February 13, 2010
Winter still resides here in the Tennessee Valley and therefore the Shackleton Series continues on in full force with its participants racking up huge amounts of cold points. In fact, if you see someone swaggering down the street there is a high probability that that person is a proud and valorous participant in this fine fleet. Boastful of our accomplishments of sailing in the brutal elements and tallying up mass quantities of points for all our efforts, we hold our heads high as we stride with confidence! Or perhaps that is just the way some one who has had a lobotomy walks. In so many words, we have all been accused of having had such as, believe it or not, accusations regarding our mental stability still continue after all these years of sailing in this thing.
Even though the sun was in attendance (albeit briefly) at a Shackleton race for the first time in 3 months there still seems to be no sign of spring on the horizon. Although we are used to dealing with little bouts of winter like weather from time to time here in the southland, we normally have a relief day or two a week. Not so this year and I think we have come to an acceptance of the cold. What else would explain Mike, the crewmember on Maniac, showing up to the skipper's meeting in shorts? It was all of about 25 degrees with a northerly breeze blowing. Not sure if this was a bold statement or a bluff since there WAS discussion along the lines of "let's forget this whole race thing and I'll buy you breakfast" between him and Tim. But about that time, "breakfast" was set on the table in the form of muffins and cupcakes supplied by Brandi, skipper of Athena and proprietor (along with Amy) of the Flat Iron Deli. There would be no visit to the Waffle House and Maniac did head out to the race course and the shorts were upgraded to more applicable cold weather race attire. And now that we were all now sugared up and jittery, it was time to go racing!
Actually, our main concern was not the cold weather, the exposure of bare naked legs, or even the worry of someone who had just consumed several cupcakes of transforming into the Great Cornholio. No, our biggest fear today would once again be the menacing Moriah, skippered by Captain David Barrow (that sort of rhymes with Captain Jack Sparrow doesn't it?). David had taken on a pirate like persona as he threatened to literally seize every boat in the fleet he beat in today's contest, as some kind of trophy I assume. I am sure everyone he had threatened with this had their boat titles ready to hand over after the race.
The course du jour was a 6-1/2 mile journey that was met with mixed reactions by some of the fleet. On the one hand, there was a bit of let down that once again, despite my alluding to it in the prior race report, we were not embarking on a voyage around Hiwassee Island. In other words, the course was shorter than desired. On the other hand, there was a comment along the lines of, "what, are you expecting 20 knots of wind? We will be out there all day!" This naturally implied too long a course. *sigh* You just can't win with this bunch and I am seriously considering of doubling the entry fees for next year, just for having to endure all this flack. But the danger in this, I think, is if the entry fees are seen as nothing more than an opportunity to harass me in such a manner, I fear that many (including non boaters) will see the bargain in this opportunity and sign on! So, I will just sit and take it all in stride like any good race committee member would.
From the onset this was a fairly fast paced race. The wind was up out of the northwest which was good as once again the current was robust. As predicted it was Maniac and Opus Dei leading the pack but Beatnik was pacing close. Although the northwesterly breeze was a little on the shifty side, it was fairly steady and just coming out of the right direction to allow the majority of the fleet to sail this upwind beat on one long tack. But as we approached Buoys 1 and 2 (the two upstream marks) we saw a sight that threw a little wrinkle in our sailing plans for the day.
We found out why they are called barges as a good size tow arrived at the worst possible time, literally barging through our course. Although Shackleton sailors rank towards the top in the hierarchy of the right of way rules (in our minds anyway), we still are the give way vessels to commercial tows. Several of us had to alter course in some form or fashion either at the upstream turning buoys or the downstream turning buoys to give the barge plenty of room to pass. But I believe it was Andre on Dutchess who suffered the worst setback as he rounded Buoy 1 and basically had to wait for the barge to pass before advancing across the river to Buoy 2.
At first it would have appeared that the leg to Buoy 3 would be a nice downwind ride, great for spinnaker flying. Indeed we did witness the airborne chutes on Opus Dei and Maniac but for the time being that was all as the wind sort of took a shift towards the west for the trailing fleet. The barge (opting not to fly the spinnaker either) was now running down those leading the way.
True Blue, Carol Lynn, and Beatnik were having a competitive battle while Hasta La Vista and Smoke on the Water swapped positions frequently. Looking back just a short ways it had appeared Andre was determined to make up some lost time as the asymmetrical spinnaker on Dutchess was flying proudly. That is until a spinnaker sheet broke and then it was just kind of flying... er, not so proudly. I figured that would signify the end of the today's spinnaker flights but as I looked more towards the head of the fleet, I saw Beatnik's hovering over their foredeck. Although it seemed late in the leg to hoist it, perhaps Mike and Mark were pulling out all stops. Alas, its air time was short lived as well. Shortly after, the barge made its final strategic move in this race using its right of way status to the fullest advantage over those preparing to cross the lake from Buoy 3 to Buoy 4.
As we headed back towards Sale Creek, it was another single long tack from Buoy 4 to Buoy 5 which was none other than Grasshopper Creek. From there it was an exciting race to the finish. Wind shifts aided some and hurt others but there was a lot of that going on throughout the race, not just in this section. It was the Olson 30 crossing the finish line first followed by Maniac shortly after, perhaps too close to call without calculating the exact numbers back at race headquarters. Several minutes later Beatnik would cross followed by a closely packed group of boats, also a little to close to figure exact finishing positions. There was a true photo finish between Smoke and Hasta La Vista and it was determined both of these crossed the finish at the same time. It appeared that we were safe from being commandeered by Captain Barrow but what about Athena? Moriah did cross the finish line ahead of Brandi and crew but not far enough as the Seafarer would correct out in front of the Mariner. It was a moot point anyway because Captain David, despite all his pre-race threats, had admitted to passing on the wrong side of one of the channel markers, disqualifying Moriah from the contest. Although I NEVER root for anyone in this series (except for someone to beat those virtually impossible to beat boats), it would perhaps have been worth the price of admission to witness David TRY to take Athena captive. We all know how competitive those girls are - we can only imagine what kind of fight they would put up should someone attempt to take their ship by force!
So who won today? Well, after carefully massaging the numbers we got awfully close to those hot rods, but once again, not close enough. And by a mere 8 seconds Opus Dei would tack on another victory over Maniac and the rest of the fleet. As crewmate Scott Cline said after the race, "we only need 19 more races (at the current trend) to win this thing." Congratulations to another excellent job done by Chris and his crew! This brings up an interesting question. Having been kept out of the winner's circle for 4 straight races now, has Maniac become the underdog? And seeing how people love to root for the underdog, will we find ourselves soon cheering him on? Personally, I think David has a better shot at trying to confiscate Athena!
Nice job by everyone in this race! There is a nice, heated battle for 2nd Place this year. Normally at this time I would say that we will have it all settled after Race 8, the next one on the schedule. But don't forget, we have a make up race tacked on to the end of this series. See everyone next time!
RACE 7 RESULTS
Race report written by Eric Almlie. ęCopyright 2010. All rights reserved.