Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Last Day (Friday): One and Done

Friday morning we'd finished up all our eggs and bacon (which Adam cooked two mornings: thank you Adam!), so we all went to breakfast again. This time we went to Toms River Diner, which had some kind of weird architecture, though I had a delicious omelette (spinach and feta, in case you're curious).

Ben, Ryan and Adam at Toms River Diner

With a maximum total of five races allowed for the NAC, Friday we had a single race. The race committee made it six legs, though, so we felt like we got our money's worth! Like on Thursday,   the wind was essentially from the east, though it seemed a little steadier this day. Once again, Ben and I mixed it up with most of the sailors in the fleet. We were in front of Ryan and Adam at one point, and we pointed as well as Harry Carpenter, but we once again hit mud at one point and since we failed to cover anyone we lost almost everyone! That's one thing we learned: in a fleet as tough as this, you can't relax once you've passed someone because they'll come right back and pass you. Still, we rounded the last upwind mark just behind Chris Morgan in FS 842.  These guys are always tough competitors and they were in trophy contention, so we dug in and were determined to catch them. As we rounded the mark and pulled down our jib they looked over their shoulders at us and then kept sailing. We concentrated on milking every ounce of wind out of our spinnaker. About halfway down the leg they looked over and took their jib down. We had them worried! The wind died, it came back, it died again. I never took my eyes off the spinnaker and I kept feeding it as much as I could, constantly. I like to think all that concentration and hard work paid off since we passed them at the finish, but you never know! They still trophied, but we had our small victory!!

Once again, Frank and Marianne had a great day, with another first place with a commanding lead. They were able to pull out a second place finish overall. Yay!!

After we packed up and applauded the trophy winners we hit the road to visit my dad and his wife in Bethesda, Md, for a few days. Next up? Ephraim, this weekend. Hope to see you all there!!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Winds the Second Day of Finals Lighten

Before I talk about the racing I want to mention how much fun we’ve had at this regatta. Toms River had a reputation of not being the friendliest of venues, but that couldn’t be further from the truth these days. The organizers have provided door prizes every night, the food has been wonderful, and having the pool to jump into after a day on the racecourse has been fabulous. It’s a really gorgeous area and as we sail out every morning we pass two other sailing clubs, flocks and flocks of kids in Optis and Lasers and Sunfish. We’ve had good meals everywhere from a sub shop to a really good fish restaurant down near the beach.

flocks of optis

Anyway, the finals began feisty and fresh but today (Thursday) the wind gods were a little more confused. The winds in the morning started out from the north (as predicted), but the race committee had to keep shifting the course right and the wind began to clock east. They got the start off on time (after one general recall and then the “I” flag) but then had to abandon the race after two legs when the wind shifted so far east that the course became unusable. As it was, Ben and I, plus a few other boats, ran aground on the right side and had to sail with our centerboard part way up for about ¼ of the leg!

After moving the racecourse and further adjusting for wind, the race committee tried again, setting a four-leg, windward-leeward course. This time things went more smoothly. The winds were much less strong than on Wednesday and more spotty.  

In the Challenger division, Frank and Marianne had a fantastic race, coming in first by several boat lengths. Go Midwest District!

The second race the wind seemed to have settled in a little bit, though the right was still favored (we figured out in retrospect). Ben and I got a good start a little way up from the pin pretty near Ryan.  We stayed on the right side of the course and by the top of the beat we were in the top group of about eight boats. Feeling good! Downwind we kept up with that group and even stretched out a little, so that when we rounded the left gate (facing downwind) we were third or fourth! And then nothing we did worked. It felt as if we either ran aground or got weeds in our board and boat after boat passed us. By the time we made it to the windward mark again we were ahead of just two boats, both of which we lost going downwind. A tough ending to that race. In retrospect, I think we melted down mentally and I think we did get something on our board.

Frank and Marianne had another awesome race, finishing second! Things are looking up for them after that hard, heavy wind day on Wednesday!

As an aside:
Toms River is the only place I’ve sailed where you can run aground regularly on the course, not even going hard to one side and over-standing the mark.  If I could make one suggestion, it would be that the race committee make sure to talk about that at the competitors’ meeting. Granted, it felt like soft mud, so it wasn’t that it damaged the centerboard, but it sure is perplexing to all of a sudden feel like you are standing still in the middle of a race.

Thursday we had our annual meeting, which involved taking a shower and having a nice, sit down meal at the club. Nothing too exciting to announce, really, except that Deb is now the editor of Scots 'N Water. We're counting on you to keep those stories and photos coming! After dinner, the sunset was magnificent. You can't completely tell, but the sky is lavender.

This is the entire population of our rental house:
from left back row, Ben, Deb, John Wake, Rob Whittemore (both from Fishing Bay Yacht Club), Joe Brake, crewing for John Kreidler (his wife, Stacey, holding Becket just in front of him).
front row: Adam Keen (crew for Ryan), Ryan Malmgren, John Kreidler, and Beau, Joe and Stacey's other son.

and here is Adam being silly  with Beau (above) and
Becket (being choked!)

Afterwards we went to the boardwalk where we ran into Harry Carpenter, Melanie Dunham, Larry Taggert and Carrie Berger. Melanie won a Spongebob, which she donated to Harry....

Ryan, Spongebob and Harry

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

First Day of Finals Has Hefty Winds

Ben and I have been staying in a house we rented with three other teams of sailors, including fellow Midwesterner Ryan Malmgren. So this morning we all went out to breakfast to a fun 50s-style diner, called Fast Break. (breakfast/fast break...get it? I didn't at first!!)

We had more wind today 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
was right there. 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, though 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.

Deb climbing into the boat, before she pulled Ben in

Our windex looked like a pretzel, though you can't tell here...
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.Ryan's crew, Adam Keen, was wearing a go pro camera and he showed us video of us capsizing....I'm not sure how I feel about seeing that over and over.

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: fssa.com

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!

waiting for a tow
getting a tow

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!