Friday, July 22, 2016

Warning, a slightly longer post...including some philosophical reflections!

Fleet 135 Wins the Fleet One Trophy!!! From Left, Marianne Gerry, Frank Gerry, Deb Aronson, Ben Williams, Eric Bussell, Chris Tesdal. Shirts designed by Eric and printed by Emilio Tellini
By Thursday I was done. Cooked. I had sailed already for four days in heavy winds. Sunday: three races in the women's championship. Monday: three races in the qualifiers, in more wind  — at least for longer periods — than we'd ever had the Scot in. {Ben looked at WindAlert for Monday when we were sailing back to the harbor we were in steady mid 20s with gusts to 29 or 30. Not ideal Scot conditions.} Tuesday: okay, that was only two races in a mere 10-12 mph. And Wednesday: two races in winds so heavy that we were hiking the entire time, we had the vang on hard the entire time, and I got soaked. Maybe getting soaked every day had something to do with how hard I hit the wall. But whatever the reason by Thursday I was cooked. I was so tired I could barely get my limbs to work. We were going to sail another race in those conditions but only one and we had to sail all the way out to the course to do it? I seriously considered mutiny.

Ben assured me the wind would finally be moderate... at least starting at 11 when we were scheduled to race. By 1 pm, however, it would build as the sea breeze came in. Guess what? We got to the club and the AP flag was up! I went to the car, lay down in the shade and went to sleep. I figured if Ben really wanted to sail, he'd figure out a way to get the boat in the water without me! That is, in fact, one of the fabulous things about the Scot "family" — everyone pitches in whenever there is need. I slept so hard I didn't even hear the AP flag come down, or hear Lynn Bruss bring me a sandwich and pretzels and water (Thank you Lynn!). Happily I woke up in time, however, and went to find Ben. Meanwhile I bumped into Chris and Eric who mentioned that we (fleet 135) were in contention for the Fleet One trophy, which is the fleet with the highest top three finishing boats. Between that and the sandwich I found the wherewithal to step back on the boat.

The sail out was lovely and moderate. The water was flat. There were no white caps. I crawled up under the bow to rest some more. After we checked in (me by waving my leg above the deck so they could see Ben had his crew) I sat up and we began to check the course. The wind was out of the south again. There was another enormous car carrier coming through that we had to keep an eye on, and, wouldn't you know it, here come the white caps and waves again. 

I have to mention that I love sailing. I admit that sometimes heavy wind makes me nervous. But this week I was never nervous. One nice thing about a location like Newport as opposed to an inland lake is that the gusts, when they come, give you plenty of warning and build steadily. Unlike in lakes, where sometimes they come violently and out of unexpected directions. Still,  I was just bone tired. We had one five-leg race to get through and a long beat back to the harbor and we did it. But Ben owes me!!!  ;-) 

The thing about coming to an event like this is that you are duking it out with the best sailors from every club. That shows in conditions like yesterday. After an hour of racing in the kinds of wind and waves that really separate the sailors according to boat handling skills, the entire fleet finished within about one minute of one another. Incredible.

The best part of the day was getting off the water, going to lie down in Eric Bussell's "Flying Cot" in his regatta van while he, Chris Tesdal, Frank Gerry, and Bill and Lynn Bruss, among others helped Ben get the boat out of the water. Sometimes you just gotta say, "enough!". No, wait, that wasn't the best part of the day. The best part of the day was learning at the awards that Fleet 135 had, indeed, won the Fleet One trophy. Yay Us!! Eric took possession of the very impressive trophy because he thought his wife, Nancy, would love to see the trophy seeing as how her father, the late Steve Hartman, was on the trophy from the last time (30 years ago? I'll have to double check) that Fleet 135 won it.

Hearty applause were given to each trophy recipient, to the regatta organizers at Sail Newport and Massapoag yacht club (the host), but the loudest ovation went to regatta chair Diane Kampf, who, most of you already know, always works tirelessly all the time, no matter what. I think we got her to choke up a little, which is a great sign that she appreciated our appreciation!!

It's worth stopping for a moment to appreciate how well Fleet 135's performance reflects on the entire Midwest District. The district had more boats attending than many districts with very strong sailing programs. It's okay to take pride in that. Also, perhaps this is the place to mention that Eric Bussell has also agreed to step into the publicity chair position for FSSA. He's going to be awesome, he's such a natural. So, between him being publicity, me being magazine editor, Bronson initiating match racing, etc etc, I'd say the Midwest is going strong. We'll be hoping that many of you continue to contribute your efforts, particularly as next year's NACs, while not in Midwest per se, will be in Ohio and the Ohio District can really use our help. It's a big undertaking to host something like this. I don't have to tell you that (even though I am!). Many hands make light work. I don't need to tell you that, either.

Afterwards, we met John Aras in downtown Newport. John, who together with his crew, John Wake, placed second overall. We (Ben and me, the Benners, and Ryan and Stacey) ate at the Black Pearl. Best. Chowder. Ever. And the Thai crab cakes? OOTW (out of this world) Anyway, John  has spent so much time here and been on so many different kinds of boats that he is an honorary Newport native.

Even he commented that he'd never seen it blow this hard for this many days at Newport and that made me feel so much better. I was beginning to wonder! At the trophy presentation Diane had commented on the never ending wind and how they picked the week that, statistically, had the lightest winds. (HA!). But I still felt better hearing John comment about that too. It's been a weird summer weather wise, and this is just one more example, I guess. One nice thing is, with all the wind, even though the temps were in the 80s, I never got overheated.

Okay, I'm sure I've got more to say, but Ben and I have a couple hours to enjoy Newport (not on a boat) before we head home, so I'm signing off.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Wednesday Brings More Wind, And a Clinic

Actually the order was, the clinic (by North Sails reps Zeke Horowitz and Brian Hayes) and then wind. The morning prediction was for the wind to start in the north-ish, then die and come back in from the south. The race committee opted to postpone the11 am start until 1:30pm to give the new breeze a chance to assert itself.

With the spare time some people drove by the mansions on Ocean Drive, some replaced worn parts on their boats, Willson Jenkins and his crew rode their bikes to the beach, and others attended an impromptu clinic hosted by Zeke and Brian.

They set up a boat on its trailer and talked so much about sail geometry that if I remember 10% of what I learned I'll be a "real" sailor! By seeing the boat from the back and watching while Zeke pulled the vang on and then let it off, for example, and they both talked about what that was doing to the shape of the sail, the center of effort, etc, it was eye opening. There were things I knew but didn't know the reason. For example, I knew to set the jib with the top batten straight back, but watching them position the jib, with the weather sheeting, you could really see the shape of the sail and why that's a good shape.  Anyway, it was a great way to pass the time. Someone I was standing next too said "I"m learning so much!" and that seems to be the theme of the week. Whether sailing with Lynn and Stacey in the women's or talking to other sailors over a beer by the boat, or listening to Zeke and Brian, there's so much to learn. That's also the great thing about this sport, of course. You never stop learning...or at least there's always more to learn, it's just a matter of how much will fit into your brain.

And, in case you forgot we were in Newport, here is a photo of a 12 meter surrounded by Scots!! Photos courtesy of Larry Taggart of New Orleans

and another...

The winds seemed a little heftier than yesterday and from the same direction, roughly, as Monday (about 220-210). Despite the delayed start we had to get off the water by about 4 or 5 because we had the annual meeting/dinner scheduled for 7 pm. the first race was four legs and then the second race was three legs, with an upwind finish so we could head home in time for the entertainment. It does end up being a very long ride out and back each day, but it's hard to feel too bad about it with the beautiful, sunny, moderate weather. Coming home going upwind all the way is less fun, but that's life!! 

Eric and Chris seemed to have a very good day, they were way up in the fleet most of the races and moved up two places. I haven't had a chance to chat with Ryan, but he's looking pretty good too. Frank and Ben  crossed tacks several times and are duking it out toward the back of the middle of the fleet. Our buddy, Rob Fowler, from Chattanooga continues to lead the Challenger fleet and we're rooting for him. Mark and Maria Benner relaxed Tuesday to recuperate from Monday which was grueling and had a good day today, with a 7th place finish in the Challenger fleet! 
Results are here

Tomorrow we sail out to the race course for one last race. Then we'll relax in the evening with our full house (Ryan and Stacey, Frank and Marianne, Mark and Maria, and Ben and me). Friday morning I think we'll start the long haul home. 

First Day of NAC Championship Had Some Great Moments

It's true that the morning got off to a delayed start. The weather was perfect but the software gods were being persnickity. Apparently, again this is third hand, when the race committee tried to apply a 20% penalty to four boats that false started when the Z Flag was flying, the software applied it to the whole fleet.Whoops! 
Deb, Ben and Ryan. The back of the shirt is better...
So we spent some time on shore, admiring, as I mentioned, all the activity generated at Sail Newport. Then we spent some time admiring all our various Glow tshirts all being worn by Midwest District sailors.  

The racing finally started about noon I guess and the first race had great conditions. The wind was out of entirely new direction, about 315-330. There was definitely pressure but it was so much less than yesterday that it felt like a walk in the park. Ben and I, counting on the power of the current, went right. For a while it looked like we were going to come out looking like heroes, but between a few wind shifts and a group of boats that found an even better way to stay out of the current, we were in the back of the pack at the first windward mark. After that we went back to playing the shifts and caught a few boats. Frank and Marianne had a great finish, with an 8. 

Chris Tesdal and Eric Bussell wearing Eric-designed shirts

from left, Deb, Chris, Frank, Eric, (?? someone photo bombed us!), Ben and Ryan. Photo courtesy of Marianne Gerry

Here is everyone helping everyone else get their boats in.

The second race the wind seemed to have many more holes in it so there was a lot of gear changing, which can be tricky. Sometimes I was in the boat when I should have been hiking, and sometimes I was hiking when I should have been in the boat. Ah well! We finally got the hang of that and, thanks also to some great wind shifts in our favor, managed to catch about 10 boats after getting a third row start. Ryan Malmgren had a great finish at #5 and is currently in 9th place. Here are the latest results.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Sail Newport Is a Really Impressive Undertaking

Racing was delayed this morning on shore because of some struggles with the racing software that wanted to give everyone a 20% penalty instead of just the four boats that were over early. That meant we spent a fair amount of time trying to find a place to tie up. The great thing about Sail Newport is also what made this a challenge. There is always so much going on that every facility is being used to its fullest. For example, today, the first 10 or 12 boats filled up the one designated dock. Then we trickled over into some nearby docks that are, technically, for Sail to Prevail program.

we have two hoists but 46 boats...not counting other sailors who use the hoists!

When those filled up we headed over to some docks closer to the mule barn. There we saw three or four different youth programs going on. Some were rolling their boats into the water, some were on the dock practicing knot tying, and some were in the boats, still on the docks, practicing to get used to the tiller. The camp counselors politely asked that we vacate their docks by 10:30 so they could get their Bugs and Optis, etc into the water.

So cute!!

By that time the Sail to Prevail folks were headed out and said their docks would be free until 11:45. We hoped very hard that we would not still be there! The third option is mooring balls, which several people also took advantage of.
You could argue that it's a good problem to have, so many people learning to sail. In addition, there was yet another group down by the Mule Barn, where people of all ages and ability levels were kayaking. It did my heart good to see so many people on the water!

Monday, July 18, 2016

High Winds Monday a Challenge

Three qualifying races were scheduled for Monday. Winds were predicted to build with gusts lines in the mid-20s. After Sunday, when Lynn, Stacey and I sailed in about 12 or 13, I was feeling quite confident that I could handle anything. The first two races were perfectly manageable and similar to Sunday's conditions. Winds were generally out of the south and, while there were some waves, they were nothing alarming.

For the first two races the committee set a four-leg, windward-leeward course. After the second race I remember thinking to myself, "this isn't any big thing, this wind,  as long as it doesn't build it'll be fine...." Well...of course, it built! By the time the third race was started, about six boats had retired and I was battening down the hatches.

The race committee made the last race a five-leg one, so we had an upwind finish and would be closer to the club. In the course of the race, in addition to trying to get the boat flat, or as close to flat as possible, we were caught unawares, if you can believe it, by a mighty tanker boat of some kind. It was even larger than most enormous cruise ships I've seen. The worse for us was that we were so busy racing we didn't see it until it was almost too late. The captain was leaning on his horn, which finally caught our attention. Ben tacked away, but that meant we were still in the channel, so for several very uncomfortable minutes it looked like it was still bearing down on us. We must have seemed like so many annoying mosquitos to that behemoth, which was absolutely positively not going to stop or change course!

That challenge conquered, we continued to race. But five legs in the building wind turned out to be too much and they shortened it to three. Even so, by the time the race had finished, the winds were higher than anything I've ever sailed in before. And we had an hour-long, upwind sail to get to the dock. I heard third hand that the race committee said they only saw winds of about 18-19, but Wind Alert after the fact reported steady winds in the 20s with gusts of 29-30. Others reported a few even higher numbers. What I do know is that I was having to pop the jib numerous times to keep us from going over, then pulling it back in so we could continue to try to get home. We were absolutely drenched and I was even shivering ... in mid July, if you can believe it!

It's a real testament to the caliber of sailors that not a single boat of the 46 capsized and, to my knowledge, we had no equipment failures. For winds like that, which are not winds the Flying Scot is meant to be in, that is mighty impressive!

Ben and I were a little disappointed because, with a 13-, 8- and 15-place finish, we were sure we were in the Challenger fleet. Instead, we were pleasantly surprised to be in the Championship fleet. Midwest District sailors, represented by Ryan Malmgren (Ephraim),  and Clinton Lake sailors Frank and Marianne Gerry, Eric Bussell and Chris Tesdal, and Ben and me, had a pretty darn good day, considering we all made it into the championship fleet, which is the goal of the qualifiers.  Go Midwest!  ;-)

The other great thing about Monday was a continuation of a story from Sunday. I thought I lost my waterproof camera overboard on Sunday when I was racing with Lynn and Stacey, but when Bill, Lynn's husband/crew, saw me today, he called out "we found your camera!" It turned out I was smart and put it in the cubby, but then I forgot I was smart. That's the story of my life!

I have no photos of this day but if some surface I'll share them. The results are here

Women's Regatta Proves That Size (of the fleet) Doesn't Matter

Four boats registered for the women's regatta at Newport and three races were held in strong wind. Heading out to the course the wind was very light and it was a long, hot ride. Being Sunday there was lots of boat traffic and it was like sailing in a washing machine. Once we got closer to the race course, things settled down. There were still waves, but many fewer caused by boat wakes.

The first race was four legs. Two boats, skippers Nancy Claypool and Lynn Bruss, duked it out for first and second and the two other boats, skippers Elizabeth Cowles and Amy Ferreira, had an equally competitive race. The second race was also four legs. In that race, Nancy Claypool took a decisive lead and the other three boats followed along. In the final race, the race committee posted a five leg race with an upwind finish. The wind was building steadily and there were plenty of whitecaps. In addition many boats not participating in the women's regatta came out to practice. The competitors all hung tough for the final race, which Lynn Bruss won, though perhaps not as decisively as Nancy did in the second race.

It was upwind all the way back to the harbor, and when we got to the docks, the guys were there to help put the boats away and give us high fives all around.
The only disappointing thing was that it appeared I lost both my crank handle and my waterproof camera overboard. Somehow they both fell out of my pocket?! Weird...

Lynn (in blue) and Stacey (flying spinnaker) on Flying Circus, Lynn's boat. So fun!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Newport is Gorgeous, and I Don't Mean the Mansions!

I’m so happy and excited to be here in Newport!  The weather is gorgeous, bright blue skies, lovely clouds, perfect temperatures. 

I will admit that my image of Newport was a big waterfront, a frontage road, and then a wall of mansions. But Sail Newport is a spacious and very active program and not near any mansions at all, so that's nice. The harbor is chock full of nuts, no! I mean chock full of sailboats! The Flying Scots are all nestled together on a nice grassy area with the beer tent on one side and the Coral Reef guy on the other. Pretty perfect!

Ben and I are parked between Frank and Marianne Gerry, who arrived about 30 minutes before us, and John Domagala (class president and fast sailor AND former CLSA member!!) and Ron Pletsch (another fast guy from Florida). Bill Vogler drove up from SC (long story!) and arrived earlier today. I’m not sure who his crew is …. Ryan is still on his way, as are Eric Bussell and Chris Tesdal.  That’s it for the Midwest District sailors, as far as I know! If I see any others I’ll be sure to post it here.

Tomorrow Stacey Rieu and I are crewing with Lynn Bruss, in the women’s championships. I’m really looking forward to it, though I have to get through two meetings first, one for the executive board and one for the district governors….Poor Ben will have to get the boat measured without my help. He did not seem fazed by that, to tell you the truth! Maybe I’m not as helpful as I think I am …..

Tomorrow after we get measured and race the women’s championship there will be a competitors’ meeting, probably by the beer tent. By then everyone will have, hopefully, checked in…

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Newport, RI, Here We Come!!

Sail Newport grounds

Ben and I are getting very excited about driving to Newport for the NAC. Last time I checked there were 46 boats registered, which is awesome! Our goal is to make it into the Championship fleet. This year the qualifying races are all done on Monday. We'll be divided into four groups and race each of the three. Based on those standings we'll be put in Championship or Challenger fleet. Just getting into the Championship fleet is an accomplishment to feel good about. 

Other Midwest District sailors traveling, to the best of my information, are Ryan Malmgren from Madison. Stacey will be going, but not sailing, I think. But she is also the one who found us housing, which is really a thankless task! Thank you Stacey! Also from CLSA we have Eric Bussell and Chris Tesdal, and Frank and Marianne Gerry, representing the Midwest District. Have I left anyone out? I recognize it's very hard for people to take a week and for all of us it's a crazy long drive of at least 16 hours. Hopefully next year, when the NAC is at Sandusky, OH, we'll have an outstanding turnout from the Midwest District!

Also, unfortunately only three boats registered for the women's championship, which is not enough to run it. And ZERO juniors signed up for their championship. WHAT THE HECK?!?!?! I can't tell you why that is how those events turned out this year. Maybe I'll ask around while I'm there and see if anyone has an explanation. I'm especially disappointed because Stacey and I were going to crew for the lovely Lynn Bruss, from Chattanooga. The Brusses bought Rob Fowler's old boat, Flying Circus, last year and have been campaigning it far and wide. They did the Florida circuit last winter and then drove to Virginia for the wife-husband. Also, poor Lynn is driving the boat alone to Newport because Bill could not get the time off. Yikes!! Hope she has lots of books on tape and caffeine!!

I'll breath a sigh of relief when she arrives.

Meanwhile, I'm packing road snacks and drinks, books on tape, podcasts, plus a pillow for the passenger. I'm also bringing my computer, so I'll try to post every day that we race. you can also go to Sail Newport's Facebook page, where they say they'll have up-to-the-minute info...I know photos are the most fun, so I'll try to get some good ones. My pal (I like to think...) and Scots N Water contributor, Art Petresemolo, who is a fabulous photographer, will be there at least a couple of the days, so maybe he'll share some of his work....

Okay, that's all from here. Hopefully we'll have fair winds and clear roads!