SHACKLETON RACE 2
November 21, 2004
Whoever penned this anonymous quote that was seen published in the 2004 Mariner's Book of Days must have participated in one of our Shackleton races. For as you know, we sail regardless of the conditions. Although I can think of much worse conditions than today, it was still not one in which you would want to introduce your best buddy to the world of sailing. There was a good chance we were going to get soaked and an even better chance of no wind, the latter of which was already evident by viewing the roaring calm in the harbor.
After drawing out a humble course to Hiwassee Island and back (just kidding - the actual course was less than 3 miles), there was much discussion at the skipper's meeting, mostly on the issue of setting a time limit for this one. But in the end it was decided that we can't allow for such sensible thinking and deviate from the overall theme of this series. We didn't even set an alternate course, sticking with the original 2.8 mile journey, half of which would have to be sailed against the current. As the head of today's RC I justified my final decision, "I have food aboard, don't you?" All navigation lights were also in functioning order, just in case this thing went into extra innings. Somehow I feel that I left the skipper's meeting less popular than when it started. That's life on the RC, though.
Still, eight boats participated. David Freye had the entire family unit on board Banana Split. Anthony West, who had missed Race 1 due to his attendance at a paint ball competition in Wisconsin (which actually brings up ideas for future regattas) was present as well, sailing his Alberg 24. He would sail solo as would David Hoover on True Blue, Dan Sisk on Myrtle the Turtle, and myself on Comfortably Numb. Also present were Maniac (who has a perfect attendance record since we started the Shackleton series a couple years back), Miss Problem Solver, and Food Acres.
The start of Race 2 was clean and it was Maniac and Banana Split rocketing to an early lead. Those two along with Myrtle the Turtle, True Blue, and Anthony's warship, the USS Georgia had good starts and managed to catch the Force .5 wind and sailed/drifted through the secondary channel markers. Food Acres, Miss Problem Solver, and myself were a tad tardy to the line and did not get that much needed and desired puff. We made steerageway across the starting line but soon found ourselves slipping sideways more than moving forward. Then it was soon noticed that Food Acres slowly began to turn off course and had no helm response. Uh oh, it appeared Rodger and Annie had sailed into an invisible, lumbering whirlpool. After performing their 360 degree turn (about a 5 minute maneuver) Annie mentioned something about putting that 360 "in the bank" as a penalty turn since they were on track to bump the secondary channel marker that lay just ahead.
The anchor on Numb was set to avoid drifting further downstream and possibly into the shoals. Mark Simms on Miss Problem Solver followed suit. We peered out across the lake and saw Maniac, Banana Split (chute up), and True Blue fairly close to the first turning mark but working their way back upstream to it. Myrtle the Turtle and USS Georgia had drifted a little further downstream in their quest to make the turn (see photo at top of page). Those of us still hovering near the starting line were just hoping to make it out into the main channel sometime today.
Mark used his free time at anchor wisely, opting to eat lunch. In contrast, I decided to play it safe and conserve the provisions on board. Rodger and Annie, who didn't bump into the secondary channel marker by the way, seemed to have more sense then anyone today, calling it quits about an hour into it and heading back to port to do some sewing on their dodger. Can't say I blame them but about the time they motored out to bid adieu to the rest of the fleet I felt a draft and saw some slack in the anchor rode as the boat lurked forward. Looking out on the river the fleet was moving - moving slowly, but moving. Ah ha! We now had wind, or at least something to work with. The anchors on Numb and Miss Problem Solver were hoisted and soon we were making our way out to the main channel.
Meanwhile, already rounding the downstream mark, Maniac (who else?) was headed back upstream followed by True Blue and Banana Split. We saw Dan's spinnaker for the first time ever as he sailed to the downwind mark but emotions were mixed. On the one hand it is always nice to see another spinnaker flying on the water. However, we are not too thrilled about seeing anything that makes Dan's boat faster!
Speaking of spinnakers, the reach to the first mark with one hoisted would turn out to be yet another setback aboard Numb. Keeping the story short and simple, the spinnaker pole took a dive in the water (fortunately it floated long enough to be rescued), and a lull in the wind and some miscalculating on my part lead to me drifting 2 feet below the first turning mark. Unable to sail back to it with the chute up, I had to abort the spinnaker mission and unfurl the genoa, drifting even further downstream in the process. At this time Maniac was approaching the same mark, which doubled as the third and final one of the race before heading to the finish line. I was humbled even further as he beat me to it - I had been lapped!
Both Banana Split and True Blue were within striking distance of Maniac and skipper's of both boats felt they would be in contention on the last leg to the finish line. As David Freye said, "...we had him...and then...let us pause for a grounding and a change of wind speed." Yes, both boats searched for and found the bottom of the lake near Grasshopper Creek. Maniac cruised away to victory once again. Myrtle the Turtle caught up and would have a photo finish with Split but the Freye family would take 2nd place. True Blue would end up in 4th after sailing a strong race before the grounding.
Miss Problem Solver was making a nice comeback on the return trip upstream and was battling it out with Anthony before the USS Georgia mysteriously disappeared off the course completely - one of those Bermuda triangle things perhaps? Anthony was later found back at port safe and sound. In the meantime, I was simply in a mop up role on Numb, fighting more current, sailing with no wind, and now some light rain began to fall. At least it was brief. In a flat calm, I had drifted below the downstream mark maybe about 50 yards, no one else around except a bass fisherman near the shoreline looking at me oddly, wondering why in the world anyone would be sailing on a day like this. Hey, I believe I have seen many a bass fisherman not catching squat in more adverse conditions than those prevailing at the moment! I was determined to finish this race! Finally, the boat propelled forward at an alarming 1.5 knots. I flashed a smug look at the fisherman and was soon on my way back upstream. Rounding the last mark, which seemed to take an eternity, I noticed Miss Problem Solver crossing the finish line. I inched my way towards the line when in about 100 yards of reaching it, the wind shifted but picked up out of the NW, enabling me to cross the finish line with 4.5 knots of boat speed - by far the fastest of the day and my reward for not quitting!
It was one of those types of days - each mistake made is compounded greatly. Not only does one lose time from the mistake but momentum is lost also and very difficult to get back until the wind regenerates. But still, everyone was glad they stuck it out and that we put no time limits on the course. And even I still managed to have a good time in between expletives! Mom told me there would be days like this! See everyone at Race 3!
RACE 2 RESULTS
SERIES STANDINGS THROUGH RACE 2
Story and pictures by Eric Almlie
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