December 6, 2014
Previously on the Shackleton Series...
The episode of Race 2 concluded with a somewhat dire Race 3 weather prediction for the heroic and stouthearted captains and crew of this series. How would they prepare, cope, and even survive the brutal elements that awaited them? But really, is an 80% chance of rain and a light and variable wind with temps in the mid 50s all that inhumane? Of course opinions might vary greatly between enthusiastic captains and some not so eager crew...or, enthusiastic crew and some not so eager captains. Regardless, those may certainly not be the most fun and ideal of conditions to set sail in but honestly, there are far much worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon. Some might say much smarter ways, too- but we need not elaborate on that.
Actually, this final entry from Race 2 was more of a preview of things to come in the Race 3 episode, wasn't it? So in other words, the REAL denouement of the Race 2 chronicles was the crushing defeat of Maniac at the hands ofHasta La Vista. I say this only as it is a personal responsibility bestowed upon me (by myself) to keep the Shackleton readership properly informed and reiterate any important details that may have been forgotten over time. And come on, who in this fleet, after scoring a rare victory over the indomitable J29 (or any boat for that matter) would admit that they wouldn't inscribe that reminder if given the opportunity to pen a race report? Yeah, that's what I thought!
As Race Day approached the rain chances had been bumped up to a definite 100% but the probability of The Wind making an appearance was also improved. The only concern was how The Wind was going to suddenly shift from 5-10 plus out of the south to 10-15 plus out of the northwest, which was now the new prediction. As we all know, The Wind, despite its omnipotence, does not have a reputation of doing things suddenly around here. As always with great detail, we painstakingly studied the hourly predictions from a myriad of sources and concluded that a 12:30 start would be best since the shift was going to take place around noon, so sayeth the soothsayers and seers (this episode's tongue twister). The announcement of the later than normal start time at today's skipper's meeting was actually well received by the flock of sailors huddled under the marina pavilion roof presently seeking shelter from the 100%. The only one concern was the fact that according to the local radar, the present deluge would most likely be gone by the time the race started. And why was this a concern? Extra points, that's why! But crazy as it sounds, it seemed that the willingness to remain dry outweighed the desire for any potential moisture points as not a single soul expressed any eagerness to get out there right away. Just as well since personally I have long since gotten my $40 worth of money spent on some Walmart foulies 10 years ago. Not as waterproof as they once were.
Other than a passing sprinkle or two, it would dry out the rest of the day, thus there would definitely be no moisture points scored. So the rain was gone - check. Boats heading out to the starting line - check. Wind blowing 5-10, albeit from the south - check. Smoke on the Water back on the airwaves - check. Looked like we were a go for launch and then the southerly Winds seen in the picture above fizzled out. But like true Shackletonians (or would Shackletonites be preferred?), we refused to abort the start. "The Wind will come out of the north as promised," we faithfully proclaimed (and prayed). Even so, as the starting horns blasted, I was very soon questioning my choice of foresail for the day.
It. was light. It was very light. And since we were setting sail to the Highway 60 bridge and back, this could be a daunting task if calm conditions prevailed. But wouldn't you know, just as we approached the mouth of the secondary channel to make our sharp turn upstream, the northerly Winds suddenly did appear. And The Wind wasted little time between appearing and picking up speed and throwing gusts our way. Boats heeled and sails were often dumped to avoid rounding up. Flapping and flogging sails make quite a racket but most of the noise seemed to be coming from the gargantuan sails (you know I love that word gargantuan, and I so rarely have the opportunity to use it in a sentence) on Windrush as the San Juan 34 seemed to make the most noise today. I think Smoke on the Water may have met is match, decibel wise speaking.
Mind you, we are not complaining. Any time The Wind graces us with Its presence we are honored and thankful. And the ride upstream was exhilarating... and challenging as there was never a moment where anyone's sail set was just right. Well if one's sails were trimmed properly, it was not for very long. Changes in velocity and slight directional shifts were common as Maniac and Windrush lead the way while Luna Teak, Smoke on the Water, The Blue Pearl, and Hasta La Vista involved themselves in a rousing game of leap frog. Apparently, Luna Teak got bored with that and decided to attempt to bridge the gap between the front runners and the rest of us as they sped off. About that time The Wind decided to get a little weird on us.
The area just beyond Doughty's Bluff Light at Mile 497 and the Highway 60 bridge is sometimes a tricky place to sail. A tight bend in the river, a tall bluff and a few inlets on one side, fairly low and flat terrain on the other bank, and a good sized bridge can all be responsible for some interesting Wind conditions. Today was no exception as we began experiencing Wind speeds from 0 to 20 and some MAJOR directional shifts in this stretch of river. Once again one's choice of sail selection for the day would often come into question. Although we all experienced highs and lows and witnessed some freely spinning Wind indicators, I think we each had our own custom Wind. It is not that uncommon to find some unique conditions on inland lakes, even with boats sailing in close proximity. But it seemed more often today we saw some boats having to sail a section tight and pinching while for others that same stretch was a close or even beam reach. Regardless every one remained focused today like the again "Edge-less" crew seen below onSmoke on the Water.
And while some were able to round the bridge pylon tight and with some good speed, some others lumbered around it, giving a wide berth unsure of where the next puff or gust was going to come from.
As we raced back downstream to the finish, one may have deduced that we had only one turning mark in this race (not including the outer red secondary buoy we had to keep to port while exiting the channel) and that this year's courses seem to be much simpler than some of the dizzying 12 buoy rounding courses we have plotted out in the past. This is correct and thus far this season, we really have not had a normal Windward - leeward course. This more due to the varying Winds we have seen. Today would be no exception as although we thought we were laying out an upwind-downwind scenario, it became more of a reaching contest. And due to the gusty conditions as well as the shifty Winds often bringing the apparent Wind well forward, we saw no colorful spinnakers dotting the sky today. As one captain put it, "had I opted to hoist the chute today, my crew and I would probably not be on speaking terms any more. Well, we probably would but there would be some nasty exchanges." Or words to that effect.
Similar to last race, it looked that Maniac and Windrush would be the favored boats based on how far ahead they appeared to be with the rest of the fleet. But The Wind towards the end of the race intensified for the rear of the fleet intensified making it a tight finish. Although we were still certain one of the two big boats had won, no one knew for sure who until we returned to Race Headquarters and plugged in the numbers. Unfortunately upon our return, we found out that someone had unplugged Race Headquarters. A power outage had rendered their high tech equipment useless. So instead of simply typing the numbers into the computer and having it tell us who won (we are awfully trusting of our technology to rely on it to make those decisions, aren't we?), we would have to get out the slide rules and calculate it the old fashioned way.
It was perhaps the tightest finish from first to last that we have ever experienced among a Shackleton fleet. And really, no one deserved to finish last today as everyone sailed hard and to their best ability while battling the crazy Winds. Did anyone deserve to finish first? Well of course they did! And for the first time ever in a Shackleton Series (I know this because Tim did the research since I was too lazy) we have had three different winners in the first three races. Come to think of it, have we had three different boats score a victory during an entire season? Tim did the research on this as well and yes, it has happened more than once. So perhaps Maniac isn't as dominant as one might be lead to believe. As Chuck pointed out, Maniac's record this year is 1-2. That's not real impressive now is, it? Of course I know the Maniac crew would likely turn that around mention there are two other boats that are 1-2 and the rest of the fleet is 0-3!
Enough with the stalling, already! Today's winner would be The Blue Pearl. Congratulations to Captain David and crew! But then again, isn't Olivia the skipper on record for The Blue Pearl? Scratch that prior sentence, then - congratulations to Captain Olivia! Seriously, great job by everyone on the Columbia 29 and everyone else who sailed today. Despite the gusty and shifty Wind, it was a very fun day. Thanks to everyone for participating and to Michael McNair, one of the crew mates on Smoke for some excellent action shots, and putting a nice cool effect on a couple of them. Will Race 4 have yet another different victor? Tune in next time to find out and to reuse a line from a prior report (like I haven't done that before)- same Shack time, same Shack channel!
RACE 3 RESULTS
Race report written by Eric Almlie. ©Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.