Friday, June 30, 2017

Thursday Racing: The Day Sanity Reigned

On Wednesday the word went around that winds for Thursday would include gusts in the 40s. And, like in any organization, rumors swirled. No way would we race. Some people were already taking their masts down or putting their bottom covers on. Phones were pulled from pockets. Forecasts checked. Some had winds slightly lower. No one knew for sure but everyone acted like they did. The general sense in the air was that the regatta was finished as of Wednesday afternoon.

But then at the banquet Wednesday night it was announced, a final decision on whether we would race would be made Thursday morning at 8 a.m. One tried to be philosophical about it and not worry too much about this kind of ambiguity. The day would bring what it would bring. But on waking Thursday it looked as if it was going to be the worst kind of day; winds just on the cusp of acceptable. People milled around the notice board. They tried to get on the website which is another place the announcement would be made. The website was down (of course, that’s just the rule of the universe!). Eric Bussell put on sunblock, sure we would sail. We headed to breakfast and tried to prepare as if we were going out, even though we knew it would be a very, very hard day. I tried to eat but I just didn’t have much appetite. So finally, at 8:10 a.m. I texted the fount of all knowledge; Diane Kampf. She texted me right back (bless her heart!) to say the racing had been canceled. Miraculously, my appetite came right back!

Returning to the club to pack up our boat we saw Tom Clark from Chattanooga. We all agreed that we were relieved with the decision. Tom said, “Today, sanity reigned.” Then his hat blew off and he had to chase it down the parking lot.

Bruce Kitchen announcing trophies

table full of perpetual trophies
Not too much longer, after the awards and everything, we were taking down our tent. Ben stepped away to answer the call of nature, I set to rolling up a sleeping bag, when out of the corner of my eye I saw our empty tent sailing like a tumbleweed right for the harbor. NOOOOOOOOOO! I ran the fastest 100 yards of my life, only to watch as the tent sank into the green water. I will not tell you what I said next. I will tell you I could hear Lynn Kitchen laughing her posterior off. Still, to her credit, she and Bruce came and lent me a hand as I jumped into the water (remembering to take out my electronic key and phone first) and dragged the tent back to land. It was very very cold water.

After we’d packed up we wandered Sandusky a bit, from West Marine to the Maritime Museum. We saw various other Scot sailors, including  Robert and Mandy Cummings, John and Connie Eckard and Kathy and Ray Trask, doing the same. We ate one last time at the New Sandusky Fish House. This time we ate with our elbows holding down our plates as the gusts built steadily.

The ride home was especially blustery and every time a gust hit us, rocking the car and boat, I thanked the wise race committee once again for doing the right thing!

Wednesday Night Banquet and Annual Meeting

 After sailing two very civilized races on Wednesday, we came in in time to clean up and get ready for the annual banquet, which was held at Sandusky Yacht Club (not the same as the sailing club, but walking distance). In keeping with the 60th Anniversary theme, we had birthday hats and blowers at the annual meeting, not to mention birthday cake. Lots and lots of birthday cake.

The highlight of the evening was
 special guest Greg Fisher, who shared his thoughts on how to grow the sport, as well as his experiences coaching the College of Charleston sailors. Flying Scot champ Zeke Horowitz is an alumnus of that program, which for some reason I had not realized!  It was a real honor to hear Greg speak and to hear his deep fondness for the Flying Scot class.

yes, I know he is handsome, but focus on what is in Ben's hands! That is a gorgeous program designed by Fleet 135's Heather Johnson. Lovely job, thank you Heather!
Also at the event we had outstanding music (thanks for finding the musicians, George Gecik!), interspersed with Bruce Kitchen recognizing every individual who was part of this great event (the list was long!). Then we had guest MC Willson Jenkins, from Muscle Shoals (Alabama) Yacht Club who had a great time livening up the crowd with various jokes about Texas v Alabama, specific Scot sailors, including Keith and Sandy Eustis (their names got switched!) and Harry Carpenter (who was supposedly going to start building boats in Mexico!). He had the crowd laughing and I heard many people say it was the liveliest FSSA banquet they’d been to! We did have an annual meeting, but it was short and sweet. Bill Vogler was duly elected new FSSA President and the full slate of officers was approved. Out-going president John Domagala gave Bill Vogler the enormous, ceremonial gavel (so tempting to bop someone on the head with it!) and we took a few votes and we were good for another year.

Speaking of which, next year’s NACs will be hosted by Rush Creek Yacht Club and held (I believe) at the Corinthian Sailing Club, near Dallas, TX, so put it on your calendar. Texas brought a large team to the event and did extremely well, with three boats in the top 10. That earned them the Fleet One trophy for highest finishing fleet (of three) in the NAC. (but that news took place on Thursday, so I’m getting ahead of myself).

Fleet 135 from left, Frank Gerry, Deb Aronson, Bryan Hunt, Eric Bussell, Ben Williams, Angie Hunt. (Missing Marianne Gerry)
Speaking of highlights, the one award always announced at the Wednesday night banquet was Fleet of the Year, which is a recognition fleets apply for in writing. Unbeknownst to me, Heather Johnson of Fleet 135 had submitted an application on Fleet 135’s behalf and, despite very, very tough competition (including the Rush Creek Yacht Club), Fleet 135 won!! What a thrill that was!! I only wish all of our Fleet 135 members could have been there to accept the trophy!

All in all, it was a fun evening. I especially enjoyed visiting with Harry Haack, of Lake Delavan, who told me some great stories of all the cruising he has done in his Flying Scot, from Canada’s Boundary Waters, to Jackson Lake in Wyoming, and then all the way to Florida. I hope you’ll see some of these stories in future issues of Scots N Water! 

Second Day of Finals: Flat Water!

Bill Vogler sailing his new boat, FS#6140
There is something really special about racing against the fastest sailors in our class against a backdrop of rollercoasters and Ferris Wheels! And that’s exactly what we did on Wednesday. Instead of sailing upwind through chop for 45 minutes we sailed in the East Bay, which is just minutes away and more protected.  That and the fact that the wind came down to the 10-12 mph range made for a different set of conditions compared to Tuesday’s races … conditions that Ben and I, for one, enjoyed quite a bit!

The race committee ran one 4-leg windward leeward race and then a 5-leg race before sending us in to clean up for the annual meeting/banquet. At various points it seemed like the wind was building and building, but then it settled down again. The most exciting wind came at the end of the first race (championship) and on the second up wind leg in the challengers’ first race when the wind, which had been shifting slightly right all morning, came in strong and hard from the left. That meant that the mid-fleet boats in the championship fleet came bearing down fast on the leaders and it meant that many boats on the right side of the course going upwind in the challenger fleet saw 15-20 boats, who happened to be on their left, leap past them. Lots of teeth gnashing on board. Don’t you love sailing?!

Still, kudos to the race committee, which set good square lines and handled the shifty wind with aplomb and professionalism. As one sailor said, “no matter what they decide, you know we are in good hands with Jim Tichenor and his crew.”

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

First day of Finals

We went to bed last night feeling exhausted (see?)

but optimistic that today would bring lighter winds. You know you sailed in heavy conditions when 12-15 sounds like an easy day! But then the winds woke me up (we are tent camping, as are Bronson and Rachel Bowling, John Cassada and a bunch of others, including Bruce and Lynn Kitchen). I don’t know what time it was but the winds started just cranking. I remember thinking that it was odd to have that kind of wind without a storm and hoping that it would die down by the morning. Morning came, wind still felt more like 18-20. We went to breakfast with a heavy heart.

But that’s the thing about having sailed in a lot of wind the day before. You become a little desensitized! So we hopped on the boat and headed out for another day of hard work. I didn’t want to feel tired, but the first time I pulled the vang on I thought, oh boy, I’m so tired I could almost start crying.

One thing I should have written about earlier is that Anna Tunnicliffe, Olympic gold medal Laser sailor, came on Sunday to give a talk.

She was going to go on the water and coach us, but of course, the racing got cancelled. Anyway, in addition to sharing her gold medal (that was so cool!) and telling her story, her talk was a lot about the role of fitness in sailing. Now, no one would pretend that we have any Anna Tunnicliffe’s in the Flying Scot fleet; she takes the definition of fit to a whole new level! But, she made the point that when you are in shape you not only have more physical endurance, but you end up having more mental endurance too. She didn’t say it exactly that that, but that’s what I’ve been thinking about. So I spent Monday and today trying to tamp down my adrenaline in order to get less fatigued and be more mentally alert. I’m not sure it helped, but it’s definitely something I’d like to work on. I think sometimes I try so, so very hard the first race of any regatta that I’m wiped by the second and third race and that doesn’t help my skipper at all.

Anyway, back to today’s races. Honestly, the hardest part is getting to the course. It’s almost an hour sailing upwind through all kinds of waves, the kinds of waves that send gushes of water into your face. Once we got there the wind felt pretty civilized, probably 12-15.

By the second race the wind had come down quite a bit, to the point where I was moving around in the boat and even went to the low side a bunch of times. Even though we knew it would probably happen, but we still had trouble changing gears. But many Midwest sailors had great days: Michael and Jennifer Faugust are 14th, Eric Bussell and Perry Cameron are 15th and Bronson Bowling is 16th  — Ryan Malmgren and Stacey Rieu got two bullets in the challenger fleet. Go Midwest District!!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Now THAT was a growth experience!

Yesterday's event got canceled due to high winds and we went for a late lunch with Lynn and Bill Bruss and Willson Jenkins. Lynn and Bill usually race together but Bill tore his rotator cuff and Willson, from Muscle Shoals Yacht Club, is filling in. Sandusky's claim to fame is their perch and walleye so we went to a nearby hole in the wall and had a delicious fish lunch outside in the sun. We watched the white caps and rolling waves and were so happy to not be sailing in the women's event!

Here are some of the Midwest District participants (except Eric Bussell and Ben Williams, Harry Haack and Eileen Mueller and including Bruce and Lynn Kitchen, honorary Midwest District members)

Today the wind had come down enough to sail so we went out at 10 am for the qualifying rounds. It was another long sail upwind for an hour to get to the course, just like at Newport last year. That's life, I guess...The wind was still quite high, and more than a dozen boats stayed on shore, happy to be put in the Challenger fleet. A few more came out of the harbor and then returned. That's all good; people need to sail at their comfort level.

In my house I always tell my kids that if they do something they don't think they can or don't want to do it will be a growth experience. Not surprisingly, they hate when I say that. But I will say today, many people who sailed that first race had a growth experience, in a good way. Specifically, John Cassada of Carlyle Lake had a great growth experience day. As a new sailor and a first-time NAC participant, he had an amazing growth experience to sail in those conditions.  Anyway, the first race was a four-leg, downwind finish. I will say this, the wind may have been high, but the gusts were not out of crazy directions or sudden, so it felt mostly manageable. Everyone flew the spinnaker, for example. I use that as an example, because the second race the wind came up enough that another dozen boats went in.

Perhaps the less said about the second race the better. The wind was very very strong, to the point where not only was the main flogging, but I often had to pop the jib so we would not go over. ... and that was going upwind! We were in the first start the second race and as far as I could see no one flew their spinnaker. Former NAC champ Jeff Linton said, when we got back to shore, that was the first time in his Flying Scot career that he did not fly the chute. That is saying something!!

Anyway, we had only two races. Sustained 18 mph with gusts to 24, and that was that, we headed in!

Tomorrow we start the finals. Midwest District boats in the Championship division are: Eric Bussell and Perry Cameron; Frank and Marianne Gerry; Jennifer and Michael Faugust; Bronson and Rachel Bowling; and Ben Williams and Deb Aronson. The Challenger fleet, meanwhile, has got Bill Vogler and Jack McClurkin, Ryan Malmgren and Stacey Rieu, John Cassada and Nadia Reynolds, Shirley Bild and Christine Beutler, Eric Sutton and Ed Yingling, and Harry Haack and Eileen Mueller of Delavan Yacht Club.

Off to take a hot shower!! More tomorrow.