February 7, 2015
Despite the general laid back nature of sailing, we sailors are often not a content sort of folk. But even the most discriminating of us would have a hard time complaining about the Race 7 conditions. A good and strong southerly Wind set aside all other activities and hung out with us all day, even inviting Its best friend, Spring to the party. Low to mid 60s for temps? Southerly Winds 10-15? This is what is ordered up every race and this time it was delivered on time and to the right destination. Hallelujah!
Race 7 would welcome the return of The Blue Pearl and Smoke on the Water, which if you recall from Race 6, a fair portion of crews of said boats were off sailing in the REAL blue water and not what I was trying to pass off as Tennessee River blue water. Today would be about as tropical as it gets for February and we plotted our longest course of this Shackleton season, a venture down to Possum Creek that included not one but TWO roundings of our favorite buoy that we have neglected to visit all season - Grasshopper Creek. It would also be the first time we have paid a visit to the infamous 3 Hour Nun (Buoy 3 on the map above), aptly named for how often we seem to somehow wind up (wind being the transitive verb pronounced with a long "i" here and thus not requiring capitalization) and park there during many a drifter.
The course was designed to be a nice beat down river, interrupted by a brief reach to the 3 hour nun, and a nice spinnaker run back with a few jibes thrown in for fun. After all we don't want any foredeck crews to get relaxed and complacent on some boring old beeline run. Some of the nasty glares I received from foredeck folks after handing out the maps made me thankful that the initial thoughts of making the Three Hour Nun Buoy 6 and Grasshopper Creek number 7 had been scrapped. Those who would have been subject to the laborious task of performing a spinnaker takedown and a rehoist in such a short distance most likely would have waited on me in ambush on the darker side of the docks one night. The headlines would have read, "Man slapped to death with race course maps, local D.A. refuses to prosecute. 'The map evidence shows he had it coming,' he says." Yes, thinking through little things like this when designing a course is a form of self preservation - the key if one hopes to serve any type of longevity on a race committee.
For some today, it really would be about the spinnakers. Two boats flew them quite well. Two others had some "issues". And the remaining two, having a good view of those with the "issues" and with Wind speeds actually topping out in the low 20s at times, adopted a more conservative attitude and left those darn things harmlessly stuffed in their bags. I think the conversation between Mike and Chuck onSmoke on the Water went something like, "Do you want to hoist the spinnaker?" "Grab me a beer instead, would you?" A less common and sometimes controversial technique nevertheless proved to be a prudent and effective strategy for the Ranger 23. It was the J boats, Maniac and Luna Teak having the most success today with the chutes. Well actually, they had the only success. It was a spinnaker mutiny on The Blue Pearl as the big sail refused to cooperate. Meanwhile, on Windrush...
All we can say is...
Well, there is not much one can say so let's just bow our heads.
Fortunately, Windrush's spinnaker is now out of ICU and recovering nicely at the local sail loft. Expect to see it flying again soon at the next race.
Meanwhile, The Blue Pearl abandoned their first spinnaker run and had rehoisted their foresail. But we soon witnessed David working the foredeck with one of the more unique things we have seen in some time. Actually, he pulled it out of one of the seemingly endless sailbags on The Blue Pearl on Race Eve - it is called a spinnaker staysail, a small triangular cloth of nylon, the luff of which could not have been more than a third of the Columbia 29's "I" measurement. Alas, it remained hoisted in a shorter length of time that the full scale spinnaker was and there was no photographic evidence for proof or better description
(curious minds will have to call on the services of Mr. Google). And had it remained up, surely it would have caused a commotion on the lake with everyone gawking at it like these guys on the left.
Both Windrush and The Blue Pearl made a valiant recovery from their cataclysmal spinnaker flights and how neither boat ran aground while piloting over the shoals is amazing. Actually it was the spinnakers that really steered them, having assumed command after their rebellious uprising. Meanwhile on Hasta La Vista, all I did was just look in the direction of a shallow spot on the lake and BAM! It was shortly after the Buoy 4 rounding when it seemed we were just inches out of the main channel when we struck bottom. It was really not a hard grounding but a little more gradual one as we slowed and stopped for a brief moment. Fortunately we were on a run and able to steer the boat back into the wind and quickly escape the muddy jaws and claws of the river.
With all this drama taking place on the non-spinnakered boats and those with the rebellious chutes, it was going to be a J Boat battle for the victory. Sure enough, a J Boat won the race. But not the J Boat everyone is thinking of. The winner's circle has now seen 4 different boats this season as Chris Edwards and crew on Luna Teak took home first place for the first time in their Shackleton history. Maniac would have to settle for 2nd while Smoke on the Water sailed a great course for 3rd. It really was a fun day on the water and the best wind we have had for a Shackleton race in some time. Hoping for some fair Winds and good weather for the final match this Shackleton season. Race 8 is coming soon, but maybe not as soon as scheduled. It appears that the main theme and slogan of this series (We sail regardless of conditions) is in danger again. Stay tuned!
RACE 7 RESULTS