SHACKLETON RACE 4
January 9, 2005
Anyone who has ever had to organize any type of outdoor event knows that even the best laid plans can all be for naught, for we are simply at the mercy of Mother Nature. In scheduling our winter racing series, dates are painstakingly chosen as not to interfere with holidays and other events, hoping that the only unknown and uncontrollable variable, the weather, is to our favor. Unfortunately, today's race was met with an awful scenario. You read about such things happening to others and never think it can happen to you. Yes, I am afraid we were greeted with clear, sunny skies, and sixty plus degrees. Less than ideal conditions for a WINTER series race! No blustery winds. No sleet pounding while trying to cleat off a rigid frozen jib sheet. And the tiny but slowly expanding ice floe that was present just a couple weeks ago back behind A Dock had long since liquefied. Be all that as it may, the race was held as planned!
Today's wind prediction: the dreaded L & V. "That stands for lovely and vibrant, doesn't it?" quipped Leaf Myczack, a fixture at the marina (a.k.a. The Riverkeeper). Leaf, although a regular sailor and someone who has logged more river miles than Lewis and Clark combined, is not a racer and generally has some sort of witticism regarding our winter sailing activities. Even so, today he was watching the weather closely as well, planning a trip to Hiwassee Island.
With the anticipation of light winds, the start was delayed until 12:00 to allow the zephyr to build into...well, something other than light and variable. Or perhaps it is just a bit more dramatic to hold our shootout at high noon. In the meantime, we used our free time wisely and took the opportunity to discuss some recent changes in the new Racing Rules. Tim Chambers presided as master of ceremonies.
"When did the new rules come into effect?" Tim quizzed the group.
"2002!" quickly replied Rodger with an incorrect answer. The correct answer is 2005 as new rules are put into effect the first of the year following the Olympics. This brought up a follow up question, "when will the next set of rules come out?"
"2002!" quickly replied Rodger, adhering strongly to his convictions. Seeing that the education progress amongst the assemblage was going nowhere fast, Tim abandoned the pop quiz, held up the new rule book and asked, "now, who has a copy of these?"
Still determined to get a correct answer Rodger confidently responded and pointed at Tim, "you do!" If you haven't figured it out by now, jocularity runs abound here at Sale Creek.
Oh yes - the race. It would be another short course - a little over 3˝ miles. Maniac crossed the starting line first while I was floating close behind in Comfortably Numb with David Hoover in True Blue to windward trying to squeeze in between me and the starting buoy. Tim made an incorrect observation aboard Maniac and hollered, "push him out, David!" Push who out - ME? Wait a minute, I'm the leeward boat here and have the right of way! Certainly the rules hadn't been reversed, had they? Would we now be shouting, "port!" instead of "starboard!" a gazillion times during the race? Tomorrow, I am placing an order to US Sailing to have another copy of those rules so we can keep Tim in check. Good thing no one took him seriously when he said the newest rule was that each skipper had to hold their head under water for 30 seconds during the first 5 minutes of the race. Well a few of us may have been ready to dunk but became privy to Tim's taradiddle (Thesaurus's are wonderful) when realizing "hey, that guy who said it was a rule didn't dunk his head!"
Okay, enough digression and back to the race. As you know, Maniac was in front (that's pretty much a given). David on True Blue was doing fine until finding the bottom of the lake on the south end of the Sale Creek secondary channel, moving from second position to just about last. And that was not a good thing with the light southerlies blowing. Banana Split (another boat that has perfect Shackleton attendance) and Myrtle the Turtle headed across the lake to the first mark in second and third position respectively. Crewmember Matt Barnicle (that's a seafaring name if I ever heard one) and myself tried our best to keep pace with the lighter weight boats but they slowly pulled away. Meanwhile Mark Simms in Miss Problem Solver, Rodger and Annie Ling in Food Acres, and Mike Rice in Summer Breeze (debuting in his first Shackleton) were also having trouble keeping pace as the patchy wind was not present in their sector. And for David Hoover, efforts to break free from the muddy bottom were still being employed on True Blue.
About the time Numb was halfway to the first mark, we saw exhaust water exiting from True Blue's transom pipe - David had started up the engine to clear himself off the shoal. Unfortunately, use of an engine for such purpose in a race, according to the rules, is an automatic "you're outta there!" It appeared that David was headed back to port.
On the other side of the lake, the shoal in front of Grasshopper Creek reached out and hooked Dan in Myrtle the Turtle just a few feet from Banana Split, who escaped without incident. Eventually Dan freed himself with the assistance of his spinnaker pole, six minutes and two seconds quicker than I preferred to see, but then, my opinion is a tad biased here.
The wind was beginning to fill in completely across the lake now, albeit still a little on the light side. Looking back, the remaining boats in the fleet were beginning to pick up speed as conditions improved. It also appeared that True Blue was back on the course sailing. You gotta like and respect David's initiative and effort to continue on!
It was between Maniac and Banana Split now. Both were sailing strong and the wind began to build some more towards the end of the downwind run and final leg. David Freye and Co. put up a great fight and Split had a strong performance. But it was not enough to overcome Maniac, who returned to the winner's circle. Dan's second ever spinnaker flight would assist in Myrtle the Turtle's third place showing. Another fine effort by everyone on what turned out to be a most excellent day of sailing. Maniac and Split even continued on sailing up river for a couple hours.
David Hoover sailed exceptionally well and would have finished 5th overall if not for the DSQ. He made a strong case for an appeal saying that by starting his motor to free himself from the shoal, he disqualified himself from one race and then started a new one. Hmmm. His argument brought up much discussion amongst some of the fleet and it was about 48 hours before the final decision was handed down. It was determined that the rules of engine use and methods of freeing oneself off a grounding are quite clear. Furthermore, allowing the restart in this case would cause confusion for future races and open up all kinds of new rule interpretations. Who knows what that would lead to? Anarchy, mass hysteria, dogs and cats living together! Finally, there was nothing in the rule books about "do overs". Sorry, David!
In regards to the rest of the fleet, Miss Problem Solver and Food Acres finished strong and Mike on Summer Breeze got the wind he needed to have a good day on the water and finish a race. (Mike's previous two races last year were in flat calm seas.) And and far as Comfortably Numb is concerned, no one realized that there was a 4th place prize for this race. After completing the course, Matt (who is Leaf's son, by the way) and I noticed a dinghy that had broke loose from it's mother ship and was floating around aimlessly. Thinking we had stumbled upon something of value, we realized the acquired booty would have to be returned to its rightful owner upon seeing the unmistakable "Riverkeeper Green" color of the tender. Yes, it belonged to Matt's dad who was halfway to Hiwassee Island before realizing the little boat was no longer trailing. The thing here is that regardless of who the dinghy belonged to, it would have been returned to the proper owner, so the dinghy was not the prize. But the fact that it belongs to a man who likes to dish out a little bit of his humor (all in good fun of course), this gives me the upper hand for many future exchanges. And that's a prize as good as first place! :)
Story and pictures by Eric Almlie. ©Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.
RACE 4 RESULTS