Mid Season Report:
Mike, Rj, and myself have finally hit the backstretch of our sailing season for the boat grant program. With five events under our belt, we have spent a lot of time sailing. All that remains for us right now are the Atlantic Coast Championship and the North Americans. It has been an eventful summer to say the least with a few trips to the mechanic, last minute replacements on boats and vehicles, and a whole lot of sailing.
After we competed in the Pynmatuning Spring Classic with almost no time in our new boat, we knew we could only go up. After a good bit of practice, we headed to the Lighthouse event in Fond du Lac. With our van still out of order, Bill Faue came to the rescue at the last minute by letting us use the “Big Red Truck” much to his son’s dismay. Mike “Elmo” Elmergreen set us up with rock star accommodations. He managed to have an RV parked in front of the Yacht Club. No excuse for being late to this one. Todd Wake schooled the fleet in how to sail in light and variable conditions. We had moments of brilliance, including leading the first race for just a short bit. After all was said and done, we finished a respectable sixth in a small fleet.
With our van still out of commission, the team headed up to Bay City without the boat boat, and borrowed Gary Sowden’s like new Nickels to sail the event. We finally started to fall into rhythm in Bay City. After the first day, we were only two points out of second (Mark Allen has a strangle hold on first by this time). We were ready to make a charge for second. A little too eager to make a charge in fact, as we started a bit early and we never recovered. This set up a final race showdown for third between us, and the boys on Spinnaker Ninja with only a point between us. The winds got light and fluky as the race went on with 30 plus degree shifts and a whole mess of lead changes. We snuck past a few boats on the final leg to snatch up third place.
As we started to get into the heart of our schedule, we were finally figuring out how to get the boat moving. We headed to Sheboygan for the Midwest Districts. We finally had the van running again (with a new transmission, engine and radiator). Now that we had a boat all we needed was wind. Only three races were sailed despite six starts over the two days. The winds were again light and fluky (is anyone else noticing a theme here?) We got a bullet in the first race of the series by getting a little further in the lake then the fleet on the first leg, and escaping downwind before the wind nearly died and drifted away from the fleet. We managed to hold on for the wind, despite almost being swept off the course by a slight current. The rest of the races Saturday never got to the first mark before the wind fell out.
Shortly after the first start Sunday, a big storm rolled in and there was a mad scramble to get back to the dock. We spent a few hours attempting to bribe the race committee with beer at the bar to call the race so we would order our blue lightning bolt. But to no avail, we got two races off within an hour of the deadline in fluky breeze. We couldn’t repeat our performance in the first race, and slipped into a tie for second with Todd Wake. Richard Walsh came all the way from Canada to win the districts, with a very consistent performance. But believe me we weren’t complaining about a second in this fleet.
Our most recent event was the Great Lake Champs at North Cape Yacht Club. Again, racing was cut down due to light breeze. Only four races were sailed in some very shifty conditions on Lake Erie. We found out just how hard it is to be consistent in a fleet as stacked as the one we saw in North Cape. We started the first race off in the front pack, and one missed shift in the first race cost us at least ten boats. We clawed back to eleventh after a long slow race. The second race was our best of the event. A left shift at the top of the second beat to put us up in the top three. We were in the running to take a bullet in the race, but an ill advised jibe right before the finish let a few boats sneak in. In the top five going into day two we had more trouble on the starting line. A big left shift forced the fleet to tack at the pin, and we managed to stop the boat on port with a whole line of starboard tackers coming at us. A few penalty turns later, and we were pretty much in last. Despite our best efforts, we never caught up with the lead pack, and finished twenty first. We had a much stronger showing in the last race, this time getting off the pin favored line clean and right with Dave Starck and Skip Diebold on port. The two of them quickly showed us why they got the top spots in the regatta by showing us a bit about smooth sailing and boatspeed. We let a few boats in on the last downwind, finishing the final race in sixth, putting us in seventh overall. A little disappointing to lose a few places on one mistake, but that’s the tight racing in the Lightning class for you.
Right now we are headed to Annapolis for the Atlantic Coast Champs. Rumor has it that we are in for more light and shifty conditions, which may actually work to our favor given the conditions for all of our events so far. The van hasn’t blown up yet, which is a nice change of pace. We are looking to finish strong in the last two events, and have a goal of qualifying for the Pan Am Trails this fall. Rj has already started saving cash to buy our boat at the end of the year, but I think we are still $18,000 or so short so we have started looking into older boats a bit more in our price range. Big thanks again to everyone involved in the boat grant program (Debbie Probst, Jan Davis, Bill Fastiggi, and Nickels Boatworks), to our mentor, Dave Stix who has put up with all of our shenanigans this summer, and to all of the sailors we have raced against, everyone has been extremely helpful this summer.