December 5, 2015
It was only a matter of time before those abhorrent light and variable winds that combine their evil forces with defying and ferocious currents at least once every Shackleton Season crashed the party. But a drifter is not that uncommon at some point in practically any area where sailors may choose to do battle with one another. And still, there ARE worse ways to spend a day in December, particularly if it is sunny and the mercury is ascending to 60, than spending it at the lake. Dealing with light air on a balmy pre-winter day is not such a bad thing. Dealing with a bit of current on a balmy pre-winter day is not such a bad thing. The coalescence of both, however, is devastating to pretty much anyone desiring a fun sail, whether it be a leisurely one or part of a cutthroat competition. (I do believe our modest winter series lies somewhere in betwixt.)
Such grim forecasts always seem to get the wheels spinning in the heads of race committee members and boat captains, exposing the sailor's creative thought process (which is kind of scary thing). In the end we came up with four viable options on how to best approach the foreboding conditions bestowed upon us hapless mariners:
1. Set one of those downstream only courses. This is also known as a White Flag Race, surrendering to the conditions and metaphorically dropping back ten yards and punting. In the end we find out who is a true champion at simply going with the flow. We have done them before...more perhaps than we care to admit. Well, in actuality, we have admitted to it every time one of these race reports gets published.
2. Have an upstream-downstream course but set a time limit of say 2 hours and have a pursuit start, basing start times on a time-on-time handicap, rather than the time-on-distance we use. After 2 hours, we take our positions on the lake and we score in order of everyone's position on the course at that time. Of course, trying to make one's way upstream in swift current in a pursuit race can still result in the last boat to start take the lead...simply by just crossing the start line, all the other boats having been swept downstream by then. This has actually happened in a race before, even one that was not a pursuit start. Flashback to Race 3 in 2006: Beago (Chuck's O'Day 222) was on the course side of the starting line when the race began. Weaving in and around the fleet, Beago laboriously worked back to the proper side of the line in an unexaggerated 30 minutes time. "Start the race yet, Chuck?" inquired a chuckling Mike on A Shot in the Dark. Noting Shot's position of having not made any upstream progress in 30 minutes, in fact having drifted a tad downstream Chuck cleverly replied, "Nope, but when I do I am going to be in front of you!"
3. Don't even venture out into the main channel. Conduct the race back in the marina harbor utilizing the creek channel markers and the No Wake sign. The idea is not without merit as not only would we be protected from a snarling current, often times there is a draft the will funnel into the mouth of the creek and build into a small breeze through the narrows of the channel. And thus, we are provided a light wind in the harbor. By the way, this is also know as "sucker wind" - the kind that dupes one into believing there is some real wind out in the channel causing one to gear up and hank on jibs and such, only to arrive in the channel to see a placid pool of water. We would probably have to make a dozen laps in the harbor just to make it a 2 mile course or so, the equivalent of a short track in car racing or speed skating. Plus we would have an audience of the non-sailors - or even non participating sailors from the marina watching and probably heckling us.
4. Don't even venture out in the main channel. Don't even venture out of our boat slips. Heck, just stay in bed with the shades drawn. As was once said, "there is a make up date for a reason."
Honestly, although all options above were feasible, none were 100% appealing. And number 4 was really not an option to be taken at all in this case. The idea of the makeup date is to be a back up plan for a day in which it would be dangerous to sail or to even venture out to the lake - like an ice storm or something with 50 knot winds. Only 3 times in the 13 year history of The Shackleton Series have we had to utilize a make up date. Besides, on a sunny day with above average temperature in December we have to at least see what is going on out there!
And by "out there", I mean the main channel. Option 3 was a popular choice with a couple of those in attendance and again, probably the most practical way to get in a race as there was a light breeze blowing in the harbor during the skipper's meeting and boat preparations. But I (or I should say the Race Committee) opted for None of the Above. Sort of.
It was more of a combination of 1&2, but not entirely. It was a downstream run of just over a mile where we would take our time at the Camp Vesperpoint slough can. Then we return back upstream to the mouth of the creek to our normal finish line. But instead of agonizingly clawing our way back up river and torturing ourselves for as long as we can hold out (8:05:30 elapsed time is the official record of endurance), we would put a time limit on this one. After 3 hours, if no one had finished, then the times taken at the CVP can would be the official finish times.
All this concern, extra thought, planning, and conceiving the optimal course for the day turned out to be a lot of unnecessary expended effort, which anyone reading this will probably already have concluded by now noting the two accompanying photos - overwhelming evidence that we were not experiencing a dead calm. As we exited the harbor the wind actually built up to 10 knots and remained a steady 5-8 throughout the race and therefore a quick race, the only time the entire fleet (okay, this was a small fleet of 3 boats) finished the race with an elapsed time of less than an hour. Really, we are not complaining and were very thankful to be given a nice wind to work with on a beautiful December day. Yet another one of those days you were glad to have gone out sailing.
Congratulations to the Maniac crew for returning to the winner's circle. It would appear that the upcoming Race 4 will have more suitable Shackleton weather, but then again sunny and 50 is not too much to fuss about either. It is never too late to join in the fun. Hope to see you there!
RACE 3 RESULTS
|SKIPPER||BOAT||NAME||PHRF||ELAPSED TIME||CORRECTED TIME||POINTS|
|Tim Chambers||J 29||Maniac||111||46:20||42:05||3|
|Chris Edwards||J 24||Luna Teak||168||52:12||45:45||2|
|Eric Almlie||San Juan 24||Hasta La Vista||226 NS/170%||59:56||51:16||1|
|Tim Chambers||J 29||Maniac||11|
|Chris Edwards||J 24||Luna Teak||10|
|Eric Almlie||San Juan 24||Hasta La Vista||5|
|David Barrow||Columbia 29||The Blue Pearl||4|