Shackleton Race 2
Hiwassee Island. Location: the mouth of the Hiwassee River where it flows into the Tennessee River at mile 500. Of the brave captains and crew of the Shackleton series, it has become a passion, an obsession if you will, to circumnavigate this Island that has been so inviting, yet so elusive. Narrow channels, fluky winds, current, and strangely marked buoys can make sailing around her a challenge. But today...TODAY, would be the day that there would be no turning back, no shortened courses, no easy way out in another 5-10 wind prediction. It's all or nothing! We were determined: today would be the day that we ALL sail the Island.
For those unaware, the Shackleton skipper's meetings (or any of our skipper's meetings) are an event in themselves. One can see the seriousness and competetive fire in the eyes of Andre, Tim, and Robert in the picture on the left. Well maybe you can't see them in Robert's but if you could, they would also match those of Anthony's (below left) and Greg's (below right). Yes, I know you can't see Greg's either but you get the point. This is SERIOUS business and all of us - captains, first mates, crew, deckhands, and swabs are not to be reckoned with in our passion to conquer that Island!
It is imperative that one pay attention during these meetings. This can perhaps be the most challenging aspect of the day, for one must have to wade waste deep through all of the hot air and wind thrown around just to get to the important stuff such as what the race course will be, starting time, and which buoys to round. We could probably charge admission just for the watch synchronization process!
Getting out on the course our hearts were pumping and mouths salivating as we were greeted with NE winds at about 16 with gusts over 20 and plenty of white caps. Yes, today would be the day! After the first several tacks, we all realized we were in for a workout and that there would be many more tacks to be made before we even made sight of the Island. And these we're not long tacks either. Just when you would get set and think you have a moment to rest...ready about! And the closer we approached the Island, the shorter the tacks were as the channel narrowed. Arms began to ache, legs began to buckle, muscles we're strained...but today would be the day! And then the groundings came.
"If you run aground and get stuck, we will not come back and get you, at least until after the race!" This we're the words quoted by Andre at the skipper's meeting. Practically the entire fleet hit bottom at some point during the race at least once. Maniac and Comfortably Numb were the only ones that escaped unscathed but there were many close calls. I thought at times as the depthfinder alarm went off, "well maybe it wouldn't be so bad to run aground, at least we can get a little rest then!" Rodger, however, would disagree as his second grounding came at the critical junction buoy on the east side of the Island. And this one would require swimming an anchor out and kedging off. Yes the Island seemed to be fighting back. However, after great persistence and effort, Food Acres was free. But not convinced that they had worked hard enough, Rodger and Annie then practiced their man overboard drills as their raft used to swim the anchor out blew off the deck! But nevertheless, today would be the day!
Maniac and Banana Split with great foresight (and pointing ability) ignored traditional values and took the counterclockwise course around the Island. This turned out to be the wise choice as it did cut off a good bit of tacking. I just knew if I followed that same path, the wind would shift a couple degrees and we would be making "baby tacks" on the north end of the Island. The rest of the fleet gutted it out, found that little bit extra, continued on tacking and rounded clockwise. Never break tradition!
Once the upwind course was completed, it was a downhill ride. We could shake out our reefs (those of us who put them in) and just coast back home. This would be the day! Kat and I in Comfortably Numb crossed the finish line with no one in front of us! However, I guess I have to add that there were 3 boats that had already finished, stowed their sails and had headed back to port when we crossed the line! Congratulations to Maniac, Banana Split, and Dutchess for finishing in the top three. All flew spinnakers and did an outstanding job (was that an actual rooster tail coming from behind Maniac?)
There were still 4 more boats on the course and not seeing anyone coming, we decided to go check on the rest (under engine power of course!) Finally Endurance and Wavelength came into view. As we passed Endurance Anthony stated, "we have casualties back there!" So we continue on but very soon, Food Acres and Enchantress come into view. Rodger saluted and affirmed, "all present and accounted for, sir!" They had gone back a little ways to pull Enchantress off the final grounding of the day!
Hats off to Robert, Anthony, and Andre, who all single handed their boat in some intense conditions - Andre even flew the spinnaker with the assistance of "Miss Tilly" (Autohelm autopilot). Excellent job of sailing by David Freye who gives credit to his crew- son Christopher and his friend Eric Phipps. Sailing by himself he said probably would have meant a heart attack! Great job by Rodger and Annie going back for Enchantress - even though we could officially score both a DSQ, the race committee is generous in our quest for the Island. Greg and Debbie Hollis did well also with their family aboard. And of course, the Chambers' - what can we say but great job again? There is talk about the resurgence of the Alliance! Finally with the benefit of writing this, I would like to thank my wife Kat, who sailed in her first Shackleton race ever, hung tough, did a great job at the sheets, and most importantly didn't bail when finding out the course length, "we're sailing how far?" Yes, today, WAS, the day!
Thanks to Rodger and David for the pictures.
*Rodger was given 20 minutes in time for going back to pull Enchantress off a mud bar.
POINT STANDINGS AFTER RACE 2
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