February 28, 2010
It seems that our main man Shackleton has started to come under fire from some of the race participants around here. Maybe it is the long winter taking its toll that has led to this contempt. Or perhaps it was the PROMISE of a little sun and near 50 degree temperatures for Race 8 that never came to fruition by any stretch of the imagination. Gone, it seems, are the genuflections as we board our vessels every Shackleton race as we instead wonder, "Dude! Why couldn't you have explored... Fiji? And what is it with this fascination with permafrost and penguins?" But then, digging deep in our souls, staring into the abyss we remember Shackleton's immortal words and family motto, "through endurance we conquer." And this (in addition to those precious, late season points) is what inspires us to suit up on yet ANOTHER grey, mid 30 degree day that was visited by a wayward snowflake or two and more confused northwesterly breezes. Still mild compared to Antarctic standards, but in our minds, worthy of our own series on the Discovery or History Channel. Ice Road Truckers? Bah! The Shackleton Series is where the hardcore action is at!
Today's plan was a bit more ambitious than courses of late, yet still not Hiwassee Island for those who remain hopeful of such a venture. It seems like we might never return the way things are going. Actually to anyone who was paying attention, the course today was a repeat of Race 1, and I am sure of some other prior races we have had. If you are concerned that we are a little less creative in drawing out our sail plans these days, well perhaps you are correct as we do tend to tire out in the waning days of this series. BUT don't be surprised if Race 5 (the sequel) has 15 buoy roundings... in the secondary channel. You never know.
The start and first half of this race would be off wind with spinnakers being deployed at various stages. Some opted to pop them well ahead of the starting line and make a mad rush to it while others, like myself, instituted more of a "I'll get around to it eventually" strategy. And yet others like the ones one Maniac and Opus Dei were hoisted with precision, designed to balloon at the starting line. Well, at least the one on Opus Dei was. It was a disaster of epic proportions on Maniac as we witnessed a rare miss on the J 29. Please note that I use the term "disaster of epic proportions" relatively. For on Hasta La Vista (or whatever boat I am sailing) it would mean the chute was streaming horizontally from the top of the mast with its attached running rigging knotting itself around every fixed piece on the boat imaginable, taking days to sort through. Or perhaps all in the water wrapped around the keel. Take your pick. On Maniac it means that the red chute went up part ways, then down, with a bit of hesitation before going up to its maximum height maybe costing maybe a minute's time. Nevertheless, every second counts and Opus Dei was off to a quick lead and pulling away early.
With a three way tie for second place in this series and another couple of boats right behind going into this race, competition was fierce! The aggression was seen even before the start as I heard an authoritative "STARBOARD!" broadcast my general direction by Mark on Beatnik. Even though I knew better I still caught myself verifying that my boom was indeed sitting low on the port side of the boat. I flashed a befuddled "what the?" look in their direction while Mark acknowledged, "I was just reminding you that you were on a starboard tack!" Letting out a sigh (there have been a LOT of those this season) I shook my head wondering if every fleet in the country was like this!
Today we were on our way down to Opossum Creek and back. Unfortunately we appeared to be departing without Athena as its keel had embedded itself on the Sale Creek Shoals shortly before the 5 minute warning. Brandi and crew were working hard to free themselves and we were hopeful they be joining us soon as the wind was blowing nicely for a ride down the river. More spinnakers soon emerged on Dutchess and Smoke on the Water, while on Hasta La Vista, it still remained dormant. All part of the stratagem! Actually, I was just hesitating until rounding the Grasshopper Creek mark to avoid having to make an extra jibe. There is enough work involved just getting the thing hoisted by oneself as those in proximity witnessed (and seemed to comment rather freely on). Even so the coordination of the deployment was not exactly ninja like, the black and blue sail was soon up in the sky!
It was indeed a fun ride down to Opossum Creek. The wind was perhaps a little fluky going down river, less so than if you stayed on the red buoyed side of the channel. Opus Dei and Maniac of course lead the way but Carol Lynn was tracking closely. Unfortunately by the time we were making our roundings just below Opossum Creek it was evident that Athena was not on the course. The girls did free themselves from the muddy claws of Chickamauga but figured that was enough excitement of the day and were headed back to port.
As we rounded the downstream markers and ascended upstream the wind was beginning to lighten some and become even more fluky. Although Maniac was pulling away from the trailing fleet, Opus Dei was pulling away from the trailing Maniac. Meanwhile the master plan on Hasta La Vista had been working to perfection and with the benefit of a lift or two, the San Juan soon pulled ahead of Carol Lynn. Keeping this thought in mind, have I mentioned in this write up that the lake was down to about the lowest pool level we have ever witnessed? We already know of Athena's earlier misfortune. On the return trip Maniac admitted to bumping - gee, that's TWO mishaps in one race for them! Meanwhile Chuck and Edge had eased into a void on Smoke on the Water and about 5 minutes passed before they realized that Smoke's progress had not been stopped from lack of wind, but rather a grounding of the soft and quiet variety. And the fact that I was experiencing a stream of success and luck on Hasta La Vista, what ensued was inevitable.
"No NO NO NO!" was the first utterance. Then came some more elaborate words. This was NOT part of what had been drawn up in the race schematic! Everything that had been going so right up to this point had come to a dead halt. It was another one of those cases where the shoal seemed to reach beyond its boundaries and grab an innocent boat. James made sure to preserve the moment in pictures as Carol Lynn glided by (I would have done the same!) And I don't care how close it looks like I am to shore in the picture - blame it on one of those weird illusion things based on the camera angle. Like all groundings, it seemed an eternity but in reality was only a few minutes. Trying to catch my breath as Hasta La Vista was beginning to regenerate, I saw Beatnik and True Blue fast approaching heard yet another "Starboard!" reminder shouted from the cockpit of Beatnik. To this very day I am AMAZED that no one in this fleet has decided to take their comedy act on tour!
By this time Opus Dei and Maniac, having long since finished, were probably already prepping for the next race and just waiting for the race committee to provide them with the course map. Another outstanding performance by Chris and the Opus Dei crew gave the Olson their 5th straight victory. In the meantime, Carol Lynn, Beatnik, True Blue, and Hasta La Vista had formed a nice grouping approaching the finish line. Beatnik and Carol Lynn would cross the finish line first respectively, and True Blue followed Hasta La Vista by just 4 seconds. But naturally, for this length of course, everyone had to give Hasta La Vista like about a week's worth of handicap time resulting in a 3rd place finish for me and the San Juan. Carol Lynn would also correct out in front of Beatnik while Shawn (who continues to do an excellent job of single handing the Ranger 33) would finish where he actually placed in the race.
A little further back, Smoke, Dutchess, and Moriah were dealing with the diminishing winds. David on Moriah would wave the white flag but Smoke and Dutchess grunted out the lighter air to the finish line. Nice job by all!
Normally we would be winding things up by this point and congratulate everyone on yet another fun sailing season. Not to mention being thankful that it was over and warmer weather would soon be greeting us. But don't forget, the return of Race 5 - it must be sailed! Therefore there is still a chance for us to catch Maniac and now Opus Dei, the latter having a firm grip on 2nd place overall. See everyone at the next race!*
*Of course most will realize that this race report, although written in a present tense, was not written in a timely fashion. The "next race" has actually already occurred, as has the next race after that. The REAL next race is... well, it is all kind of confusing now, but regardless, we will see you then! Peace out!
RACE 8 RESULTS
Race report written by Eric Almlie. ęCopyright 2010. All rights reserved.