March 1, 2009
Taking into consideration all of the 55 Shackleton Series races that have preceded this one, I think it is safe to go on record and state that the conditions in number 56, today's Race 8, were the most trying we have been subject to in this series. Yes, and that is including all the anguish experienced in many a drifter! Today's temperatures were in the mid 30s throughout the day and the wind was a consistent 25 knots plus, and we had many instances of sustained winds over 30 and gusts of near 40. There were a few snow flakes (more like a little sleet) here and there but we were spared the predicted snow showers. Not that snow would have really been that bad an addition - it would have made for a seemly setting for the finale of this year's series for sure. But with or without precipitation, there would not be a dry cockpit or participant from the onset. Interestingly, I did not hear of any lake wind advisories for the day but then realized that it probably went without saying - after all, who in their right mind would be out on the water today? So why the need for a warning? Truthfully though, I did not listen to the NOAA weather reports which were probably broadcasting exhortations of some sort. I purposely avoided listening to Igor and company's repeated loop of warnings otherwise I might have just stayed in bed! For even myself, one of the originators of this series, the one who has recurrently and adamantly asserted the series code ("we sail regardless of conditions"), the one who ALWAYS says that "it was a good day out there" - was having a VERY hard time getting motivated about gearing up today. And certainly wasn't seeing the good in it!
The race hadn't even started yet and I would hazard to guess that Andreas Montgomery wasn't seeing much good in it either. His Pearson 30 was the first casualty of the day as the mainsail suffered a "slight impairment". The good news is that this is just the excuse many of us look for to justify a new sail. The bad news is this is an excuse for a new sail! Just depends if you are a glass half full/half empty type of person. But Andreas seemed mostly disappointed by missing out on battling the elements and sailing the race today. Of course there are those that will (and actually have) adopt a "'tis a flesh wound" type attitude and sail on just a jib. Well, be that as it may, no one could blame Andreas for retiring before this one began.
Also having some prestart issues out there were Mike Edge and Chuck on Smoke on the Water. No problems with their sails or with the heavy winds as the Ranger 23 is a stout little boat. But even stout boats with the proper sail plans rigged up for the day have a hard time sailing in the mud. Yes, Smoke was caught on a sand trap, the downstream one from the secondary channel and did not free themselves until well after the 5 minute horn sounded. Fortunately, it was blowing a gale out there and although a little late to the start, not too bad off. And for the first time in modern history, the starting horns did not have an impact on the wind - well, unless you think they made the wind stronger!
It was Carol Lynn off to the best start followed by Dutchess and Maniac. Earlier at the skipper's meeting Andre and Tim had a discussion of the rules involving leeward boats heading up windward boats, when this could be done and the elimination of "mast abeam" and "proper course" from these rules some time back. That must have gotten the strategic wheels spinning in Andre's head because en route to Buoy 1 the leeward Dutchess and the windward Maniac suddenly veered off course like errant missiles! I won't say they were sailing the opposite direction from the buoy but they were definitely taking the scenic route. But only allowed to head up a windward boat to the point of luffing, Maniac soon got clear ahead and passed in front of Dutchess and the little duel was over. But it did assist in allowing Carol Lynn to round Buoy 1 in first position.
And of course that first buoy would be the G.C. Nun, which we would visit 3 times today. Obviously, Andre, the mastermind behind most of our great race courses, figured that three roundings would be enough to prevent me from writing about the bad voodoo we seem to encounter when we fail to properly acknowledge the presence of The Buoy. Well, he was correct. There was absolutely no bad voodoo there to write about today... but I guess it depends on who you talk to. Shortly after rounding this mark and heading into the first upwind leg (a short one), Dutchess and Ugly Red suffered groundings. I think Chris Cyrul and crew have had a perfect series - in terms of running aground at some point in a race, either in Ugly Red or Opus Dei. The grounding was fairly short lived for Red and having a somewhat shallower keel than Dutchess, the D&M was able to sail off much quicker. But was that a good thing? Red had already suffered some minor equipment failure and was dealing with that okay and dealing with the fact that the only foresail they had was a 155%. But soon into their tacking towards Buoy 2, the boom's sliding gooseneck pulled out of the mast groove. And it didn't pull out of the wider section of groove where it and the sail slides feed into. It ripped right out in the narrow section, widening the groove substantially in a place where widening is not welcome. Not wanting anything else to contend with, Chris and Bill decided to call it a day. Race 8 had claimed its second victim. Meanwhile, Andre and crewmate David Barrow began the laborious task of freeing Dutchess. Stay tuned for more on that...
On the very first tack upwind, the Beatnik crew decided to perform some foredeck balancing acrobatics, also known as a headsail change, opting for the smaller jib. And it wasn't too long before the window on the smaller jib became an open window. Hmmm...I see the local sail loft having a prosperous 1st quarter in 2009! Either that or the marina's stock of sail repair tape will soon be depleted. But Mike and Mark valiantly continued on.
There would be a short upwind leg to the next red nun before we would turn and head downwind to Opossum Creek. I believe 4 tacks was the norm and I guess it was kind of a mini training session for what we would have to endure once we turned around at Opossum Creek and had to sail back. Kind of like the first leg was a miniature down wind leg where upon sketching out the course earlier, Andre mentioned that the real aggressive sailors would put their spinnakers up on that 1/2 mile run as well as the 5 mile downwind leg. Spinnakers? Was anyone honestly thinking about spinnakers today? Oh, wait, looking at the picture above of Beatnik, I do see theirs armed precariously on the bow pulpit.
After rounding Buoy 2, we would catch our breath and turn to head downwind towards Opossum Creek where Buoys 4 and 5 were. Number 4 was just downstream of the creek and 5 was directly across the river. Once rounding these we would have to tack all the way back, a toilsome task many of us were not looking forward to. But we could not head to Buoy 4 until we paid our second homage to The GC Nun. No biggie, it was really kind of along the way - just a little bit of a turn to port, that's all. As I crossed paths with Carol Lynn, James hollered something over to me but all I could hear was wind and water (as I was still on my last tack trying to make Buoy 2). I did the regulation hand-to-the-ear and shoulder shrugging gesture and continued on chasing Smoke (who had nicely moved into 3rd position), Carol Lynn, and Maniac. The J 29 did seem to be in a somewhat strange location on the course but I didn't think much of it - probably another one of those strategy things -maybe they were going to seek vengeance on Dutchess for the earlier altercations.
As one can view from the Carol Lynn Stern Cam, the fleet was a little spread out. But remember, objects are always closer than they appear, especially in heavy wind. You are never as far ahead or behind as it seems. One can also see that Dutchess was now off the shoal (for the record Maniac was not nearby!) as both Andre and David got a workout in the process. And got a little wet with water spilling over the cockpit coamings during efforts to heel the boat. Not only was it necessary to heel the boat to that extreme but they had to sail towards the shore to be able to turn the boat around and...yes, sail back over the shoal to get back out to clear water. But now Dutchess was enjoying the winds that she was built for and although a good bit behind was in the first stage of making a comeback.
The downwind ride was an absolute scream - and I don't mean that literally. Everyone was fast. Maniac hit a max speed of 8.94 knots according to the recorded data. (We may as well call it 9 knots.) Several boats were probably hitting 8 knots at times. Even us smaller boats would catch a wave right during the run and do a little surfing keeping a good pace with those boats with a more generous water line. And not a spinnaker to be seen anywhere! True Blue was moving along nicely but both Shawn and Kristin were having some concerns about this downwind leg that many of us were having. Eventually it was going to end and we would have to turn around and face those brutal headwinds on the return trip. Honestly, it was tempting just to keep sailing on downwind - but this would only make it that much further to sail back. Of course we could have taken this a step further and sailed to the dam, perhaps all the way into Chattanooga, tie up to the dock down there and maybe get a warm hotel room for the night! Then come back and finish up on a day when conditions were a little more congenial. And really, as long as no motors are started up during this process and all the buoys are still properly rounded - then it still counts! Hey, I might be onto something here!
But then, that really does not go with the theme of this series. Several days after this race I was speaking to David Hoover, the prior owner of True Blue and one of the other originators of The Shackleton Series. In discussions about the conditions of Race 8 David got very excited and said, " Oh man, that is perfect! Perfect Shackleton race weather! That's what it's all about, right there!" Well David wasn't on the race course but perhaps he was there spiritually because although we had been dreading it on the run we were beginning to psyche ourselves up about the approaching beat. It was time to start meeting the challenge head on - the way Shackleton would have! Okay, bring it on!
Maniac was of course the first boat around Buoy 5 and it almost appeared in that area that the wind was calming a little. Would this become a leisurely sail back? Bah! We were getting all worked up over nothing! But about that time Maniac caught a gust, and a gust on top of the first gust, and in fact the rest of the ride home would be one big gust!, The upwind ride back would be a scream, too - and yes, some of it literally. We looked across the river to see Carol Lynn next in line to round #5 with just a smidgen of foresail unfurled. Smoke wasn't too far behind and Edge and Chuck opted to hoist the storm jib in lieu of the 90% they had up on the first upwind leg. Hasta La Vista and Beatnik were even at Buoy 4 and in what is now a time honored tradition when the two of us are passing and rounding buoys, Hasta La Vista gained inside rights or as Captain Mike put it, "you are going to shoot the hole again on me, aren't you?" True Blue followed close behind then Dutchess and Sassafras.
A little ways into the beat, True Blue suffered a tear in their genoa (fear not, the truck load of sail repair tape is expected to arrive next Tuesday). Actually, their sail damage is not too bad - mostly on the UV panel, but Shawn and Kristin did retire from the race in an effort to avoid further damages. Even motoring back would be somewhat of an ordeal against the wind and the chop. Fortunately our seas do not get rather large here - but still large enough only to make about 3 knots of speed with an Atomic 4 pushing.
There was really some good upwind sailing going on. Of course we know what Maniac can do. But James onC arol Lynn was doing an excellent job single handing the S2, remaining in 2nd position throughout the beat back. The sail plan of storm jib and full mainsail was actually the most ideal for the Ranger 23. Chuck mentioned the only concerns they really had were if the wind lightened any. Safe to say they were the only ones lobbying for the tempestuous winds to continue. Chuck did mention afterwards that their rail was rarely in the water and they kept having concerns about losing speed during the lulls. Lulls? Where was I during the lulls? The lulls must have been when ONLY the rail on Hasta La Vista was buried, not the windows or the coamings in addition to the rail! Stephanie, one of the other crew on Smoke did capture the only picture taken during this upwind leg - one of Hasta La Vista. You know, I do believe this WAS a calmer and more controlled moment - so perhaps there were some lulls out there!
Smoke did gain some ground on Carol Lynn but was unable to catch James boat for boat. Regardless it still looked like a 2nd place finish for the Ranger 23 since they would easily correct out over the S2. Meanwhile, Dutchess had passed Beatnik, as the J 24 was plodding their way back. Turns out, in addition to the blown out window on Beatnik's jib, the rigging had slackened a bit, and the full main with the working jib was still a little too much sail up for the J 24. But Mike and Mark pushed on.
As I approached the secondary channel and closed in on the finish line, Dutchess was gaining ground. Honestly, the LAST thing I wanted and was in the mood for was to get into a short tacking battle in the narrow secondary channel with Dutchess! I didn't want to hear any shouts of "Starboard!" or see some clever spin on the rules come into play! I was tired and ready for this race to be over with. Fortunately I finished just far enough ahead of Andre and David, who must be commended for an outstanding comeback in this one. Beatnik crossed shortly after.
Returning to the dock, Edge and Chuck walked up to Tim and said, "well it looks like we got second." Tim responded, "no, I think you won!" Looking somewhat perplexed that they could have possibly corrected out in front of Maniac, Tim explained what James was trying to shout at me early on in the race - Maniac missed Buoy 3 and did not realize it until about the time they reached Buoy 4. Reports did mention that Captain Tim discussed with his crewmate Mike about going back for it, which would have meant sailing that 5 mile upwind leg twice! I didn't hear what Mike's response was but I bet it was a doozy and a keen eye will observe that they did only sail that upwind leg once.
So congratulations to Edge and Chuck for a well sailed and well fought victory today! Unfortunately though, if you read the last race report you will recall that I had already reported what Tim said in his Race 8 victory speech. Tim was kind of curious about what he said as well and I told him "it was a very gracious and heart warming speech - and your generous pledge to fully fund a heated clubhouse AND a new battery for the race committee's handheld VHF was met with thunderous applause and a standing ovation. Mostly over the battery thing!" But the reality of the situation now being what it is, I guess Tim is off the hook and we will not be getting that clubhouse anytime soon.
Very little has been mentioned of Sassafras and their efforts on the course today. As always Ellen and crew sailed hard and did an outstanding job handling the O'Day 222 in these conditions. Alas, they did not make it to the finish line before dropping the sails. As much as I wanted to score them a finish for this race, and it may sound a little heartless that I didn't - scoring a certain place in these races isn't really what it is all about anyway, especially on days like this. Ellen and her crewmates Michelle, Brandi, and Amy endured the elements much longer than the rest of us did out there today. And they did it in the lightest weight boat in the fleet that is better suited for lighter winds. Regardless, the girls on Sassafras toughed it out for over 5 hours before firing up the motor and deserve a great amount of credit and admiration for their determination today.
And I will say that for everyone as well, whether finishing or not. There might be those that question holding an event on a day like this, where gear and people are really tested. But let's put it in perspective - the conditions we experienced today would still be considered very calm in many of the places people sail and in many of those places in which races are held. It definitely was intense out there and certainly more intense than our pictures show. But many of us have dreams of extended cruising on our boats and although I have never done any cruising or sailing like that, it is inevitable that at some point in time you are going to have to sail in conditions that you would rather not be sailing in. One of the purposes of this series is to gain a little taste of that. And furthermore what we experienced today was still probably a calm day for Ernest Shackleton and his men. Now referring back to my initial thoughts on having to sail this day...looking back, I can honestly say that I am much more satisfied and proud for participating this day than I would be had I didn't or turned around early and headed home JUST because of the conditions. There is indeed a sense of accomplishment for following through and battling the elements. For this it was a good day!
Congratulations to Tim and all of his crew on Maniac for returning to the winner's circle for this year's series. An excellent job by him and his crew. Also congratulations to Carol Lynn for finishing second and for Beatnik (last year's champs) on coming in third. And a HUGE thank you to everyone who comes out and participates in these races, especially on those days where it is not very tempting to sail. It is always a pleasure and honor, regardless of the weather or conditions, sailing with each and everyone of you. See everyone next year!
RACE 8 RESULTS
|SKIPPER||BOAT||NAME||PHRF||ELAPSED TIME||CORRECTED TIME||POINTS|
|Mike Edge||Ranger 23||Smoke on the Water||246||2:54:48||2:03:32||11|
|James Drozdek||S2 27||Carol Lynn||204||2:53:45||2:11:14||10|
|Eric Almlie||San Juan 24||Hasta La Vista||231||3:01:06||2:12:58||9|
|Andre Rijsdijk||Trintella 33||Dutchess||191||3:01:20||2:21:32||8|
|Mike Burrus||J 24||Beatnik||186||3:04:03||2:25:17||7|
|Ellen Long||O'Day 222||Sassafras||279||DNF||DNF||2|
|Shawn Douthat||Ranger 33||True Blue||165||DNF||DNF||2|
|Chris Cyrul||D&M 22||Ugly Red||273||DNF||DNF||2|
|Tim Chambers||J 29||Maniac||123||DNF||DNF||2|
|Andreas Montgomery||Pearson 30||195||DNF||DNF||1|
FINAL SERIES STANDINGS
|Tim Chambers||J 29||Maniac||76|
|James Drozdek||S2 27||Carol Lynn||63|
|Mike Burrus||J 24||Beatnik||53|
|Mike Edge||Ranger 23||Smoke on the Water||51|
|Eric Almlie||San Juan 24||Hasta La Vista||50|
|Andre Rijsdijk||Trintella 33||Dutchess||47|
|Shawn Douthat||Ranger 33||True Blue||32|
|Chris Cyrul||Olson 30||Opus Dei||28|
|Ellen Long||O'Day 222||Sassafras||26|
|Chris Cyrul||D&M 22||Ugly Red||20|
|Christopher Freye||San Juan 24||Banana Split||18|
|Greg Hollis||Coronodo 25||Wavelength||10|
|Andreas Montgomery||Pearson 30||6|
|Race report written by Eric Almlie. ©Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Photos by James Drozdek, Stephanie Harrelson, Andre Rijsdijk, and Eric Almlie.|