sailors what we are - and after all these years, we still don't know what that is.
If you really observed the title photo on this page, you will note that "other" speedy boat has returned. Yes, Chris Cyrul and his crew were parting the fleet on the course with Opus Dei. It is always nice having them sail with us and plus it gives Maniac someone to play with in that sector of the fleet. Honestly, we ARE trying to compete with these two speedsters and on those rare instances when we do correct out in front of one of them it really is a momentous occasion! But we can pretty much guarantee that the person finishing in the slot directly behind these boats has no qualms about chalking that up in the win column as well! "So I finished 2nd to Maniac or Opus Dei or 3rd to both? That's a win if I ever saw one!" That said, there are no doubts as to the top two finishers today. Although there would be some leap frogging going on between the two every now and then, today it would be Chris getting the advantage and scoring the very first Shackleton victory for Opus Dei! Very nice job and congrats to them! Also a very nice job done by Tim on Maniac as he single handed his way to 2nd place meaning this would not make win number "gazillion and one" for him. Maybe next time!
So who would get 3rd place, which is now the new 1st place? Well the odds favored Mike Burrus on Beatnik as the J 24 was sailing a strong race. But remember the bad voodoo? Unfortunately Beatnik overshot Buoy 4 (which is a nice way of saying they forgot all about it). But they did remember to backtrack and pick it up. Unfortunately this would cost several positions and any hope for a 3rd place finish was now gone. Carol Lynn, Dutchess, and True Blue were all in contention but again, Buoy 4 came into play. The rest of the fleet did remember to acknowledge its presence but the winds in the general vicinity were still fickle. Carol Lynn and Dutchess were involved in an altercation which resulted in a penalty turn for James but also cost Dutchess some time as well. It looked like True Blue was going to have the distance on the rest of us to take 3rd.
But towards the very end, Smoke and Hasta La Vista got a little boost from the wind increasing (to make up for the setbacks we had from earlier!). It would be close and we really weren't sure who got 3rd until after I plugged in the numbers and tweaked them to my liking (what do you know, it is win number gazillion and two for Hasta La Vista!) Actually 3rd would go to True Blue. Shawn did a great job single handing in this race. In fact, of the top 5 finishers, four boats were sailed solo. Hmmm...maybe that crew thing is overrated! No, not really. Crew would have been a big help during the gusts today for sure. And by the way, we ALL had good and bad fortunes out there and for the most part, it all evened out in the end. Except for those two fast boats - they get all the breaks! But just wait 'til Race 4 - we will get them then!
And by the way, a nice job done by the Athena crew. Although a tad late to the starting area they made a nice recovery. And again, nice job of the Nightwind crew to continue on after their lengthy grounding. The only boat lost was the USS Georgia. Maybe we will find them in Race 4! See you then!
RACE 3 RESULTS
Race report written by Eric Almlie. ęCopyright 2009 All rights reserved.