SHACKLETON RACE 5
January 22, 2005
Take those conditions present in Race 4 a couple weeks ago, you know the one with the abundant sunshine, gentle breeze, and spring like warmth - take those conditions and invert them and you just might get an idea of what Race 5 was like. Cold, damp, dark, gray, and of course, scolding wind. Although it gives a little more authenticity to a winter sailing series, the response I get when I proudly inform someone, "why yes, we went sailing today," has gone from forced muffled laughter to looks of outright concern about our mental stability. Even good friends disassociate themselves when upon hearing our exploits, stop total strangers and say, "get a load of what he did yesterday!" As I have stated in the past, those who sail the Shackleton Series are a special breed and although you can take that statement anyway you like, I applaud each individual, captain or crew, that braved this trying January day!
In preparation for the upcoming combat (amongst ourselves and against the elements), everyone discusses their choice of sails for the day. What is most interesting is that in general, a conservative sail plan is initially chosen but by the time everyone has made their rounds, spinnakers are being packed, 170%s are pulled out, and the lake wind advisory in effect is scoffed at. Call it peer pressure. But regardless of the sails chosen for this adventure, how, even in hindsight do you set a sail plan for wind conditions for a day that will see about seven different positions on the Beaufort Scale?
As mentioned, there was a lake wind advisory for the day starting at 11:00 and to continue for the next 36 hours. So the next question was when to start the race. Well, that's a no brainer - 11:00! Actually we made it 11:15 just in case the gale would be late and to allow the muffins in Food Acres' oven to finish baking. Captain Freye was ready and anxious to try out his new high tech time keeping device seen on the right as we synchronized watches. Rodger Ling did display his concerns as his watch and mine (the latter used for the OFFICIAL start time) had moved 17 seconds apart since the last watch synchronization which was, oh, a mere 312 hours ago, meaning there was a discrepancy of about .0009 seconds per minute between our devices. This is important for timing those precision starts.
The wind wasn't too heavy at the pre-start as the full sailed boats jockeyed for that ideal starting position. Even though the SW winds appeared to have subsided somewhat in the past hour, confidence was high that we would all complete this course before the even heavier and much colder NW winds arrived from the approaching clipper expected to arrive this afternoon.
Early on we could see that once again Maniac was going to be difficult to beat. Was it the clean bottom? Psyched and experienced crew? Some type of innovative race strategy? Nah - none of that stuff is important. No, the reason they were going to be tough to beat would be due to their matching foul weather gear (yes, I know Lynn's is a different color but the design matches). Image is everything and this looked like a championship team!
Soon after the start of the race, the wind cranked back up as did the swells in the main channel as boats pounded their way to the weathermark, which was only about 5 miles downstream. Going to be some sore muscles tonight. Lots of spray and just plain water coming up onto the decks. I imagine the J boats were getting a little on the damp side (heh, heh, heh). I couldn't laugh much though, for after securing the jib sheet on my second of the 7,000 tacks I made today, I looked up only to see a wall of water splashing up over the bow and got a face and mouthful of lake water. Rodger and Annie could make a small fortune if they go into the dodger business after a day like today. Their homemade one on Food Acres was the perfect armament.
As we made our way downriver, most of us were getting overpowered at some point or another. The exception here appeared to be David Freye on Banana Split who, after debating his sail selection at the dock, was flying a genoa only and actually doing an excellent job. At first I thought it was the old, "C'mon, I'll fight you with one hand tied behind my back" ploy. Or maybe he was trying to lure us in to all dropping our mainsails (remember - peer pressure). But in reality, unbeknownst to most until after the race, he had lost his main halyard before the start - apparently the shackle had come loose from the mainsail when it was hoisted and was now dangling and clanging at the top of the mast. Nevertheless, David's efforts to hang in there and improvise would earn him a 5th place finish.
On the very welcome downwind leg, I took the only photographs during the actual race. And they were not of any other sailing vessel since, once again, I was kind of isolated out there. Catching my breath and actually enjoying the solitude of the moment, I heard a familiar drone. One that is heard often during the summer months here on Chickamauga but never in January. I thought to myself, "it can't be, could it?" I looked back and confirmed my suspicions. There was a jet ski making its way upstream. Okay, us being out here is one thing - we have a duty and obligation (for pure entertainment value if nothing else), but that was just plain crazy. But then...I thought some more while snapping pictures for proof (like I had spotted Bigfoot or something) and realized that the operator of the PWC may have actually been dryer than some of us, and was at least wearing a wet suit. Maybe it wasn't so crazy after all and the operator may have seen us and thought, "If they can do it, so can I." So score one for the unknown jet skier!
Returning to our regularly scheduled program, the team of Chambers, Chambers, and Sickler (sounds like a law firm) were on their game today as Maniac obliterated everyone. Of course, I believe they finished the race just as the southerly winds began dying, leaving the rest of the fleet out their bobbing in the leftover swells as the wind took about a 30 minute intermission. Then the cold front arrived with gusty and frigid NW winds, turning the last mile or so of our downwind leg into another upwind battle. The race for 2nd was intense and the Ling's actually lead boat for boat for a while. But it would be the team of Hoover, Clark, and Rijsdijk in True Blue that would persevere. For the rest of us solo artists, it was an intense workout. Great job by Dan in Myrtle the Turtle, David in Banana Split, and Mark Simms on Miss Problem Solver. Also, Mike Rice put forth a good effort to hang in there in Summer Breeze but retired early on in the race. After working the night shift and being awake for 30 hours straight, he decided enough was enough - can't blame him.
In the end everyone was accounted for, all vessels arrived back in port unscathed. Maniac did bump bottom and that guy piloting Comfortably Numb hit a turning mark but no damage was done and I..., I mean that guy sailing Numb did the appropriate penalty turn. Shackleton would be proud of our modest fleet. Of course, Shackleton might have welcomed a day like this - hard on us, calm in comparison to most of his.
Story written by Eric Almlie. Photos by Andre Rijsdijk and Eric Almlie. ęCopyright 2005. All rights reserved.
EXTRA! EXTRA! EXTRA!
After this race report was published online, more photos were made available. Like true warriors, Rodger and Annie not only conquered the conditions of the day, they watched mandatory episodes of Sponge Bob during the downwind leg, AND also shot some good video through various portions of the race. The pictures below are still shots taken from their video and are a much better representation of our battle with the elements than those published above.
Banana Split cuts through the water at good speed with just the genoa flying. We were waiting to see if David would fly the chute along with the genoa during the downwind leg.
Mark Simms single hands Miss Problem Solver. For the most part, boat owners - regardless of what size boat they own - always want one just a little bigger - except on days like this when sailing single handed!
WANTED: Used working jib for Catalina 27, CHEAP. A partially furled 150% with no foam luff was ineffective on this day as Numb was in constant pursuit of Banana Split. Every time I got near Split, David would ask if I was getting tired. Maybe I lost to him due to mind games. Come to think, I have observed that bad things happen to boats that are sailing near Split. Just ask Dan and David Hoover in Race 4.
Myrtle the Turtle prepares for lift off! No wonder Dan did well soloing in this one. He figured out how to reduce drag by sailing with only half the boat in the water!
If there was ever a good argument to put in a reef...David Hoover, David Clark, and Andre hard at work and sailing strong.
As mentioned in the race report, many of us were overpowered and Tim Chambers said they were entertained on Maniac by seeing us all fight heeling, weatherhelm, rounding up, and sheeting in the extra square yards of Dacron. (They used a 100% jib).
RACE 5 RESULTS