December 12, 2009
This morning was not unlike any other morning of a big Shackleton Series race. I woke up at 5:00 a.m., drank about half a dozen raw eggs, jogged around the city streets, went down to the meat packing plant and started pummeling on all the frozen meat dangling from the racks - all in preparation for the big day ahead. Okay, so maybe my days don't start out exactly like that. The truth be known, me seeing 5:00 A.M. on the clock is a rarity (and I much prefer it be kept that way), all the eggs I ingest are of the hot and scrambled variety, and the only time I spar with beef is when I toss a ribeye or two onto the grill. And jogging? I haven't ran since the days it was made mandatory by barbarous sadistic old gym teachers. Let's just say all the Rocky movies that have been in heavy rotation on Comcast's upper tier for like the past month have me stoked about this year's series. I was therefore saddened that for the first time ever in the history of Shackletondom, I would be absent at a race. Other commitments I had in the downtown 'Nooga took precedence this fine day.
Despite some of the preceding text, I really did start my day the same as any other race day - by surveying the conditions outside my bedroom window and turning on the weather channel. I was certain that the fleet would be as overjoyed as I with the conditions presently transpiring in addition to the forecast - a very still, low 40 something degree drizzle. It wasn't going to change much all day long either. Coupled with the dam spilling 110,000 cubic feet of pure Tennessee River water per second, it would not have surprised me any to see the fleet being whisked under the Market Street Bridge as I drove over it in the later afternoon. I was beholden that of all the races to miss, I picked the right one. Just the mere thought of that cheered me up enough to get back under the dry, warm blankets and catch an extra hour or so of sleep. And despite my commitment to this series somehow I didn't feel the least bit of guilt about the impending doom that surely awaited the Shackleton Race 4 fleet while I remained warm and dry!
But this is a gallant fleet of sailors and even with unfavorable odds, the captains and crew within are never to be underestimated. There would be no surrendering to mother nature and instead of lying-a-hull and giving in to the conditions, a bold four mile course was plotted out, half of it against a bullying current. Well to be quite exact it was 4.022 miles. Andre, who was handling all race committee duties this day sharpened his pencil and insured that every inch sailed was accounted for. Or was he accounting for centimeters? Remember he is European and they use a different system over there. Of course that would mean we would have to covert the mileage to kilometers and who knows what in the world that would do to the PHRF numbers. I think I missed metric system "day" in school - probably due to exhaustion from running all those laps. Anyhoo, when the starting horns sounded (I assume), 10 boats boldly set forth and defiantly headed upstream, scoffing at any current that attempted to push them away from those red and green turning buoys just a couple (1.6847) miles to the north.
It appears that the Olson Boys (as we are starting to call them) had brought in a ringer on Opus Dei. Not only did they have 6 people aboard (six!) but one them was "The Big Man", "The Head Honcho", "The Connection"! And yes, only ONE guy on board deserves all three of those titles! But contrary to popular belief, Santa Claus is not the ideal crewmate. Sure he can handle those sheets pretty good (comes from all that sleigh riding and reigning in those reindeer) but have you seen him try to maneuver on the foredeck? He is not the nimblest of characters, for sure. And apparently he has a fondness for Fosters as seen in these pictures. That does not help matters any. But yeah, I guess it would make dealing with all those stale cookies and warm milk at every stop he makes on Christmas Eve a little more agreeable. So who could blame him?
But I guess you, the reader, are more interested in what happened in Race 4 as opposed to Mr. Kringle's dietary habits and on board shortcomings. Well, remember I was absent for this contest and all I got during the interviewing process was 10 different versions of what happened out there. Had I spoken to all of the crew members there is no telling how many stories I would have to sort through. The jottings I had were confusing enough. But most confusing of all is how everyone managed to complete a race course, and complete it in a rather short duration of time, that seemed highly improbable based on the forecast and the conditions that I (and many others that were elsewhere) observed throughout the day.
The fact that there was not a hint of breeze downtown this dreary day did not mean the hearty sailors 30 statue river miles (48.28032 kilometers) to the north were experiencing similar conditions. It was quite the opposite. I was informed that there really was a nice southerly breeze blowing in the Sale Creek area. And although the forecast called for a very light wind to fizzle out, the breeze actually built as the race went on. The second half of the race was a return beat downstream and the wind was blowing 15.655 knots plus.
It was in that second half that everyone learned one of the reasons for Maniac's success on the race course over the years. If you have a custom window built into your 154.9997% you can see better of what the competition is up to and get a leg up on them. When I first saw this picture it immediately reminded me of the Geico commercial that features the pothole with the annoying Brittany Spears type voice.The very first thought that came through my mind was- "oh, NOOOO! Your sail's all torn 'n junk!" This is actually quite tragic...well, it would be if it happened on pretty much any other boat in the fleet. One sailor's tragedy is another's opportunity and it might be possible some could capitalize on this misfortune! Seriously, a torn sail is not a laughing matter and it was fortunate that is a clean rip and the sail is quite repairable. Although the genoa was slit early in the beat, Tim was single handing and decided to limp along with the impaired sail..
"Limp along." Yeah, right. In my wildest dreams could I even think of limping along at 8.003 knots. Well, I don't know if that is how fast Maniac was going or not - regardless it wasn't quite as fast as Opus Dei but faster than Beatnik, Smoke on the Water, Dutchess, et al. Everyone was moving on at a nice clip... that is until making that final turn at the outer secondary channel marker. The pace did indeed slow down on the last little leg where the wind went into hiding. But there were some exciting finishes Athena, USS Georgia, and Moriah were bunched up together when David Barrow (Moriah skipper) made his move from the rear of the fleet, passing both the Seafarer and Alberg in the becalmed waters. Of course 12 tons of boat does keep fairly good momentum going in those kinds of situations. And although David would still not correct out in front of Athena or USS Georgia, we do give him props for being the only boat to go engineless today. The trusty old Perkins didn't fire up at the dock and Moriah ended up sailing out of the marina to make this race. Talk about commitment!
By the way, not only did Andre do a precision job on calculating the race distance, the finish times were brought out to the tenth of a second. Indeed, the fleet was bunched up fairly tight but there would be no split second differences in this one. Turned out the the addition of St. Nick with his Australian brew in hand did not disturb the chemistry on board Opus Dei. And photo ops with Father Christmas after the race were plentiful (just no autographs or flash photography). Congratulations to Chris Cyrul and crew for their second straight Shackleton victory. And combining for that one-two punch on the rest of the fleet was, of course, Tim on Maniac who took 2nd in this one. Which means the battle for"1st Place for the rest of us" would be between several boats. There was another exciting finish amongst Dutchess, True Blue, and Smoke but none of them could catch up with Beatnik, the crew of which seriously contemplated a second spinnaker hoist for those last couple hundred yards. And of course, Bob on Nightwind was in the middle of the mix as well. A great bit of sailing by everyone and it really was a good day out there - or again, so I am told. Of course had I indeed been present, I would have said those very same words. So it MUST have been a good day!
Apparently there was some discussion about the number of bonus points to be handed out in this race. Some were lobbying for two additional points for both rain and cold. But it was determined (not by me in any form or fashion) that it was really kind of borderline as the rain did taper off and the temperature at the start of the race was 40...ish. So only 1 bonus point was offered. A big round of applause goes to Andre for handling all the RC duties in this contest. He did such a good job it certainly would not hurt my feelings any if he were to take on this burdensome responsibility...er, I mean prestigious honor, full time. I am kidding of course! It is always loads of fun! We hope that everyone has a wonderful holiday and we will see you in 2010. Or would that be 2010.0247?
RACE 4 RESULTS
Race report written by Eric Almlie. ęCopyright 2009 All rights reserved.