Wednesday, July 23, 2014

First Day of Finals Has Hefty Winds

The first day of the Flying Scot NAC championships presented more wind than during the two days of qualifying races. The Seaside course, which the race committee used during the qualifying races, was more exposed to the south winds and, with the shallow water, created extra large waves, so the race committee set up on the Wannamaker course, which is a little further up the river and protected. In addition, we really gave the drivers on the Rt 37 bridge a show today because part of the course went roughly parallel to the bridge. I noticed at one point that the traffic was stopped for the drawbridge, so they really got a good view.

The first race was a four-leg course, finishing downwind. During that race, winds started at 10-12 out of the south and gradually built. The top 10 finishers were very close together, and Ryan Malmgren had a strong finish at #x. Ben and Deb, struggling a bit more than the other days, were 14th of 16.

By the beginning of the second race, winds were about 18-20, with plenty of whitecaps, thought the chop wasn’t unmanageable. Ben realized we had been way overpowered the first race and we cranked on the vang and the cunningham. The race committee ran a five-leg, windward-leeward course. We got a good clean start in the middle of the line, but then were called back for a general recall.  The second start, with the race committee flying the “I” flag, had no boats over early.

Ben and Deb won the pin end of the start and the boat was feeling really good. However, during a tack, Ben missed his footing and fell out of the boat in the midst of a puff. (a video exists, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever release it!) Deb uncleated the main (see! I can learn!), but Ben still had it in his hand, and so it re-cleated and over we went. Luckily, Ben got on the centerboard and Deb was at the top of the mast and the boat did not turtle. Deb was able to get into the boat and uncleat the main (again) and the jib and, together with Ben, hung on the center board and righted the boat. Unfortunately, it was really hard to get back in the boat!! Eventually Deb managed to haul herself in and then gave Ben a hand. Since no more races were scheduled for the day, Ben and Deb sailed in.

Frank and Marianne struggled with the wind and finished midfleet in the challenger division, but we all enjoyed a lovely dip in the pool afterwards, complete with beer and tall tales. Plus, at dinner Marianne was served both gluten-free hamburger buns AND cookies, so all is good!

In the pool, we all applauded John Kreidler’s and Joe Brake’s  great day, as they are now in second, behind the superhuman team of Jeff and Amy Linton, who appear to be unbeatable. Likewise, Rob Whittemore and John Wake also had an awesome day, finishing in third place. As I mentioned earlier, a group of us are sharing a house, so it’s always fun to see one’s housemates do well.

Tomorrow two more races are scheduled but meanwhile the wind is supposed to clock 180 degrees, come in from the north and bring some rain with it. Never dull out here in Toms River!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Second Day Even Nicer Than the First

I hardly thought it was possible, but today’s conditions were even better than yesterday’s. The wind was just a touch stronger, which meant you could sit on the deck the whole time, and hike, but not have to hike your brains out. No having to shift your body weight from deck to center, to low side, like yesterday, so I was happy.

Today just one race was scheduled to finish off the qualifying series. We did a five-leg race, finishing upwind. The wind had shifted from yesterday’s easterly to a nice and steady south breeze. I never saw the compass move more than about 10 or 15 degrees all day. Everyone has been so well behaved, we hadn’t had a single general recall … until today’s second group, when the dreaded blue and yellow flag went up. I think the gloves will come off starting tomorrow.

From Ben’s and my perspective, we liked the right side of the course. Given the time of day and the tide schedules, it seemed that the ebbing tide would help us if we stayed in the channel, which we decided was more on the right side of the course.

We were in the front pack at the first windward mark, with John Luard (Monmouth Yacht Club in New Jersey) leading the group. As the race continued we managed to grind through a few boats until we were just behind John. He put a really tight cover on us, which was weird for me, I’m used to doing the covering, rather than being covered and I didn’t like it!

Anyway, Ben and I needed to just have a solid finish to make the championship fleet and at this point we were in second place, so we were feeling pretty good. Right at the finish, Greiner and Robert Hobbs caught us, but we were very, very pleased with our sailing.

Speaking of the Midwest District, Ryan and Adam also had a good day and finished solidly in the championship fleet. Frank and Marianne had a very good day but missed making the top fleet by TWO points. Hopefully they’ll DOMINATE the challenger fleet!!

Tonight the rumor is we’ll have fish tacos or grill something at the house. I want to go after dinner to the boardwalk in Seaside Heights.

Right now we’re at a meeting about membership. Eric Bussell’s efforts through Parkland College to promote sailing is being spotlighted right now!! He’s a star!!!

Results are here:

First Day: Two Races

First day of the NACs and the Midwestern sailors are hanging in there. Again, because there are only 31 boats, only the top 16 advance to the championship round. The conditions today were great; it made me glad to be a sailor! We had steady-ish winds from the east between 8-10 mph and clear skies. It was glorious!

We all got towed out to the racecourse because it was, no kidding, about four miles away. There is one closer racecourse, but the Junior Olympic sailors were using it. So, no problem, we all got towed out, in a big long line of about eight boats, like little baby ducks following our mama! 

Adam Keen and Ryan Malmgren at the christening of Ryan's new boat. Clever, right?!

We had two races scheduled today. Ben and I are in the yellow fleet, Ryan and his crew, Adam Keen, are in the red fleet, as are Frank and Marianne Gerry. The first raced the yellow fleet raced the red fleet, and the second race the red group raced the blue and the yellow raced the black. Ben and I needed a couple good finishes to have any hope of making the championship fleet, and, happily, the wind gods were favoring us, particularly in the first race, when we won it, beating some sailors we’d never beat before! So, it was a good day…

Bill Vogler took this photo of us receiving our certificate for winning the first qualifying race

Frank and Marianne suiting up

Now we’re back at the house we’re sharing with Ryan and Adam, John Kreidler and his crew, Joe Brake (and Joe’s lovely family, Stacey, Beau and Beckett), and Rob Whittemore and John Wake. Ryan, a chess maven, is challenging everyone to 30-second chess, but he’s so good he has to make his play in 10 seconds and his opponents get extra time!! Since margaritas are involved, it’s very entertaining!

Tomorrow the yellow group races the blue, the black races the red and then we break until Wednesday morning, when the finals begin.

Tonight the yacht club, a lovely group of people, is hosting a pig roast!

As to that, I will say that, among some people, Toms River got a bad name from when they hosted NACs in 2008. Prime among the complaints was that yacht club members towed people they knew to the course and everyone else had to fend for themselves. That is not cool in Scot culture! And the locals said there was no current or tide to worry about and there actually was. Errrrr! Ugh!

But this time around the Toms River folks could not be kinder and more generous. We have had wonderfully well-run races, great food (Marianne Gerry, with serious Celiac's disease, got gluten-free buns and cookies and everything!), lots and lots of help getting to the race course, getting our boats in the water and everything! Plus now they have a beautiful pool right on the water. I'll post a photo of that later!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Competitors' Meeting Sunday

Competitors’ Meeting

Last night was a cocktail hour and competitors’ meeting. 

from left: Diane Kampf, Rob Whittemore and John Wake
It was the shortest competitors’ meeting I have ever attended: the PRO introduce himself, said if anyone had any questions, to put them in writing and he’d answer them on the notice board! No one had any questions, so we moved on to a wonderful spread of hors d’oeuvres. Yum!!

From left: John Kreidler, Ben Williams, Adam Keen and Phil...I don't know his last name!

We sat with the group from Massapoag Sailing Club: Greg and Diane Kampf, Roger and Kate Sharp, and John and Connie Eckert. We had tons of laughs, talking about all the different times we’ve fallen off the boat, etc. The best story was Greg talking about when Diane fell in the boat, hitting her back on the centerboard trunk and lay there moaning as their spinnaker pole floated away and began to sink. What did Diane moan? “Greg, our spinnaker pole!!” So he ran for the pole and left Diane to fend for herself. Now, that’s a dedicated team!!

Beau Brake fell asleep into his dinner plate. Now he's resting with his dad, Joe. Too much fun in the sun? Or too much chocolate? Only Beau's parents know for sure!

A random observation:
In New Jersey there are two things you cannot do: turn left and pump your own gas. IN order to turn left, you have to turn right. Perhaps that’s a metaphor for bigger things?! Anyway, you turn right, do a little cloverleaf and, there you are, going straight across the street you just tried to turn left from! As for pumping gas, when was the last time you pulled up to the pump and were met by an attendant? The very friendly 22-year-old informed us that, to the best of his knowledge, only New Jersey and Oregon had this requirement that an attendant pump your gas. It made for a very nice change, even though he didn’t offer to wash our windshield!

Sunday at the NAC; Racing Starts Tomorrow

If you can believe it, the day dawned cold and drizzly (is this REALLY July weather?!). I'm determined not to complain because I'd way rather have chilly weather than boiling hot weather. Still, it was fun to catch up with everyone as we got our boat registered,  measured, and rigged.

Ryan and Ben chatting in the drizzle

And then, by this afternoon, the weather turned gorgeous!! Things are looking up!

Ben setting up Sophie  
The one unfortunate aspect is the very low attendance. Instead of the 70+ boats at a typical NAC, Toms River has 30 boats registered. There are many reasons for this, most likely, and it sure didn't help that the club, having recovered from Hurricane Sandy then had the entire interior of their club destroyed this winter by a broken water pipe. You wouldn't be able to tell; the club is lovely, but you can imagine how much work it was to get everything back up and running...

For Ben and me this means that the qualifying races will be the hardest part of the regatta in a way. In order to make the championship fleet, we'll have to finish in the top 15, which we have never done in all the NACs we've ever attended. So, wish us luck!

Other Midwestern sailors attending are Ryan Malmgren (with crew Adam Keen) and Frank and Marianne Gerry. Ryan has a brand new boat he just picked up at the factory on his way to this regatta, lucky dog! He's still trying to come up with a name. Send your suggestions to me!

We'll have the competitors' meeting tonight and tomorrow the first race starts at 11 a.m. Since it's about a two-mile sail out to the course, we'll have to leave the dock on the early side and remember to bring lots of food and drink!

From left: Frank Gerry (in background), Larry Taggert, and Ben Williams

Friday, July 18, 2014

On the Road to the NACs

This year's NACs are at Tom's River Yacht Club in New Jersey. Ben and I have never been there but people say the club is gorgeous. It's always fun for us to try a new place, Although I remember how anxious I was about going to new clubs when we first started traveling, these days it's always fun to try a new place.

We're looking forward to seeing our buddy, John Kreidler (on the right), who sails at Western Carolina Sailing Club, at the NAC. He's always good for a ton of laughs!
I'm going to also try to exchange club burgees with Tom's River, though I'm not sure too many clubs do this anymore. Last year I bought a ridiculously large number of burgees expecting to trade them at all the clubs we travel to. I love the idea of seeing our Clinton Lake Sailing Association burgee  hanging from sailing club rafters from Wisconsin to Lousiana to Florida and, yes, even New Jersey. But at the few clubs where I've proposed this, I've been met with kind of blank stares, so we'll see!

Anyway, Ben and I left after work today and managed to just get a few hours of driving in before fatigue and rain prompted us to stop for the night. We'll get up tomorrow morning, early and, hopefully, make it to Tom's River Yacht Club after dinner some time. We don't have to  get there at any particular time, though we should attend the Board of Governor's meeting at 10 a.m., Sunday, and we have to get our boat measured, of course.

Racing starts Monday with some round-robin style qualifying races. The fleet is divided into fourth, typically, and three races are run so each division races all the other three. That will determine who sails in the championship and who sails in the challenger divisions and the finals will begin on Wednesday, again, weather permitting!

Not too many other Midwestern sailors attending thisyear, I don't think. So far, I've only heard that Ryan Malmgren and Frank and Marianne Gerry are attending, but hopefully there are others I
just don't know about.
Stay tuned!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Midwest Districts Full of Excitement

When you see the Baha'i Temple you know you're at Sheridan Shores
The 2014 Midwest Districts were hosted by Sheridan Shores Yacht Club in Wilmette, Ill, on June 28 & 29. We had beautiful weather, strong winds and great food. Friday afternoon the annual single-handed races were held. With six competitors and enough wind to run two races, Sheridan Shores fleet captain Mike Fuller came out the winner. Yay Mike!!

 Eight out of town boats made the trek to Lake Michigan and, together with Sheridan Shores sailors, we had a field of 14 competitors. That group included Frank Gerry, FSSA president; Bill Vogler, FSSA vice president; Harry Carpenter, boat builder; and Ryan Malmgren, sailmaker, not to mention your very own Ben Williams, District Governor. An august group, right?
Bill Vogler at the finish

Although storms were predicted later in the afternoon the very, very capable race committee, led by Ross Adams, got us out and racing by 11 a.m. on Saturday. Getting out of the Sheridan Shores harbor is always fun since you have to weave your way through hordes of boats tied up at mooring balls. For those of us used to the Midwest's wide open spaces, it's a very different experience! But nothing beats sailing out of the harbor, looking to your right and seeing the Chicago skyline...unless it's looking behind you to see the gorgeous Baha'i temple, which sits just inland from the yacht club!

If you look to the right you can get a sense of how crowded the harbor is
Three races were scheduled for Saturday and the race committee and the weather provided just that. Winds were southeasterly (about 150-160) and nice and steady, something we lake sailors do not take for granted. Each race was almost precisely one hour, even though with the high winds (I heard a rumor that some gusts were as high as 24 mph...) and large waves, sometimes they felt longer!

Mike Fuller, building on his win from Friday, had the best start of the day, launching off the line at the pin end several boatlengths ahead of everyone else thanks to a last-minute wind shift. As he told me afterward, that was all well and good, but he couldn't find the upwind mark! It can be hard on Lake Michigan...there's just so much water and the legs were very long.

The most exciting thing that happened Saturday was that Jack and Janet Markwick capsized at the windward mark, after getting caught in irons and then nailed by a large wave. Ugh! Happily, they had flotation on the top of their mast and Janet righted the boat by standing on the centerboard. Way to go, Girl!! You can imagine the water was quite cold and I was reminded of Jack McClurkin's Man Overboard article (which you can read at the fssa website) and how long someone can survive in the chilly waters of Lake Michigan. Once the boat was righted and Jack and Janet were on the safety boat they thought all was fine...until the person holding the bowline accidentally dropped it while helping Janet aboard.

Off went their boat, Allegro Too, with sails flying. Just at that moment Ryan Malmgren and Stacey Rieu were sailing by and, without hardly discussing it, Ryan sailed right up next to Allegro, Too, Stacey leaped (gazelle-like, I heard) onto the Markwick's boat and ZIP ZAP took the sails down before leaping back onto her boat and sailing off with Ryan. (I was amazed to hear that, despite the capsize, the crank handle was sitting pretty in the tabernacle) It was quite a show!! Long story short, the Markwick's were none the worse for wear, though Janet showed me her bruises Sunday and they were pretty dramatic.

The last race of the day was five legs, rather than four, and according to my informal poll, everyone was very very glad it was no longer than that! There was so much hiking out there that we all found new muscles and joints that pained us Sunday morning when we woke up.

At the end of Saturday Ben and I were in first place with three points, Mike and Jennifer Faugust (Ephraim Yacht Club) were in second with seven, and Carrie (Eagle Creek Sailing Club) and Harry Carpenter were in third with 10 points.

Just before Saturday's dinner we had our annual district meeting, which was quite productive. We have a proposed site  not only for next year's districts, but also the following year's, pending fleet approval. Once we get the okay, we'll post that info!!

Dinner was a yummy mix of various pasta and chicken dishes, not to mention plenty of beer. In addition to dessert we had a dramatic, quick storm blow through, leaving behind a double rainbow ending suspiciously close to the Baha'i temple.

Sunday dawned even prettier and (thankfully) the winds had moderated some. They also had shifted more westerly and so were blowing right off the shore by the harbor (about 210-220). It was easier than on Saturday to find the mark since it was up against the shore. Also, it was much flatter because there was less fetch.

Just before the race started Eric Bussell and Chris Tesdal sailed by with their main down around their ankles: their halyard had failed. Luckily, they got towed into the harbor and the highly competent staff there had a Nico press and were able to reattach their halyard shackle. They made it back out onto the course to sail the last race, which was really good for Fleet 135, since we were in contention for the Fleet Trophy.
Fleet 135 Captain Eric Bussell with crew Chris Tesdal before they lost their main halyard

Anyway, the first Sunday race: Little did we know, when the wind is out of this direction you get a nice little lift up the left side as you get to the top of the course. Locals Chris and John Wright took full advantage of their knowledge and led the fleet around the whole course. Note to self: Sheridan Shores, wind from the shore, go left!!

The main thing I remember from the very last start of the regatta was a pile up at the pin end, with Ben and me in the center of it. By the time the gun went off, Ben and I were in irons, and wedged between Mike and Jennifer Faugust and the pin. Not pretty.  I just watched as the whole fleet took off, while we were still trying to get off the line. Finally, we got going, but after about 20 boat lengths Ben remembered that we'd hit the pin and needed to go back and re-round it. Sigh.....

All we had to do, we thought, was be within a couple boats of Mike and Jen in this last race and we might win the districts. But here we were 1/2 a leg behind the entire fleet. Okay, loin girding time. We slowly clawed our way back through the fleet. Happily, it was a five-leg race, which today we appreciated since it gave us more time to play catch up. The wind was building as the morning went along and I'd say the last three legs of the race the winds were even higher than they'd been on Saturday. That turned out to be to Ben's and my advantage because it helped us catch up and finish fourth. Barely high enough to not only stay in front of Mike and Jennifer, but also Carrie and Harry Carpenter, who had such a solid day that they were only two points out of winning the districts.  A little more excitement than I was hoping for, but that's one of the reasons we love racing so much.

 I'm hoping the results will be posted at soon; I can't figure out how to put a pdf here!!