January 26, 2013
The last race report was opened with a couple of photos that were a less than accurate depiction of what the day's conditions were really like. I wish I could say the same about the picture above. Despite the sunshine and mild air all wind forecasts for the day were less than 5 mph out of the north - one prognosticator even dared speak those evil and forbidden words - "light and variable." This was combined with the fact that TVA decided it would be a good day to generate some electricity at the dam - either that or some one down there just left a faucet running. Variables such as these almost always lead to a short and conservative course.
One will observe that the intended field of play is focused on the right hand side of this map. However, those who participate in the Shackleton Series do not like such restrictions and many of us would utilize a fair portion of the left side of the above cropped river segment. I dare say one boat even flirted with sailing off the chart completely in today's battle in attempts to reach Buoy 2. Or was it Buoy 1 they were still trying to fetch? Laugh if you will and sure, making Buoy 1 (or even #2) might seem like the simplest of tasks to the layman or armchair sailor. But the first mark is much closer to shore than the two preceding green cans we had to pass on the channel side of - more so than the map indicates. And when closing in on Buoy 1 from further out in the channel, panic sets in rather quickly when you realize that it is not wind speed pushing you downriver this fast, it is the current. And it is moving you faster downstream than you are able to sail sideways.
Camille and Tatiana met the cruel fate of being swept downstream on the wrong side of the Buoy 1 and Luna Teak just barely made the mark by having to adjust to a close hauled course at the very last minute -good thing there was not an extra mil of paint thickness on Buoy 1- it was that close. Tatiana actually did make the Buoy 1 paint a little thinner for the next boat to round as the Tayana bumped the mark but on the wrong side. Unfortunately, no one else that was still upriver would make it to Buoy 1. David on Moriah III was firmly planted on a shoal to the north and True Blue had already done some earlier paint scraping of their own on the first green can downstream - also unable to pass it on the proper side - so instead of just having to do a 360 turn for striking a buoy, both boats had to attempt to return and round the mark on the proper side. For True Blue it required dowsing their spinnaker and several attempts to swim back upstream, which did not fair well in the faltering wind conditions. So although True Blue was the first boat to officially retire, Shawn and Brandi receive the Smartest Crew Award for today. But you can't really blame the rest of us for sticking in there and continuing on - after all, "At least it was a pretty and mild day, making the lack of wind a bit more bearable."
Flashing back to the start, it was a bit of a risky move to begin this race with a spinnaker in flight. While exiting the secondary channel, apparent winds were well forward of the beam making it a good close reach, adding yet another challenge for those who so dared accept it. PDQ³, True Blue, and Tatiana set forth with determination while Camille, Moriah III, Luna Teak, and Maniac would delay their chute deployments. Moriah III, for obvious reasons stated above, would not hoist a chute today and upon making the turn downwind towards Buoy 1, we were completely caught off guard by not seeing one of Maniac's seemingly endless stockpile of spinnakers immediately go airborne. Troubles on board? Halyard snap in two? Did the Foredeck Union finally win one of their grievances? Really didn't have time to make understanding of it because after our chute deployment on Luna Teak we were fast approaching and ready to overtake Maniac (an absurd concept). It was a quick decision that I made to duck to leeward, although subjecting the smaller J 24 rig to a possible full blanketing, at least we would be spared being luffed way up if we had passed to windward. But Maniac just kind of serpentined behind us, reaching up and jibing while making our way downstream.
Again, it didn't take long to reach Buoy 1 and as Tim would later say, they weren't too concerned on Maniac about that first run. The race would really be getting across to Buoy 2 and then up to 3 and then to the finish. I just KNEW that we should have made Buoy 1 the finish line! And yes, the rest of the "race" was just a root canal type painful procedure. We all drifted a good bit downstream of The Three Hour Nun (Buoy 2) as there was hardly even a draft. Every now and then a little puff would come along and push us closer, only to die out, and whatever ground was gained would be lost on the swift moving river. But with persistence that only stubborn sailors have, and a little patience (although that was FAST running out) a little wind came along, mostly along the eastern shore and soon we were able to make Buoy 2. And about the time the fleet began accomplishing this task, the wind looked like it was filling in and we were no longer regulated to just sailing over the shoals on the eastern side. (How we all hadn't run aground about 20 times at this stage in the race is a bit baffling!)
Camille and Tatiana were making their comeback. The Three Hour Nun had been reduced to The Hour-and-a-Half or So Nun. Things were looking up. Until.... the wind began to lighten up again and what little was remaining retreated back to the eastern part of the lake. So now making Buoy 3 was starting to become interesting. Fortunately there was enough wind over on that side of the lake - at that moment, for 3 of the remaining boats in the fleet.Camille had made Buoy 2 but after the last lull and several tacks, found they were not making any ground and decided enough was enough. Having finally made Buoy 3, Luna Teak and PDQ³ had no choice but to continue on, having come this far. And Maniac? Well, I guess they could call it a day since they had already finished.
Referring back to the course map, after rounding Buoy 3 it SHOULD have been a simple one tack close hauled course to the finish line. But reaching about the halfway point out in the middle of the channel, where the current flowed a little more, and the wind diminished, it was apparent that the two remaining boats were not even going to be able to pass on the proper side of the green can directly across the river from the Grasshopper Creek Nun. So that led to returning to the eastern side of the lake where the light breeze was.
Remember how I mentioned earlier that much of the fleet sailed on the left hand side of the course map? Well we were about to work the right hand side to its full extent as well. Although we did not not go all the way to the daymark, it would require sailing almost to the "W" on the map at the beginning of the blurry text that reads "Wind Bluff Cir." And for future reference, there is some shallow water at that "W". Having tempted fate a thousand times over in the Quest for the 3 Hour Nun, Luna Teak met its destiny and came to a dead halt. Andre, who crewed with me today, very calmly, routinely, and systematically worked us off the mud bar (hmm... I think he has done this before). Our final tack pointed us just downstream of the green can just above the secondary channel. This was it - the finish line or bust! By the time we reached the proverbial checkered flag we were halfway between the two secondary markers. Whew! Looking back across river, PDQ³ was following our path and would finish soon after. Just finishing today was a victory!
The boats that fair better in light winds were able to ride this one out today and our congratulations go to Maniac for another win. Meanwhile, it was a tough day for the Cruising Fleet in the fickle winds. As Chuck would mention, the race was very doable with today's wind conditions or the swift current...but not both. Looking at the latest forecasts for upcoming Race 7, we may have to adjust our line of thinking as it is looking like another warm, light air day, with in excess of 100,000 cfs flowing through the dam. Be sure to check out the next volume in this dramatic series to see how The Shackleton Fleet fairs in Race 7 - that is if we are able to make it back home. Might be a good time for those planning on cruising to the Gulf someday to start their trip. See you there!
RACE 7 RESULTS
|SKIPPER||BOAT||NAME||PHRF||ELAPSED TIME||CORRECTED TIME||POINTS|
|Tim Chambers||J 29||Maniac||120||2:10:35||2:05:23||7|
|Eric Almlie||J 24||Luna Teak||168 (S)||2:47:04||2:39:47||6|
|Eric Davidson||SR 21||PDQ³||158 (S)||3:12:15||3:05:24||5|
|Chuck Alexander||Cheoy Lee 41||Camille||150 (S)||DNF||DNF||1|
|James Drozdek||Tayana 37||Tatiana||189 (S)||DNF||DNF||1|
|Shawn Douthat||Ranger 33||True Blue||163 (S)||DNF||DNF||1|
|David Barrow||Mariner 36||Moriah III||207||DNF||DNF||1|
|Tim Chambers||J 29||Maniac||46|
|Eric Almlie||J 24||Luna Teak||36|
|Eric Davidson||SR 21||PDQ³||27|
|Chris Cyrul||Wavelength 24||Whatta Ride!||22|
|Chuck Alexander||Cheoy Lee 41||Camille||20|
|Shawn Douthat||Ranger 33||True Blue||18|
|James Drozdek||Tayana 37||Tatiana||12|
|Ginger Noble||Catalina 22||Mother Ship||6|
|David Barrow||Mariner 36||Moriah III||6|
|Chris Edwards||Hunter 340||Knot on Call||5|
|Andre Rijsdijk||Trintella 33||Dutchess||1|
|Race report written by Eric Almlie ©Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.|