December 20, 2014
Sunny. A southerly breeze steady around 15. Warm and mild temperatures, perhaps a little warmer than normal for late December. Sixty degrees or so - not really all that uncommon nor would it be considered unseasonable. Maybe a small flow of current - after all, it is a river. Oh, and lake levels mysteriously at summer pool - just because it is kind of a nice thing to have. If the collective known as The Shackleton Fleet could have had one Christmas wish, this would have been it. Even individually, I think we were all hoping Santa would leave this under our tree. But honestly, it would have been a distant second to each individual skipper reaching in his or her stocking and pulling out a resounding victory over their sailing adversaries this day. Peace on earth and good will towards our competitors? Pffft! Let's not get carried away, here. Regardless, it must have been THIS particular Santa that received our above wish list.
I would say that our wish was denied not because of any concern over our safety - after all, the probability of shooting one's eye out with excellent sailing conditions is virtually nil. Rather, we must have been bad boys and girls this year because what is becoming a tiresome and all too familiar forecast, we were once again looking at wet conditions and no Wind as the holiday ( I am referring to holiday of Race Day, of course) approached.
Fortunately, despite the high level of confidence our weather prognosticators had earlier in the week of a wet Race 4, we were again spared the rain by the time Race Day arrived. But the threat of another drifter was quite real with 99% of the weatherperson's coalition in agreement So much in fact that today's race course was nothing but a cry of "Uncle!" to the Wind powers that be. Expecting gusts to top out at around 2 today (that's 2 mph, not 2 p.m., by the way), we decided the only safe place to sail to virtually guarantee a finish would be downstream. Sure, Andre and I, the sole members of the YIIFLRC (You're in it for Life Race Committee) did discuss the option of setting the downstream marks as an optional finish line just in case The Wind crashed today's party. But we all know what poor record of success these alternate finish lines have. By the time we sentence ourselves and are committed to sailing the longer course, The Wind exits often with about a third of the final leg left to sail. Not today as we were steadfast in sticking to our planned course to sail/drift 3.04 miles downstream.
As we hovered near the starting line today, we did find ourselves experiencing a bit of The Wind's presence. And Its presence indicated that we were in store for some downwind sailing to the downstream finish line. A couple boats showed their cards early and made no effort to disguise their starting strategy:
Of course, it is no big secret that this was the plan of every spinnaker equipped boat today. Nevertheless, The Blue Pearl and Hasta La Vista went slightly more conservative, flying foresails over the starting line before deploying their chutes. You never know if The Wind might decide to shift just enough or even completely disappear rendering spinnakers to nothing but sagging yards of nylon cloth. Today we were without Smoke on the Water, both the music and boat were sadly absent. (Sadder about the latter than the former.) But something else wasn't quite right at the starting line either. I couldn't put my finger on it but there was something missing, devoid of a certain presence. This was not your typical Shackleton start. We were minus something - what was it? But a quick glance out towards The Sale Creek Shoals during the starting horn sequence and the mystery was solved!
A "gross navigational miscalculation," was what Captain Tim from Maniac said. Oh, is that what you call it on your boat? The rest of us tend to call it something else, sidesplitting and uproarious are the first things to cross MY mind but I guess it is just a matter of perspective. It was indeed a rare grounding for Team Maniac and we wondered if their record for this year's series was going to drop to 1-3. Even though the race was just getting underway it WAS a short downwind and downstream course we were sailing and The Wind was presently hanging out with us. It wasn't Force 5 type stuff but spinnakers were filling and we were making a decent bit of speed. Recovery, albeit a bit messy (it is amazing how much water and mud can be compacted in a spinnaker pole when utilizing it to push oneself off a muddy bar), was fairly quick and it wasn't long before we witnessed the concept of "sailing angry."
Maniac soon blew past the entire fleet with the exception of Windrush, who had built a strong lead. Honestly, today was little more than an exercise in spinnaker handling. The exception here would be Seawitch Magick that presently has no spinnaker to fly. However, as Paul, skipper of the aforementioned Seafarer 29 is discovering, those of us that participate in the Shackleton Series have been called enablers when it comes to sailing gear and such as Paul later mentioned something about "needing to get a spinnaker now." Guilty as charged.
But back to the race, it was simply a run/reach downstream. One by one as we all crossed the finish line we were wondering who won. Most likely it was again going to boil down to either Maniac or Windrush. But as we stuffed our spinnakers we noted a peculiar thing - The Wind was STILL present among us and we began a nice sail back upstream. About that time, I thought it was a mistake that we decided on just the downwind course. We might have been able to actually have one of those nifty windward/leeward races that we have heard so much about. But The Wind didn't hang out with us all afternoon and soon began waning . By about the time the fleet (sans Maniac andWindrush who were now at about the mouth of Sale Creek) had approached the infamous 3 Hour Nun across from Camp Vesperpoint, we were in the beginning stages of drift mode. So, in hindsight, the downwind race was the correct call. Well to be truthful, had we known what The Wind's real intensions had been for the day, we would have set an entirely different course.
As we returned to port and I began collecting times, Andre looked at his stop watch and it read 0:00.00. Okay, I know the San Juan 34 is a fast boat but I think Andre's gloved hand didn't quite hit the timer button. Fortunately there were back up time keep devices on board. In the end, despite giving us an approximate 5 minute head start, it would be the Maniac crew that would fly the victory flag today. Congratulations to them for a narrow 21 second victory over the tough crew on Windrush. But really, another nice job by everyone today with some tight finish times once again. Bob Rupe, one of the crew aboard Maniac mentioned that the utilization of the spinnaker pole to free themselves reminded him of the Bogart/Hepburn film The African Queen. Although having seen the movie a time or two, I don't have it "memorized" like I do so many other modern films. Nevertheless, I dug up 3 quotes from the movie that would be apropos to perhaps their situation on board today, or rather any situation on board for any boat participating in this series!
"Nature is what we are put in this world to rise above." (Very inspirational and on target with the theme of this series, don't you think?)
"You got 10 absurd ideas to my one!" (I'm sure this one has been exchanged a time or two between captains and crew.)
"Well, yeah, I never tried shooting myself in the head, either." (The general response of some one refusing to crew due to conditions when captains attempt to persuade suspecting potential crew by saying something like, "yeah, so it is below freezing outside with gale force winds, it is rising above those elements that is so rewarding in the end. You ought to try it!")
See everyone at Race 5!
RACE 4 RESULTS
|Race report written by Eric Almlie. ©Copyright 2015 All rights reserved.|