SHACKLETON RACE 7
February 12, 2005
The aftermath of Race 6 still hasn't settled and yet we find ourselves out here again battling those same harsh winter elements. To this day, I am not sure why I scheduled races on back to back weekends - I am still groggy from the last sleeper. As I explained to a few folks, although writing these race reports is a privilege, I have to relive the race when writing about it. Therefore each completed paragraph about Race 6 was followed by nodding off into a comatose like state.
Anyway, on to Race 7. Today's forecast - WET! The 90% chance of rain was here and it would not have been surprising to hear some grumbling amongst the participants. The idea of renting out my bimini was an enterprising thought. And money was of no interest, either. This late in the series I need POINTS! A good bimini to assist in keeping oneself a little dryer is worth about 25 points or so, wouldn't you say? However, everyone actually seemed eager to start this race and if not eager, definitely well prepared. Andre would be crewing with David Hoover on True Blue again and was ready for a monsoon. The crew on Maniac - well, there are those matching outfits again. The rest of us were also appropriately attired and no one had to scramble for that popular last minute and most economical rain gear - the Hefty bag! So the marketability of the bimini was looking grim. Hey, I would even settle for 15 points. Heckuva deal!
Now I know what some of you are thinking - sailing? In the rain? Yes, you ought to know by now - this is what we do. Still don't know why, but we do it anyway. And since the list of justifiable excuses has long been exhausted, we have simply come to accept the fact (and you should, too) that we will sail in ANY condition. At the very least you might be thinking, "well, Eric, due to your failed marketing efforts, at least you have a bimini to crawl under like they do on Miss Problem Solver and Food Acres. That's not soooo bad." Would it change your opinion of me if I told you that I don't like to race with said appurtenance opened up and had no intentions of using it? Although great for summer cruising, it tends to block one's view of the sails and hinder access to the foredeck.
All of the local prognosticators promised us SE winds around 10-15 with a fair amount of rain. What we really got was an exceedingly light NW breeze and a some light intermittent rainfall. This foiled the plans of sailing the downwind leg first. Regardless, the start was still interesting.
Similar to last race, we crept around waiting for those horns. Studies performed over the past few years have confirmed that time is not a constant on each boat, and I am not talking about watch synchronization here. Utilizing the scientific method to its fullest, we have now hypothesized that the closer you are to nailing that perfect start, approaching the line at hull speed, time itself will practically come to a standstill, yet the boat continues at its fast pace . Conversely, the farther you are away from the line or just in a rotten position with no momentum or wind after the 5 minute horn, time speeds up exponentially with every passing second. As you might have guessed Comfortably Numb fell victim to this phenomenon. Dead in the water, pointed in the wrong direction, the last 2 minutes of a countdown never went by so fast. As True Blue yielded to my starboard tack right of way (at least I had that going for me), Andre said, "you better turn around!" I mumbled some kind of thank you back for the sound (and obvious) advise. By the time I got enough momentum on the boat to gain steerageway to tack I looked at my stop watch for the countdown and noticed it was about 12 seconds to zero hour. At the proper time I begrudgingly sounded the air horn, the blast of which resonated across the lake signaling the start of another Shackleton race.
Most of the other boats had a good start. Maniac was on the course side of the line when the horn went off but returned to the proper side, kind of wedging between the 4 foot gap between Food Acres and Miss Problem Solver. A pretty astounding trick considering the J29's 11 foot beam. Did the gap widen or do the laws of physics cease to exist on a J 29? Having often observed this boat appearing to sail 5 knots in a 1 knot breeze, I vote for the latter.
Oh, but the fun was just beginning. David and Andre were determined on True Blue not to let Tim and Warren in Maniac get to windward, pushing them almost head to wind each time Maniac made a move to the inside. Finally, only about 2" off True Blue's transom, Maniac dove off to leeward for clear air and speed. David and Andre were concerned about the revenge factor on the next tack but the dogfight was avoided and all parties involved behaved like true gentlemen.
We had the same upstream course as last race but thankfully a little more wind to work with. It wasn't exactly blowing up a gale out there but after last weekend, we will take anything! Maniac, Banana Split, True Blue, and Myrtle the Turtle lead the way. Meanwhile Comfortably Numb, Food Acres, and Miss Problem Solver clumped together a little further back. Anthony West returned to the series, sailing the USS Georgia and was being trailed by Mike Rice in Summer Breeze. Funny how we tend to sail around in groups - guess it is the social aspect of our sport.
Although not with supersonic speed, everyone sailed a good upwind course. Rodger did interject "4.2 knots!" on one occasion but I think there was a discrepancy between his GPS and knotmeter. I called out 3.7 at one point and did a double take to ensure it was my knotmeter and NOT the depthfinder that I obtained that figure from, as Numb was sailing outside of the channel at that point. Confirming that the depth was 15 feet it dawned on me that we had no groundings so far today (and wouldn't have any). This was actually a little surprising since the lake level was down more so than in the prior races.
It appeared that the winds never were going to pick up out of the southeast, which was just as well. This made for a nice spinnaker run to the Grasshopper Creek buoy. With the exception of Banana Split, all vessels equipped with the big nylon monstrosities quickly took advantage. As Rodger said, "one minute we were in the lead, and the next we were falling behind a parade of spinnakers!" Elaborating further on the conditions of the day, "this was a rough race for us on Food Acres. My gloves got wet from handling those wet lines and it made my fingers cold. I asked several boats if they had any warm mitts they could loan us, but none were forthcoming. I guess that's appropriate because the exact same thing happened to Shackleton and his men." Yes, conditions here practically parallel those on the southern ocean, don't they? Speaking of spinnaker runs, Mark Simms did an excellent job soloing on Miss Problem Solver with his chute up, quickly gaining on those in front of him. Even during the fickle winds when Numb's spinnaker would start to collapse, Mark's was always full. At least it was every time I turned around to see him closing the gap.
During all this Maniac had of course finished, having sailed another excellent race. True Blue would also sail a strong competitive race but would concede victory, finishing second. Dan, fighting the remnants of a flu bug, still did a fine job soloing Myrtle the Turtle and took third. With about 90% of the race sailed, it appeared that Banana Split was a lock for fourth but it would be Comfortably Numb passing Split (that's a first!) at the channel entrance to Sale Creek. Captain Freye would have to make a couple more tacks to cross the finish line but unfortunately it was all for naught - Split had sailed on the wrong side of the last main channel marker en route to the secondary channel markers. Done in by the buoys again!
At this time, Food Acres and Miss Problem Solver had just rounded the Grasshopper Creek buoy and prepared for the final beat. However, the wind would begin to falter making their final tacks a little more grueling. In the end, it would be Rodger and Annie who would take 5th. Anthony and his father (the salty looking souls on the right) toughed it out even longer while Mike on Summer Breeze put about a 3 hour time allotment on his sailing activity today.
Good job everyone! As an added bonus, we all get an extra point due to the rain. Barring any unforeseen and unusual happenings in Race 8 (DQ's, missed buoys, snipers, all that kind of thing), it would appear that the top three places in the standings are sewn up. But then, rumor has it that provided we have the right conditions, Race 8 will have a pursuit start. Those conditions being having the wind and course design in which the remainder of the fleet finishes before Maniac even starts!
Photos by Rodger Ling and Eric Almlie
Story written by Eric Almlie. ęCopyright 2005. All rights reserved.
RACE 7 RESULTS