Sunday, August 10, 2014

Lake and River sailing, all in one weekend

I know this sounds kind of crazy, but I never appreciated that Detroit is a waterfront city. There is water everywhere, and it's pretty water, often a pale turquoise. This morning Commodore Carr met me by the Flying Scots and we did the official burgee exchange. He was all dressed up because today marks the beginning of Venetian Week and he had many official duties to do. Last night at dinner we walked by the spot in the bar where they display all the burgees from other clubs. It's fun to imagine our CLSA burgee there now!

The festivities at the club did get me wondering about the derivation of Venetian night, or week, or whatever. At CLSA we decorate our boats at the moonlight sail in August and call it Venetian night, but I never stopped to wonder why we do it....

Today we had two races right in front of DYC, in a current of about 2 knots. I have heard of some regattas where they do around the buoys on Saturday and a distance on Sunday, but this is the only place where we sailed in a lake on Saturday and a river on Sunday!

What you can't tell from this photo, is that there are some pretty upscale homes just beyond this big industrial structure!

Paul Lee, a local sailor, gave a short tutorial on managing the current before we began racing Sunday morning. The main message: stay as close to the shore as possible going upwind (against the current). We had easterly wind again today, which had gone a little farther right than yesterday's breeze. I feel like that is a pretty unusual wind direction, but this summer we've sailed in more east winds this season than I ever remember doing before.

From left: Deb Aronson, Suzie and Sam Hawkins, Bob Lieb, Brian Hawkins and Kerry Pebbles

Anyway, we made sure to stay above the start line during the starting sequence so that we didn't have to beat up against the current to get over the line. In both races Ben got a good start with speed, winning the pin end both times. Then we headed for the left shore. Although it was .3 mile to the windward mark, we probably tacked more than a dozen times in order to stay as close to the shore as possible. It gave us a chance to really practice our roll tacks and to entertain spectators along that shore. We tacked so close to the shore, which was reinforced by a big metal wall, that we could have almost shaken hands with them.

Brian Hawkins, sailing with his son, Sam, and Paul Lee, sailing with his kids, Elliott and Adrianna, gave us a good run for our money, but we managed to finish ahead of them in both races.

Sam and Brian Hawkins, Michigan-Ontario District Champions. This was Sam's first-ever regatta!

At the awards ceremony we received a huge gift basket full of Detroit-based edibles, including beer, coffee and candy. Yum! The peanuts and one of the candy bars did not make it home, but it made the six-hour drive home go much quicker! Plus, I think that's a pretty cool idea for a trophy and I think I might ... "borrow" it. I can think of at least six things we can assemble to represent Urbana-Champaign products, and I bet we could find at least that many to represent Bloomington-Normal...

Special thanks to regatta organizers Sean Murphy and John Gallagher and to Sean's wife Kelli, who was very helpful when I called to get the lowdown a mere two days before the regatta!

No more regattas for us until Carlyle Lake's Egyptian Cup, which is Labor Day. Join us there!!

Detroit is Lovely!

Detroit is lovely! Really! I know we weren’t in downtown, exactly, but Belle Isle is part of Detroit and it’s really nice. As for DYC, I thought it might be a little hoity toity, given the fact that it’s in such a grand, and large, old building. But, in fact, not only is everyone really friendly, but the energy, not just at the club, but all around the waterfront, along the river and into Lake St. Claire was wonderful. It helped that it was a gorgeous day, but we saw a flock of paddleboarders, tons of barge traffic, plenty of cabin boats and too many cigarette boats (of course given the waves they make, one cigarette boat is too many!). On land there were hordes of people enjoying the weather, whether as part of a large family reunion, or simply in small groups biking or flying kites or picnicking.

Ben and I cooled off in the pool after Saturday's races. You can't tell, but the pool overlooks the Detroit River.

We got faked out by the ramp this morning. Everyone else was using the hoist, but I thought it’d be just as easy to use the ramp. I didn’t count on the trees. You’d think we’d be in the habit of looking up, but we didn’t realize until we’d parked our windex in some branches that the ramp wasn’t really made for masts as tall as ours. In fact, when we figured that out and headed back for the hoist, someone allowed as how “that ramp is really made for 420s.” Why no one mentioned that to us before, I don’t know! Meanwhile, getting to the hoist presented some tree challenges too, but we managed to navigate without damaging the mast, so it’s all good.

I knew we’d have a long tow out to the racecourse today, but it was really, really long! It was more than 90 minutes to the course. We were at the end of the line until we picked up four other boats at the Edison Boat Club, one of seven clubs we passed on our way up the river and on to the lake. Shortly after that, our towline, which we thought was plenty strong, snapped. I think our towline was an old spinnaker line and didn’t have much give to it. The waves and shock from pulling was too much for it. Luckily we replaced it with a stout anchor line, which we should have used first, I guess.  Anyway, we got underway again and trundled our way to Lake St. Claire.  By the time we got there, I was feeling knocked silly from all the waves and then had to rig the jib on a wet deck in the bouncing waves. Not happy…

But once the racing started it was good. There were 12 boats on the line and the fleet had clean starts in all three races. The race committee was very well organized and ran good races (Thank you Linda Minsterman!). There is current in Lake St. Claire, which was going against us on the upwind legs. We tried to stay in the shoals going upwind and in the middle of the course going downwind.

The first race was a four-leg windward-leeward. Although predictions called for winds of 10 with gusts of 18, we never saw that. In the first race we might have had winds of 8 mph, but not any white caps while we were racing. The winds were steady out of the north-northeast (55-70). Ben and I were first to the windward mark and were able to stay ahead of the fleet for the other three legs. The second race was a modified triangle, again with a downwind finish. The wind was coming down and the race committee started shortening the legs. The first race the windward mark was 8/10ths  of a mile away. The second race, the PRO had them shorten to 4/10ths.  Anyway, it’s been a while since we’ve done a triangle race, so that was fun. Once again, Ben had a good start (both times at the pin, with speed) and we were first to the windward mark, though a boat named Pain Management (Clayton Bader and Bob Lieb) was right behind us. Although the wind was coming down, we were still able to maintain our lead and maybe even stretch it out a bit. 

We liked the left side going upwind all day, but the third race that didn’t pay off as much.  By that   time the wind was almost non-existent, though thankfully the waves had diminished somewhat as well. The race committee shortened the first leg even more, to 3/10ths of a mile. Clayton and Bob were  with us on the left side for a while on the first leg and then tacked and went more in the middle/right of the course. At the windward leg they rounded just ahead of us. We dogged them going downwind, trying to steal their air, but there was so little of it, it made no difference. Thankfully, the PRO shortened the course to the leeward mark and, although we didn’t catch Pain Management, I was very thankful we didn’t have to sail anymore in such light wind!
The club has a tradition of doing a “fun race” back to the club from the race course when the wind allows them to use spinnakers. Ben and I didn’t participate, but just headed back to the club. We knew it was going to be a long sail no matter what and we wanted to just get started. It turned out to be a very pleasant sail. The current whisked us home (though it still took one hour) and Ben trimmed the chute and sang almost the whole way home. It was very pleasant! Plus we sailed right by a club where they were holding a wedding. It was so picturesque and I imagine the wedding guests enjoyed the view from their seats, as well.

Tomorrow we sail right in front of the club, where the current is said to be beastly. Pray for wind!!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Sailing World article on Wife-Husband

On another topic, the article in the August issue of Sailing World about the Wife-Husband regatta (titled Couples Therapy) has been very well received, at least among the people I've spoken to. Of course, who would tell me if they didn't like it! Anyway, here's my plug to try to find the issue, if you can. It really is a great spotlight on the Flying Scot class. Eventually I imagine we'll get permission to reprint it, either in Scots N Water or on the website...

And, while I'm at it, here's a reminder, for those of you who sail with your spouse, to consider signing up for this year's Wife-Husband regatta, which is being held at the Sayville Yacht Club in Blue Point, NY.( Event/15401). It's a blast!

Michigan-Ontario Districts in Detroit

Well, Ben and I have decided to come to the Michigan-Ontario Districts, which is being held in Detroit. We've never been to Detroit before and I know it's going to be quite an adventure! I spoke to the regatta organizer, Kelly Murphy, before we came and she explained that Saturday we'll be towed (about an hour!!) to Lake St. Claire and then, I believe, on Sunday we'll race on the river. This will be very different from anywhere we usually sail!

We're also  looking forward to sailing against people we don't usually get to see.  We know a few people in this district, like governor Bill Pfund (who can't be here) and Brian and Suzie Hawkins, who host the Hot Scot regatta near Ann Arbor. Maybe they'll be here, but either way, I imagine we'll meet some new faces and definitely have a new adventure.

 By the time we pulled into the Detroit Yacht Club (founded some time in the mid 1800s) it was very dark. This time I remembered my camera, so I'll make sure to take pictures tomorrow. The DYC is on an island (Belle Isle)  in the middle of the Detroit River and it seemed like we drove almost the whole perimeter of the island before we got to the, very fancy-looking, club. The rest of the island, which appears quite large, looks to be one enormous park, including an aquarium, picnic shelters and I don't know what else. No camping allowed, however, so we're in a hotel.

Someone at the club had recommended we stay at the Marriott at Renaissance Center, but it was more than $200/night and the website described it as 76 floors of gleaming something or other. thank you! I found the Detroit Regency, which is only a mile or so from the island where the yacht club is and much more down to earth. Nothing fancy but it seems perfectly safe. Half the price.

Winds are supposed to be somewhat high this weekend, so we'll see how it goes.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Light Winds and Lots of Fun at Ephraim

Before I start praising Fleet 135's (Clinton Lake) sailing, I want to give a shout out to all the other traveling sailors we saw this weekend. Larry Taggert and Carrie Berger came all the way from Southern Yacht Club in New Orleans (and they scheduled a vacation around the regatta so they got to stay extra days, lucky dogs!). Bob McElwain came from Florida, though I don't remember (if I ever knew!) his home club. Both Larry and Bob were able to borrow boats, which made their travels much easier!

We saw Chuck Howting and Arik Riley from Madison, Jeff Gilman and Brett Eikenberg from Sheridan Shores (Chicago), and also Shannon and Mark Wilfert, whom I haven't seen in forever! Last I knew Shannon was pregnant. The Wilferts  came two the regatta with two-year-old Mattie and Mattie's grandmother (Shannon's mom). Yikes! Time flies!! Anyway, it was great to see them! In addition, Fleet 135 brought three traveling boats: us, Eric Bussell and Chris Tesdal, and Frank and Marianne Gerry. I also want to give a huge shout-out to Dan Goldberg, who came all the way from Pittsburgh to be the PRO, and he did a FABULOUS job!!

Parking is always tight at Ephraim, but we managed to squeeze in at the end of the pier next to a boat sailed by three young women. It's always fun to see all the kids racing when we come to this regatta!
Friday night we caught up with all our friends at a barbecue in the park across the street from the clubhouse. It's always exciting to see who makes the trip ... to any regatta we travel to!
Ben paddling around to find a spot on the dock...

I'm afraid I neglected to remember to take many photos this time, and my memory is a bit fuzzy on wind direction and the like but I'll do my best. My plan is to try and get in the habit of writing these reports on the way home instead of the next day. My neurons can only hold on to a memory for a few hours these days!

Anyway, Saturday brought winds from the northwest (240-260) and the first race I'd say the winds were in the 10-12 range. Ben and I felt like we got the boat going well and we were in the front cluster all the way around the five-leg race and it looked like we'd have a fourth behind Mike and Jennifer Faugust, Ryan Malmgren and Stacey Rieu, and Jay Lott and Dave Sauter. Unfortunately, Larry Taggert snuck by us right at the line, but we felt good about our performance.

The wind dropped the next two races and we felt like we were in a washing machine and really struggled to get Sophie going. We finished the day in sixth place. Frank and Marianne, on the other hand, found their groove, finishing fourth in both races and fourth in the standings behind Ryan, Jay and Larry. That is highly respectable in a fleet like this filled with fast sailors who've grown up sailing these waters. And Eric and Chris finished in the top 10 both races, as well, getting Wind Talker going very nicely in the slop.

I see this boat out every year. I think it gives rides...
We sailed in, admiring this boat that I see every year, and headed back to shower and get ready for our annual bratfest-ival.

boats waiting to use the hoist at the end of the day
I kept remembering how last year it rained and so I especially enjoyed the lovely evening. We ran into our old friends, Lal and Matt Burridge, from our days at Carlyle Lake sailing Lightnings. Lal is retired and lives up in Ephraim year round and Matt just happened to be up this weekend visiting. We caught up on his kids, including his oldest who was 10 years old last I noticed and is getting ready for his first year of college.....

We had a bonfire with a group singing and strumming their guitars (again, would have been nice if I thought to take a photo...) and all in all it was a lovely evening.

By next morning winds had clocked around to the north, northeast with readings of between 30-40 at the beginning of the day. The wind was light, even lighter than the end of Saturday, but thankfully we had much flatter water. Ahhhhh! Dan Goldberg mercifully ran three-leg races in the light air. Pressure was going to be king, but the question was, where was the king? Ben and I were going to start by the boat because we liked the pressure on the right side. At the last minute we saw all the locals at the pin end  so we scurried down there and got a good start with speed. After a few minutes we decided we liked how the boat felt and we'd just stay left. By the top of that first leg we were out to the left with Jay, Ryan and Eric. Ryan was covering Jay, who took him way past the lay line. Eric and we tacked for the mark and **high point of the regatta for me** rounded in first place together!!!!

Anyway, that was fun!

Downwind we lost a few boats (reminder to self: WATCH THE LOCALS!! even when they are behind you for the moment!) and the second upwind leg we went right, thinking either side would pay off and because all the leaders went to the right. All, that is, except Frank and Marianne, who cast their lot with the left side and came out smelling like roses, crossing the whole fleet at the top of the course and finishing even ahead of Ryan, who was having a glorious regatta.

Frank and Marianne with Jack O'Rourke and their 2nd place trophy

The second race the wind was slowly clocking left, but not very dramatically. In fact, the wind was pretty steady all weekend, as far as I could tell... We got another good start and felt like we had good boat speed, but just occasionally made the wrong guess in terms of which side to go on and that kind of thing. Marianne and Frank continued to be rock stars, finishing second after Ryan and Stacey did a horizon job on the fleet. That moved the Gerrys up from fourth to second!!

Ben and I held on to our sixth place finish and the Faugusts slipped by Eric and Chris, beating them by one point. So, all three CLSA boats finished in the top 10 at Ephraim, that's something to celebrate! And we did: Eric, Chris, Ben and I met at a Mexican restaurant we like that is on the way out of town and debriefed... Brett and Jeff joined us and then we all headed home.

Chris, Eric and Ben before we ate our burritos

Next weekend Ben and I are planning on going to the Michigan-Ontario districts. Anyone want to join us?!

Also, just remember, there are two more eligible regattas for the Midwest Travel Trophy: the Egyptian Cup at Carlyle on Labor Day weekend and the Glow in the Dark at Clinton Lake September 26-28. See you there!!

All weekend we were hearing from various Ephraim and other sailors who are planning on coming to the Glow. Register before the early register deadline and be eligible for the drawing for a free steak dinner for you and one crew!