January 24, 2015
Would the above image cropped from a file photo from some point in time be enough to promote The Shackleton Series as Blue Water Sailing? It is water. It is blue. And we are sailing in it. That should cover it. But it might be a tad bit of an exaggeration to say that the blue water sailing we were doing this day at Sale Creek was similar to that a sampling of the fleet members were presently doing some 1,700 miles away in the BVIs. As hard as it is to fathom anyone missing a Shackleton race just to sail the waters around Tortola, that is just what the some of the crews from The Blue Pearl and Smoke on the Water were doing just as the rest of us were suiting up with layers of fleece, wool, and various types of thermal wear.
Sadly, there were no understudies or surrogate captains filling in for the aforementioned boats so we would be without the services of the Ranger 23 and Columbia 29. Even sadder, nor were there any substitutes to sit in for those of us who did sail in Race 6 so that we, too could be cruising around and soaking up some warm sun in the tropics. Our dedication and commitment to sail the Shackleton series is definitely what kept us here (yeah, right) and despite the light turnout,. the competitive nature of today's participants was still high. One can see the disciplined but loose and focused crew on Windrush.
No doubt there was some serious talk about tactics on board Maniac. Or maybe the crew might be addressing concern that Captain Tim appears to be sporting a standard ball cap and NOT one of the 3 matching hats required in the team uniform code.
And Chris and Jere on Luna Teak look to have a proper assessment of the seriousness and gravity of today's race.
Meanwhile, posing for selfies aboard Hasta La Vista seemed to be the priority of the day.
Furthermore, flashing the "we're number one" sign (not to be confused with Captain David Barrow's number one gesture that we revealed and exploited in this distant race report) outranks any need to keep a hand on the tiller. Besides, who here can say they have never steered a sailboat with their leg? And The Wind wasn't exactly stirring up a gale at this moment of the race.
It would be yet another interesting race that has had a season full of them. Westerly Winds were on the menu again and we prepared ourselves for another reaching contest and another opportunity to cause a little concern forManiac, knowing that reaches are a not a favorite of the J 29. Furthermore, not only could a West Wind of 5-10 generate speeds ranging from 0-15 plus around here, it also often times has a hard time figuring its path around the hills and bluffs to just to get to us sailors out there on the river. The Wind may greet you from the west, then find you from the northwest, lose Its contact with you, then make a sneak attack from a southerly direction. All which make sail trimming much more laborious and the decision of if and when to hoist a chute much more risky. So, on our trek upstream to Buoy 2, it would have appeared that The Wind was going to settle on a more southerly direction and soon the spinnakers on the J boats popped to life. But it wasn't too long before a shift back to the northerly side of things or just downright disappearing altogether left them flatlining. Various pockets of Wind and patches of calm led to the following scenario...
What did I say last race about the skill and art of hunting and finding The Wind versus catching a lucky shift or puff? As skipper of Hasta La Vista I must defer to the former as the reason for our success to jet out in front of the pack at this particular moment (because that is what ANY skipper will do). But truthfully, there is one other thing I have to credit. Flash back to Race 5 in which we learned about the retirement of The Lucky Hat. We have all seen it like a thousand times and know what it looks like. Now scroll back up a couple of pictures and take note of the hat that Hasta La Vista crew member Kara is wearing While not The Lucky Hat, it does bear a striking resemblance and no doubt it was casting a factor in our present good fortunes.
Then again, never count your chickens as they say. It would be one thing if this were the finish line but not even a fourth of the race had been sailed at this point and doing any kind of boasting and trash talking about it (in addition to a thumbs up photo) is considered taboo - because you never know when one of those other boats will catch a lucky shift. And so, any positive mojo received from The Lucky Hat Look-alike was soon dispelled as Maniac recovered from their spinnaker collapse and surged ahead to lead the way rounding Buoy 2. And it wasn't very long on our route down to Buoy 3 to where Windrush moved into second position.
The approximate 3-1/2 mile leg down to Buoy 3 became a bit like playing "Where's Waldo" with the Wind. Oh, for the most part there was some breeze, sometimes it was pretty nice. Other times it was elusive and we actually received some puffs out of the east and southeast for a short duration and several times witnessed our possessed Wind indicators doing their best Linda Blair impressions. Surely the group of Shackletonians down in Tortola would be quite envious upon returning to discover the fun variety of Wind we were sailing in compared to a boring and predictable 15-20 knot unidirectional Wind they were probably experiencing at the moment. Later we found out that they had completely forgotten to race their glasses in a toast to us back home during Race 6, the sailing must have been so bad. Those poor souls!
As we approached and rounded Buoy 3, the Wind began to stabilize speed wise (mostly) but it seemed from our vantage point on Hasta La Vista that the fleet was already separated enough in which we were going to finish in order... that we actually finish. In other words, the handicaps would not come into play in this contest. But about that time, Hasta La Vista caught a break with a sustained increase in Wind speed and a nice lift...er, I mean we labored hard and located The Wind. Then with precision sail trim and solid helmsmanship, it appeared that we were in second position (corrected times, of course) during this dash to the finish. But naturally, I verbally stated this out loud with still a mile of race course left to sail. And just like that, a wicked header hit and instead of having a direct route to the finish, we would now have to make a few tacks. By the way, Windrush was also victimized by the header but was closer to the line. Maniac? I think they had been well finished by this point and probably quite confident of a victory...but keeping a close watch on the finish line just in case. For Luna Teak, although having made an excellent recovery after putting their spinnaker to rest early on, a fourth place finish was inevitable. But one never knows with how sneaky The Wind was being today. And don't forget, there are still some shoals out there just eager and waiting to snare someone's keel.
Well, no groundings today - in fact I think we have seen less of these this year then ever. In the end, it would be a victory for the J 29 - a well sailed race by them and everyone today. Although it was still a bit shifty, there was some very nice Wind the last bit of the race. And with that last header (and of course the bad voodoo from even suggesting that we might finish second) it was assumed that 2nd would go to Windrush. But, don't forget The Lucky Hat Factor. And sure enough, the corrected times favored Hasta La Vista in the Battle of the San Juans. It really was a nice fun day for sailing although I must admit now that it has all been said and done, that it probably did not top that of sailing in the British Virgin Islands. Nah, as an organizer and promoter of The Shackleton Series I can't admit to that! Perhaps we will call it a draw.
Here is wishing for fair winds and lucky hats for everyone Race 7!
RACE 6 RESULTS
|Race report written by Eric Almlie. ©Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.|