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!!

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