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.

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