Commonwealth Yacht Club

A place for members to find & share information about the happenings of the CYC

Write-up courtesy of Harry Reed.  I am just reposting for everyone's benefit.

Friends and Fair Winds

Sailing opens a new season on Kentucky Lake! This is the 9th season for the staggered start sailing series begun by CYC and Kentucky Lake Sail Club sailors to give beginning and experienced sailors a chance to practice outside of the Kentucky Lake Sail Club's more formal races. Saturday's race, May 7th, begins at 10am by the green buoys in front of the Dam. Steve Smith on his Oday 28, "Heeling Time" is the defending champion with Dave Casey expected to provide stiff competition on his newly launched Seafarer 24, "We're Here". Everyone is welcome. Contact Sharla Graham at Green Turtle Bay or on FaceBook for more information and for your start time. 
The first race of the season was Saturday April 23, 2016, It was supposed to be sunny with temperatures in the mid 70s - but here we were with thick fog and a slight cool breeze. How did the weather men get this so wrong? Where the hell is the sun we are supposed to see? Crews were scrambling around the dock- getting their vessels ready to meet on the lake for the 10am horn to start the season's first race in the CYC series where small boats take off and fast ones wait to set out in pursuit over a five mile course. Race Director Sharla Graham arrived to find Dave Casey precariously up the mast on a ladder trying to retrieve his halyard. A ladder against a mast on a rocking boat - that doesn't sound good. When she got to her boat her gas can lid was off and the tank empty! Its one thing to steal gas but- to leave the cap off to let stuff get in your tank is really low. Some people just need to be keel hauled. Dave came to the rescue and siphoned some gas out of his tank.

The engines wouldn't start on "Hell on Heels", but Steve Smith (winner of many past races) on his newly christened Oday 28 "Heeling Time", picked up the tow line and hauled them out to the course. It was approaching 10 AM so everyone else finally just took off- out to the starting area by the dam.

With a light North West wind- maybe 3 knots- Race director Sharla Graham rounded the green starting buoy and developed a fairly substantial lead with her Cal 25 named "Fat Cat". With heroic work the previous year, Sharla personally revived her boat from the near-dead, it having been previously abandoned. Over the years, she has made Fat Cat into a very beautiful, sea worthy vessel. Up in Lake Michigan, Cal 25s are affectionately known as "dancing elephants", referring to their being designed for heavier air than we often experience here in Kentucky. Sharla just took the initiative and learned how to do what was needed to repair her boat and complete it herself! Her determination is remarkable and shows how we sailors become so attached to our boats. They have a life and personality of their own. 
Adrienne Pickard, on Calypso, an Oday 272, soon followed on port tack somewhat to the west of Fat Cat, who was toward the first mark at Sledd Creek. With no crew to help, but with a steady helm, Adrienne kept her sails full with a good cup in the light winds and took off after Sharla. Sailing, even when racing, occurs at a slower pace - more time to soak up the beauty of the sea - the smell of the waves - and opens up room for myriad thoughts. In My idle thoughts, I wondered - that name, Pickard, Captain Pickard - perhaps her great grandson will someday captain a starship back to L5 from Alpha Centari. As he smoothly guides his ship back to the orbiting station, he says "I come by it naturally, my great grandmother helmed a ship in the waters back on earth , in Kentucky I think it was." Sailing on Kentucky Lake is not only relaxing but gives us all manor of time to construct random thoughts that don't have a lot to do with anything. If you do't believe me just check Tim Crowell's epic tome about the "life of a buoy" on the CYC site. With Bev at the helm, I thought we are so blessed with such a trio of plucky and creative lady sailors. 
Back at the start line, Steve on Heeling Time, was getting a slower start due, no doubt, to pulling us out to the course. No sooner than we arrived than it was our time to go as well. The wind lightened up and we drifted up on Heeling time's stern in position to start blocking their wind. I thought that was nice of us, seeing how he pulled us out to the course. When Steve noticed, he quickly bore off a bit to port, exposing more sail to the wind and took off down the leeward leg. 
At this time we realized "where is Dave?" Dave Casey was last seen on the dock readying for his first race in over 10 years, on his newly restored Seafarer 24, "We're Here". Only he wasn't here. Did he have engine problems and we didn't see him? With our need for a tow we lost track of him. What a shame for him to miss the race. Too late to worry about that now! The race is on. 
The first mark at Sledd Creek offered even lighter winds but sorted out the racers into a line directed to the leeward mark out in the middle of the lake. "Heeling Time" was in the lead but blocked from sight by Fat Cat who was just behind. Adrienne followed behind them but had extended her lead on Hell on Heels. All the sailors ahead were handling their boats with skill and seamanship. I thought -that was one of the original purposes of this series and it is reassuring to see it a success. Seeing those sails, all striving for the mark, in rhythm with the wind, so beautiful, it's one of the reasons I love this event.
By the end of the second leg, Heeling Time was pretty far ahead. As we were making this mark in the middle of the lake we suddenly saw Dave Casey fast approaching from astern. His sails were full and the clean hulled boat seemed to be streaking along the water. He had a 24 minute late start but was catching up fast. Wow! How did he do that!
On the last leg Heeling Time was on course, it seemed, straight to the mark far ahead. Fat Cat was ahead to the west slightly, dealing with a dead streak of wind across the lake. Calypso was to the west in an area of depressed wind slowly but consistently making its way down the course. On "We're Here", Dave decided to try to hold the mark toward the finish buoy. He cupped his sails and tried to keep to the east, pinching for all he was worth, so as to minimize tacks on his way back to the damn. With a clean hull and a direct path, he soon passed Hell on Heels and Captain Pickard on Calypso. He seemed to shoot through the dead air patch that ran through the middle of the course which began to worry Heeling Time as they were working their way through lighter air ahead. 
Smith's "Heeling Time" won the race with Casey's "We're Here" following 5 minutes and 30 seconds later. Fat Cat and Adrienne on Calypso tacked to the east to get to windward of the finish mark. "Hell on Hells" did as well, but found themselves going back down the lake in the wrong direction. They had to duck behind Fat Cat, who was on starboard tack. As soon as they got up enough speed they tacked back toward the finishing green buoy. They thought they were not going to make it as the east wind was pushing them west. "Hell on Heels" "juked" the finish buoy, turning into the wind then rounding up over the buoy missing it by just 3 feet for a come from behind finish for 3rd.
"Fat Cat" and "Calypso" finished close behind. These close finishes, despite sailing for five miles in such fluky winds, sometimes sailing far apart on different tacks, yet still coming together, crossing closely, really makes these Saturday morning get togethers on the water so much fun. The next race always offers new adventures and another chance to improve. Steve vowed to bring out his full head racing sail. Dave is getting his halyards sorted out and hopefully his start time. "Hell on Heels" hopes to have their engine operating and their spinnaker working. All we need after that is just wind. Sharla reported that Fat Cat also had to be towed in by "Uncle Steve's" towing service due to her borrowed gas not being quite enough to get her back to port. 
Back at the pier, Gus claims he is permanently docked with his Morgan 32 but we are still working on him. John Hafner is probably out sailing in San Diego, but Tim Crowell on "Psychotic Squirrel" may be back. It's great to see old friends out striving to improve and having fun on a Saturday morning together. 
Next race is May 7th at 10am by the Dam, just enough time to complete the course and go back to the dock, or head to the CYC to see the Kentucky Derby and don your hat. Everyone is invited and the race is free. See you there! Check this page for further information. Thanks to Sharla for keeping the Series going into it's 9th year! Still sailing and still having fun. Friends and Fair Winds- that's all we need.
Harry Reed

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