Tuesday, October 27, 2015

It's Still Summer in Tampa!

Whew! Back from a whirlwind weekend trip to Tampa. It feels surreal to be among orange leaves and brisk temperatures when just a few hours ago we were surrounded by palm trees and salt water. The joys of modern travel!

The wind at Davis Island Yacht Club was out of the east most of the weekend, making for shiftier conditions than the steady seabreeze one might expect in Tampa.

This year, for the first time, the Wife-Husband Championship fleet had five (loooooong!) races while the Challenger fleet had the traditional three races for the weekend.  The race committee, capably led by Henry Moore, managed the conditions wonderfully. Plus, the conditions were pretty darn wonderful. Jeff Linton did say at the end of the weekend that these were the best conditions he’d ever seen in Tampa in October. Nice going regatta committee!

The sunny skies, the substantial winds, the pelicans and the terns… this might be what paradise is like. I will mention that we borrowed a boat from the very generous Donna Mohr and Jon Hamilton that was named, aptly, Heaven. So I don’t know where everyone else was, but that’s where we were this past weekend!

The winds were probably steady 15 with puffs to 18 on Saturday and seemed a little lighter on Sunday, though maybe that was wishful thinking.  In order to really get our money’s worth, Henry’s race committee kept changing the course on us. Every time on Saturday that we got to the leeward mark, there would be the change of course flag, with a big, fat “+” sign. At first I thought they had misplaced the green and red flags, but noooooo, they were signaling that the course had been lengthened. Because we weren’t having enough fun hiking and playing the vang as it was!

But let me back up: the weekend began on Friday with Mark and Michelle Taylor’s wedding reception. Woot Woot! Beer, sponsored by Mad Sails (thank you Ryan!), flowed and food and cupcakes were devoured. Although Mark and Michelle were married in May, they wanted to share their special day with all their Flying Scot friends, so they scheduled the reception for the Wife-Husband. Pretty appropriate, right?!

As I mentioned, Ben and I borrowed Heaven from Donna and Jon. When we arrived (Jeff Linton having picked it up from Jacksonville and driven it down for us), the boat was already unpacked, the mast was up and the plug was in. How’s that for service?! Happily this was Donna and Jon’s extra boat, so they were able to compete in their other boat, placing second in the challenger fleet. But I am getting ahead of myself. 

Donna and Jon (2nd place Challengers, yay!)

The next morning we had plenty of time for a hot breakfast at the Davis Island club. We sat outside on the porch trying to soak in as much tropical ambience as we could. Winter comes early in Illinois (though of course, not as early as for you all in Wisconsin!  J
Birds tried to help us finish our breakfast
Anyway, racing started around noon. The race committee was so efficient that Ben and I missed the second start while wrestling with the spinnaker (different system than Sophie, I’m sure you all understand). We were about a minute behind, but we managed to almost catch up with the back of the pack by the windward mark. The fleet seemed to like to split and hug the sides of the course. Usually the side we picked was not the favored one.  ‘Nuff said!!

At one point I enjoyed the sight of a flock of birds, some pelicans and maybe some gulls or terns all dive bombing near Kim and Dave Thinel’s boat. Only in Florida, am I right?! Anyway, after three races (the challengers did two) we all headed back to the club to rinse the salt water off our boats and our bodies, refresh ourselves with Mad Sails-sponsored beer and tuck in to a hearty Cuban style meal, while serenaded by an eclectic assortment of love songs. At the end of the day, Jeff and Amy Linton led the pack comfortably, with three bullets. But (almost) newlyweds Carrie and Tyler Andrews were in hot pursuit with 8 points. Our very own Mike and Jennifer Faugust were also in the hunt, tied for third with Mark Taylor (19 points).  The party faded gently into the night as everyone headed off to rest their weary heads. We stayed with a lovely couple from the club, Steve and Michelle Lewis. Steve sails big boats at Davis Island and is the island’s vet. He has four longhair cats, two of which we got to meet!

The next morning before we went out for more racing we met Lynn and Bill Bruss. Ryan had mentioned them to us because they bought Rob Fowler’s boat (a friend from Chattanooga) and he’d just sold them a suit of sails. Lynn introduced herself, just saying she was new to the class, etc, but when we heard their last name we were so enthusiastic, I think it startled them (or maybe even alarmed them!). Lynn was telling us about her tuning woes, and so Ben and I made sure to introduce them to Carrie and Tyler who, in Flying Scot Inc., tradition, showed up with a truck full of parts. Lynn skippered the Bruss’s boat and won the award for the top-finishing female skippered boat. Congratulations to Lynn!

Anyway, as I said, Sunday’s wind was, thankfully, a bit lighter.  The Challengers did a single, four-leg race and the Championship did two. The courses, just like on Saturday, were a good mile each leg. I sure feel like we got our money’s worth!

Sunburned, despite our best efforts, and tired, Ben and I rinsed the boat, took down the mast, and Donna and John helped us pack it up so they could trailer it back home to Jacksonville.  Their other boat will stay in Tampa for a few weeks and then they’ll come back down and take it to Sarasota, when the Florida circuit will begin in earnest.  

As for us? Our next sailing adventure will be the Midwinters in April at Pensacola’s St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club. I’m not sure how many people in our district have sailed there, but the stories of past FS Midwinters there are epic.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

RaceQs Race Replay: 2015 Glow Regatta

What is RaceQs?  From their website: The raceQs’ tracker app records sailing data with your phone and creates a 3D replay of your race online. The 3D replay will show your boat and any other boats who were recording in your area. Select anyone in the replay to learn from the top performers in your fleet.  

At the 2015 Glow, we provided all participants a free waterproof cell phone case and encouraged everyone to download the RaceQs app and record the race.   We also set up a public regatta broadcast and were provided a dedicated URL . Although we did not take advantage of the live broadcast feature, many of the racers enjoyed the race replay after dinner.   

Using the application is very simple!  All you have to do is remember to hit record.  If you are worried that you will forget, you can schedule it to record ahead of time.   After some previous issues with the Roll,Pitch, Yaw setting, we encouraged people to turn that to off.   After the race, Bruce Kitchen offered to set the lines, marks, and race start times.  

To learn about how to get the most out of RaceQs, you can read the Replay Your Races to Sail Smarter article from the most recent Scots N Water magazine.  Here is the link to that article: http://www.fssa.com/files/scots_59_5.pdf

Click HERE (http://raceqs.com/regattas/46444) to watch the replay on RaceQs:

Monday, September 28, 2015

Lots of Boats, Plenty of Wind at the Glow in the Dark Regatta

We had another wildly successful (if I do say so myself) Glow in the Dark this past weekend. With 26 boats registered, we beat our all time record by one boat, and everyone came ready to have a good time. This year we had mostly boats from our district, except for Mark and Maria Benner, who came from Moraine Sailing Club (outside Pittsburgh), Bruce and Lynn Kitchen from Cowan Lake (Ohio), and Carrie and Tyler Andrews, who came from Deep Creek in western Maryland. We also had Chuck and Denise Hollman, from Delavan Sailing Club in Wisconsin. Even though they are in our district, we have not seen many Delavan sailors over the last few years, so that was wonderful to have them here!!

Unfortunately, Luther and Deb Torgerson, from Madison, who have NEVER missed a Glow had to stay home this year because of an emergency (now mostly fixed) surgery. Even though they couldn’t come, they still sent a six-foot long cooler full of Madison beer for the event. Thank you Deb and Luther! We missed you!

We had Goldilocks conditions this year; two years ago we had too much wind (cancelled Saturday races), last year we had too little wind (couldn’t sail Sunday) and this year it was just right! Saturday was maybe a bit hefty, with winds topping out at 18 and some gusty conditions out of the east/northeast (unusual direction).  Sunday was about 6-8 and was very civilized, and we got all five scheduled races in.

Race committee, headed by the very able and patient Dan Goldberg (also from Moraine Sailing Club) ran three WL races on Saturday. The first two were five legs each. After the second race Dan took a partial poll of the racers: should we do another five-legs or a three-legs? I think most people he checked with must have said “three” because that’s what he ran for the final race of the day. Thank goodness! There was enough fun on the water to make it exhausting, and I heard several skippers later talking about cramping forearms. I also noticed that all the bananas got eaten this year! Coincidence? I think not!

Anyway, everyone stayed upright, though there were a few breakdowns: one mast came down due to a missing pin on a sidestay; one sailor got hit in the head by an uncontrolled gybe so hard that he got towed in (he was okay to sail the next day); and one vang broke but was jury-rigged by the third race.

I want to mention here, in case there are other nervous sailors out there (specifically crew). That I definitely whimpered on the boat Saturday. I begged Ben to not put up the chute. It was so gusty. Remember the ACCs? I did not want to be scared. I did not want to capsize.

I have always been a nervous sailor. It took me five years at least of racing with Ben to not be absolutely terrified every time I went out in any kind of wind. Eventually I learned to love it, but it took a long time and a ton of trust in Ben. It also took capsizing a few times to realize it just really is not a big deal, especially when you have good rescue boats nearby. When you capsize everything slows down. In fact everything stops! But after the ACCs, even though I was absolutely NOT scared during the event, I have been feeling skittish again.

But Ben insisted we put up the chute on Saturday, calmly reminding me that these conditions were nothing we couldn’t handle, that we’d sailed in them plenty of times. There were no storms anywhere in the whole Midwest, it was going to be okay. And he was right. We put up the chute and everything was fine. He let me whimper, which might have helped. I think this is known as desensitization therapy!

Racing was really competitive throughout the fleet and by the end of Saturday many boats were separated by only a point or two.  The top six boats were separated by only 8 points. Those sailors were: Ben Williams, Ryan Malmgren, Bruce Kitchen, Mike Faugust, Frank Gerry and Bronson Bowling.

Once we all pulled our boats we started the grill for the annual steak cookout. Our primo grill master, Chris Tesdal, was ably assisted by Bronson (our new district governor and all around good guy). Heather Johnson, a new member of our club, helped big time this year by making all the desserts and the green salad.  We also had potato salad and a corn bean salad, so no one went hungry. Both nights someone, I never saw who, started up the bonfire and we all relaxed around its glow. It was perfect camping weather, with the temperatures dropping into the 50s. A few Scots sailors went out with Rick Langlois and Perry Biddle (CLSA club members) on a cabin boat and enjoyed the lake in the calm of the night. It was cloudy, so I’m not sure if they could enjoy the full moon, by then I had collapsed in my tent!

The next morning it was up at sunrise to make the coffee and start on the hot breakfast, another great Glow tradition. Once again, tons of people stepped up to crack eggs, cook and cut up steak, chop onions, cube potatoes. I didn’t think these sailors were much for breakfast, but they descended on the feast like locusts and within minutes everyone had a full-ish stomach and the food was gone, gone, gone!

Time for more fun on the water: Even though the start was scheduled for 10 a.m., it took a bit of time for all the boats to come out and the start was postponed for maybe 15 minutes.  The wind was much calmer and a little patchy, but really pretty darn good. It had also clocked a little more southerly so Ben and I decided we liked the right side. We separated quite a bit from the pack by going this way the first race and we were pretty nervous about it, but by the time we got close to the windward mark we could tell it had paid off for us. We rounded near the front of the fleet. We stayed to the right the second and third upwind legs as well, and finished second behind Bill Vogler and Jack McClurkin who found some private wind in the middle of the course and pulled ahead of everyone. After that race, Ryan, Mike and Bruce were all tied for second with 14 points. Ben and I had 10.

That felt like a pretty good cushion. All we had to do was not tank the final race….. Well, you know how this ends!! The first start of the last race we were absolutely buried with nowhere to go. The wind had died, we had no boat speed and we were stuck. Thankfully we heard two horns and looked up to see the general recall. Praise be!! Okay, that was it, Ben had a plan, he was going to redeem himself and he did. The next start we were at the pin with speed and got off the line perfectly. But…what was that?! ANOTHER general recall?! What the heck!! GRRr GRRRR, this time the two horns was not such a welcome sound (especially when it turned out the race committee had meant to only sound one horn, for individual! But no matter, these things happen.).

Okay, third time’s the charm. Let’s get it going! Once again Ben lines up at the pin, we had good speed, the horn goes off, and … we get caught in the ugliest snarl I have ever witnessed! The way I saw it, a boat came in on port and tried to muscle in where there had to have been at least 5 boats on starboard. We all got so wedged together no one could move!! One sailor’s tiller got stuck in another’s side stay, boats knocked together like so many ducks in a pond. It was epic. Meanwhile, although some of the boats we had to keep track of also got stuck in the mess, a few did not and kazowee, there they went off the line, neat and clean. I heard later that a similar, though not quite as bad, snarl took place at the boat end. It’s kind of like the grand finale at a fireworks show….but the only colorful thing was the language!

Okay, we had five legs to at least catch up enough that we didn’t lose our four-point lead. That meant Ryan, Mike and Bruce could beat us, but not by too much! Ben shook off the chaotic start, tacked us away and got us going. We slowly worked our way through the fleet, tack by tack. It did seem like this weekend the wind gods were with us. Every time we tacked we were beautifully lifted! It does not always happen like that and I never ever take that for granted.

Long story short, we managed a fifth place finish, with Tyler and Carrie finishing first, Ryan and Stacey second, the Faugusts third, Bill Vogler and Jack McClurkin in fourth.

Final top five standings:
Ben Williams
Ryan Malmgren
Mike Faugust
Bruce Kitchen
Tyler Andrews

Results are here

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Travel Trophy Decided At Glow in the Dark

Your Name Here! Join us at the Glow and see who wins this year's Midwest District Travel Trophy 

There is one more regatta for boats to qualify for this year's Travel Trophy. This year, as I mentioned earlier, sailors only need to compete in two regattas to be eligible for the trophy. The last two years they needed three regattas. So far we have 10 boats qualified and it looks like several more will qualify this weekend at the Glow. It looks like the competition will be fierce. Come to the Glow and find out who wins!!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Another Weekend, Another Regatta!!

September always seems to be the busiest month for sailing and this year is no exception. We've been on the road every weekend since the Egyptian Cup. This past weekend we went to Lake Arthur, in Portersville, PA, for their regatta, the Sail for the Grail. Lake Arthur is in Moraine State Park, which is 30 minutes north of Pittsburgh. This is the home lake of our friends Mark and Maria Benner, and the home lake, when they aren't in France, of Tom Hohler and Chris Czapleski. This year the fleet captain, Paul Rowan, and his wife, Jean, hosted us at their home, which is about 20 miles from the lake.

It's a long drive, almost 9 hours, but it's always fun! This year we had 18 boats, which was about 5 more than last year. It was a crowded course!

I admit that I am still jittery after last weekend (see blog post: Argh, that's Pirate for Holy Cow!). Winds at Moraine State Park were predicted to be between 9-14. Doesn't sound like a lot, and there certainly were no white caps, but because there were lulls and then big puffs, or at least big in comparison to the lulls, my adrenaline was pumping in a way it hasn't for many many years. I admit there was even some whimpering involved, especially when the spinnaker was up.

Still, the only way to recover, I think, is to get back up on the proverbial horse. So that's what I did! Up and at 'em!

Lake Arthur continues to confound us, with its puffy shifty wind. I know we lake sailors don't mind shifty wind, but this was pretty crazy. We just could not figure out where the best spot on the course was. We started at the pin the first race, thinking that end was favored, which it was, until about 30 seconds before the start, when the wind shifted right!. Never mind, we took a deep breath and tried to sail hard. After all, Harry and Karen Carpenter were right by us, how bad could it be? And we did make it to the windward mark about sixth or seventh, I think. Not terrible. This year the line was open, which made life a little easier. The downwind leg was uneventful, except that Ben accidentally (who ever does it on purpose?!) dropped the tiller and BAM! We hit the nice fluffy marshmallow of a mark dead on!! If it was a boat that would have been major damage! Several helpful sailors pointed out we'd hit it. I was laughing because it wasn't like a minor tap we might have missed! Anyway, we did our circle and away we went.

It has been my experience that, occasionally, after a kind of .... bonehead move... like that something girds a sailor's loins and they bounce back better than ever. Perhaps mistakes like that force the mind to focus? In any case, we did something very special and secret (ie I have no idea what we did) and made it to the next mark in the lead! Now it was downwind and then up to the finish! if only we could hold our lead. Happily for us, the cluster of boats behind us got tied up together at the windward mark and we were able to pull out nicely. Our lead stretched to a comfortable margin, but it was all thanks to that mysterious second upwind leg!

The second and third races did not go quite as wonderfully for us, but we had fun racing some very very good sailors. The Kitchens (Bruce and Lynn, from Cowan Lake) were on fire! In the second race they led the pack, including Harry Carpenter.  That's hard to do! Especially in this case, when I saw Harry pressuring them very very hard at one of the leeward roundings. The Kitchens fended him off and finished in the lead. The third race is a little more blurry for me....I guess I was getting tired! I do remember that the Kitchens once again looked very strong, as did Mark and Maria Benner, who had at least two very strong finishes on Saturday.

Saturday night we had dinner at the Red Rock restaurant, which was lovely. The best part of the dinner was the thrill of seeing our good friends, Tom Hohler and Chris Czapleski, surprise!! Back for good from France!! Gosh! Was it good to see them. I don't mind admitting that I got a little choked up. I knew I had missed seeing their smiling faces, but seeing them this way, out of the blue just added a big emotional punch. Hopefully we'll see them some next year on the circuit!

Argh! Can you believe it, I forgot to take a photo just of them! But here's one of our whole table.
from left, Ben, George, Rachel, Tom, Chris, Stephanie and Marty

Sunday is the dreaded Bridge to Bridge race. I do not know why that race makes me so stressed out. It was not nearly as gusty as last year, but still, there are so many unknowns. It's not like you just have to point, which we all know how to do, and then fly the chute. Sometimes, often, it's a reach and someone finds a little finger of wind you don't have. Yesterday it was an almost entirely upwind race. how can that even be?! But when we were at the second bridge mark, anticipating putting up the spinnaker, the wind began to clock, lifting us around and around and around the mark, to the point that we almost didn't even need to tack to get around it and return back the way we came!! I kid you not, we only flew the spinnaker for the last five minutes in the cove. Once out of the cove and heading for the finish, the wind suddenly veered hard up and we were stuck with our spinnaker flapping. We had to do an emergency take down. More whimpering.

Meanwhile, the one boat we wanted to cover, Shadowfax, which is sailed by Mark Schaefer out of Deep Creek, snuck up on us. We kept between him and the mark, but when we had the little spinnaker mishap, he took advantage and sailed right by us.   Nice race, Mark!

Then it was hup! hup! Grab the trailer, pack up the boat, clap at the awards ceremony and hop in the car. Back home and back to the office. Boy, having fun sure is hard work!! Next weekend is the Glow and then we have a break until late October, when we'll go to the wife-husband.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Bit More info about Saturday's Weather...

Ben and I visited with his parents and then headed to the club to pack up. We heard a few more details. That the RC clocked the winds at just under 60 KNOTS; that 10 boats damaged their masts; that 13 motor boats went out to help. Thirteen!! That is just magnificent. Before the storm, there were six on the water and another seven went out immediately to help. And, by my count, four boats stayed upright: Joe Brake, Dave Neff, Joe Price and Jim Leggett. Other peoples' description of the storm matched what Ben remembered seeing. That there was only a little yellow dot on the radar and then, without warning, a big purple blog. Purple!!

Apparently, someone on one of the boats was taking photos and gave them to Joe. Maybe once Joe recovers a bit he'll post some. I'd kind of like to see those photos. Does that make me a sicko?! Also, it is kind of weird that we've had two experiences like this this season (the other was in Indy when we lost our mast) and Ben's gone his entire sailing career never getting hit by a microburst. I'm going to try very very hard not to obsesses about this but just get back in the boat and sail again.  Thank goodness no one got too badly hurt.

Joe decided not to award trophies, but to cancel the event. Given the extent of the damage and the fact that the race wasn't over (though a few had finished) when the storm hit, that makes a lot of sense.

The club, Blackbeard, was lovely, by the way. I'd love to go back!
I'll post photos when and if I get them.
Signing off, continuing the drive home.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Blackbeard Sailing Club, Argghhhh!

That's Pirate speak for, holy cow, what a day!

Scots down. Here are six of the nine dismasted boats waiting to get pumped out and pulled onto their trailers... photo courtesy Mike Funk

Ben and I decided at the last minute to drive to New Bern, NC, for the Atlantic Coast Championships. We had always wanted to participate in that event, one of only four national events the FSSA sanctions. Plus, we've always wanted to sail at Blackbeard, since it is near Ben's parents' home.

As you can imagine, it's a long drive. Total drive time was at least 14 hours. We pulled in Friday night and had a nice dinner with Ben's parents. This morning we were up with the birds and headed to the club to rig our boat. We were happy to catch up with several North Carolina sailors we know, including Joe Brake, Dave Safirstein, Joe Price, Charlie Buckner and several others, not to mention Rob Whittemore and John Wake from Maryland.

After the race committee meeting, Ben and I headed out. It felt strangely familiar to sail here, even though we'd only ever been on these waters with Ben's parents' motorboat. Winds were predicted out of the southwest at about 13. A gust line showed up when Ben looked this morning, but nothing to get too worried about. In fact, before the race began, the wind seemed to come down quite a bit.

Things changed after that. By the time the first race started (a four-leg race with a downwind finish), winds had picked up a bit and it looked like we had a good day of sailing ahead of us. And the first three legs were great. The fleet was really competitive, and we counted 22 boats on the line. Ben and I had a crummy start when a boat tacked right at the pin on top of us. We tacked and footed across the fleet to try to get clear air. That seemed to work okay and we were probably about 8th around the first mark. We managed to catch a few boats and lose a few boats the next couple legs. The sky off to the north started to look ominous, but we thought it would scoot by us. Unfortunately, Blackbeard had his revenge.

Just about the time Ben and I finished and dropped our chute, all hell broke lose. Even though we knew we were getting some more wind, we thought with the spinnaker down we'd be fine. Wrong! Someone said someone on the race committee boat clocked the winds at 50 mph. We thought we could outrun it, but we miscalculated and were just overpowered. Over we went. Next came storm and winds like we've never been in. We mostly just took cover on the lee side of the boat, but twice the wind picked up our mast, righted our boat and over we went the other way. Finally we were able to get our sails down, the winds and rain let up and we were able to take stock.

We were lucky. We only broke a boom. I am not exaggerating when I tell you I saw nine dismasted boats get towed in. Based on a very informal survey, I think three of the 22 boats managed to stay upright. Carnage, baby!!

Having said that, however, no one was injured. Everyone chipped in and helped everyone else. The support boats were fantastic, very experienced and extremely helpful. And I just have to give a shout out to Joe Brake, who organized a fantastic event. You can't control for Mother Nature!!!

With the amount of damage, it was decided to end the event today. Ben and I went out to dinner with his parents. We'll pack up the boat tomorrow and start our journey home.

Smooth sailing all!!