February 11, 2006
It is necessary to start this race report with a correction. It was in Race 1 that I inscribed the following regarding Rodger and Annie's (Food Acres, a.k.a. Seaductress) upcoming departure for bluer waters: "it is a pretty safe bet that they won't be island hopping in the Bahamas by the time the cold Shackleton weather arrives." I didn't mean anything by this other than the fact that the cold weather in our winter series normally arrives by Race 4 and by Race 7, things are generally warming up. Not this year, for today we were greeted with 35 degrees, blustery winds, and some snow if you were one of the lucky ones. By far, our coldest campaign this balmy winter. And guess where Rodger Annie, and Laura are at while Race 7 was being held?
No further comment.
Actually, we must congratulate them on reaching what most of us sailors long for and what Roger described as one of the most beautiful places he has ever seen. Can't argue with that but surely there must be some part of them that misses sailing the Shackleton Series! I mean, who could ask for better weather than what we had in Race 7? I had visions of constructing a snowman crew (real crew is hard to come by in these adverse conditions) but those of us in the valley did not get any of the white stuff like they did in the surrounding mountains (2" - 6" I believe was the report). But in sharp contrast to the conditions Seaductress was currently experiencing in the Exumas, we did have some mixed precipitation during the prerace preparations, and there were no flip flops worn today.
With the wind advisories I also saw Hiwassee Island in our future. But with all that has been mentioned here so far, it would be wise not to come to me for prophetic advise. For thankfully, a grueling venture to go around the Island and back was avoided and we stuck to a much a shorter (7.5 miles) and simpler (11 buoy roundings, yes that IS simpler) course.
Unfortunately we were without one of our main participants in this year's series. Warren Sickler, who presently leads the series on I Soar was on the D.L. with an ailing back. Is it the extra long sailing season taking its toll? Regardless, his absence would provide the rest of us the opportunity to gain some ground on him, something we are not used to this late in the series. (In past years, Maniac would have about a 50 point lead by now).
Captain Freye on Banana Split was gung ho just before the start performing a couple sail changes. First it was a 170% hoisted. Then to David's slight disappointment, he saw me flying the 150% on Hasta La Vista. Wanting our respective San Juan's to be even he said, "but its perfect weather for the 170%!" Well, at the time it was. But the wind WAS coming and we had set a later start time than normal today. Sure enough, 10 minutes before the start the wind arrived, somewhat light at first but out of the NW (we all know what that "W" means when there is wind involved). Yes it was a little gusty and shifty. David grabbed what he thought was his 150% but it turned out to be a 110%. Doing some quick sail changing by himself, the matching sail was hoisted and that Battle of San Juans was on. And not to forget, Dutchess and Summer Breeze were out there battling as well.
And it was Summer Breeze and Dutchess out to an early lead as both Mike and Andre had excellent starts. The first portion of the race was off the wind but those of us with spinnaker capabilities opted to make things easier on ourselves and kept those spinnaker bags out of sight, out of mind. In fact, all angles of sail were required to get to the downstream marks, so the spinnakers would have been ill advised anyway.
For a brief moment it appeared that the clouds were breaking up and the dark grey day brightened into a light grey day. But the small patch of blue above was short lived and we returned to complete overcast - the way it SHOULD be in winter racing!
Turning upstream, Dutchess lead the way. Yes, Andre seemed to sniff out the fluky early winds and even in the lighter areas, he seemed to continue separating from the fleet. Did someone think Dutchess was not fast in lighter air? Don't believe it! I think Andre has been toying with us all along and as the wind built to Force 5 and 6 levels, he was going to be difficult to catch.
Race 7 was full of breaks and heartbreaks by the shifty winds and other anomalies. At one point Mike watched in frustration after sailing into a dead area, speed dropping to about 1/2 a knot while the remainder of us rode off, fighting to keep our boats upright (glad I didn't use the 170%). On Banana Split, it turns out that David needs his glasses to see and when they were lost overboard, Split retired from the contest, after which he would have to be escorted in just to make sight of the buoys. And for unexplainable reasons, Dutchess rounded Buoy #9 the wrong way and never went back to correct. Had madness from the brutal conditions and isolation from the civilized world consumed us? And on Hasta La Vista...well I certainly didn't sail a perfect race but other than a few tactical errors and being overpowered a few times, luck was on my side. So put an asterisk by my name as winning this one by default.
Will anyone believe me when I say it really wasn't that cold out there today? Probably not but any day out sailing is a great day! The season's finale is Saturday, February 25. Come on out and enjoy the fun!
RACE 7 RESULTS
Race report written by Eric Almlie. ęCopyright 2006. All rights reserved. Photos by Andre Rijsdijk and Eric Almlie.