VRC POLAR BEAR RACE – 2013-12-08

Polar Bear Series / Racing
Occam's Razor with new owners gets line honours making their own wind.

Occam’s Razor with new owners gets line honours making their own wind.

Once again we set off from the docks with little or no wind to speak of, the temperatures were suitable for flash freezing meat and there was ice around many of the boats at the dock – but the sun was out, or at least it appeared shortly after arriving on the race course. The wind that we had was out of the east so we had a sheltered bay to race in, if only we had a little more wind. But we were getting used to this. Depression set in and thoughts of breaking open the liquor cabinet were high on my mind, if not on those of the others aboard the committee boat Perihelion. We set the start line pin and sat and hoped for a bit more breeze to fill in. It didn’t. Then a zephyr from Kits beach told us that the pin was in the wrong place and the wind had shifted 100 degrees.

My thoughts were that we should start the race before the 2 knot breeze went away again were echoed by the PRO Benoit Sonrel, who had been delivered aboard on the race course. Everybody seemed to have been late this morning after a very happy Christmas party the night before, so we had set off from the dock a half hour late without anyone in charge!

Like a gander surrounded by ducklings the committee boat fought off racers trying to register, racers wishing us happy Christmas, and others just trying to keep warm off the heater exhaust (most of those went away feeling a little funny, except Alex Cregan and his crew aboard Argosy , they are always like that!). We started the race sequence, sending both division one and two off to the Kits Barge buoy and back, a short race for sure, but everybody wanted to do something, so it was better than just sitting there – again!

Thursday's Child drifts on mirrored seas before the start.

Thursday’s Child drifts on mirrored seas before the start.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Horn! The start was brilliant, with boats within inches of each other some 24′ long and others 45′. Occam’s Razor fought their way through the fleet and took off like a stabbed rat, making their own breeze as Brigadoon did their best to keep up by going further towards Kits than OR to find a wind line. With such little wind it was amazing what enthusiasm the crews put into this race. Turicum got caught out on the wrong side of the line, but could not turn around for the horde of boats coming at him, so he had to go the wrong way before he could turn around and get back to the line to start properly, otherwise everybody got off just fine.

Our roving reporter Ben Rummen (Thursday’s Child) informed me that at the turn he had never seen so many boats within inches of one another before and each one in a different breeze! Unintentional rafting was a common occurrence, a LOT of shouting exercised frozen lungs as some boats decided to round the mark leaving it to starboard. Why, I cannot say because no flag was flown at the start to say that they should. But you know the herd instinct? If the first boat does it wrong, everybody else thinks they must be right! Ha!

The fleet tries to find a wind line. Boy, did they do well!

The fleet tries to find a wind line. Boy, did they do well!

The fleet returned to discover their mistakes, some saying that they had seen a flag – they hadn’t! It was the rum that did it? Anyway, boats were asking if there was to be another race, so we thought, if there is enough wind, why not? Boats came in tight fought groups, but the memorable one was of Argosy surrounded by protagonists, losing their spinnaker halyard and we could hear Alex shouting from 3 miles away!

A puff of wind and the boats moved well, but look at the dead air all around them.

A puff of wind and the boats moved well, but look at the dead air all around them.

But Alex had his problems earlier when rounding the mark, apparently he pushed one boat into the mark (a huge steel mooring buoy for barges) then bounced off them into somebody else, and so it went on! Much hilarity at zero speed. I might point out that the give way rules do not apply when you do not have steerage way, which is probably why Alex was not protested. I think pretty much everybody else was, with at least one Hotfoot/Peterson/Santana exchanging the lead multiple times in the race. Rummen had never seen such aggressive racing in no wind in his life and found it hilarious. We don’t see these things from the committee boat, but normally we get to see the arguments later in the bar!

We wanted to start another race for everybody as the sun was out and believe it or not, people really were enjoying it out there. After announcing the fact, the radio lit up with an irate Havoc and Gunnar Jonnsen telling us that he was still racing? WHAT? We had finished him with a horn and a time, so how come he was racing?? It seems he had decided to do the race again, this time going around the mark the correct way, but had failed to mention it to anyone. Maybe he just didn’t want to give the game away to the others who had got it wrong, but in my mind, as a spectator only, if you have been finished in a race, you cannot just go off and start again willie nillie, Pigly Wigly. What this did was put paid to any second race for division one, which was a shame because they were all hanging around in eager anticipation.

See how the second boat is in totally different airs from Obsession the leading boat?

See how the second boat is in totally different airs from Obsession the leading boat?

Then another call on the radio. It was Lora Lee saying that they were still racing too and were still at the Kits Barge buoy! WHAT?? We didn’t even have him registered. He must have been towing a bucket anyway to be so far behind. So, as he was unregistered, we started a second race for Division 2, and boats managed to get enough warming liquids inside their crews to get out there, and it turned out to be another great race with every boat hotly contesting their positions.

Finally, the last boat got home and we had the engine fired up waiting to weigh anchor and pick up the pin. Benoit tried in vane to lift the little Danforth with 6′ of chain off the bottom, but it must have been snagged, so it took a while. After much heaving and grunting it came loose and we set off back to the VRC and a well deserved drink while the result s were read out. Unfortunately the delay at the pin and my need to get the Perihelion sorted out before I got to the club meant I missed all the excitement!

Apparently next time we will be selling tickets for this show. Everybody was complaining about everybody else, the skipper of Windy Feet was spotted strangling Gunnar Jonsenn (not sure if that’s true!) and Alex Cregan was standing up for himself in the best way he knows how – LOUDLY! But in the end, we all had a huge laugh and everyone left friends.

There were some eight protests I believe, everything from Bedlam II motoring to the start, to many complaints about rounding the mark the wrong way, and I am sure there must be a few for shouting!

Officially so far, the following are being protested (and/or retired):

  • Havoc – String Rule DNS/RAF (Retired after finishing)
  • Manana – Rounding to Starboard (RAF)
  • Bedlam II – Motoring during the start sequence, Rounding to Starboard, sailing with undeclared sails. (RAF)
  • Brigadoon – String rule (RAF)
  • Rhumb Line – Rounding to Starboard (RAF)
  • Arashi – Rounding to Starboard (RAF)
  • Woodstock – Rounding the wrong way (RAF)
  • Slingshot- Port/Starboard infraction with Nimue (RAF)

Oh, and by the way, please try not to communicate with the Race Committee during the start sequence. The committee is very busy during the sequence and we may lose count!! No hailing, shouting, not even on the radio (where you will almost certainly be ignored). Use pigeons, and we will open the messages when we have time, but you clean the mess up later.

But seriously, the pub was jammed, and everybody had one of the best days sailing in a long time, even if it was at a snail’s pace. You know, if two fighter jets are traveling at 1000 mph and 1000.01 mph, the latter is winning! And yes, it’s still really exciting. Anybody can sail in 12 knots of breeze, but in light airs it takes a real racer. I wish I could mention everybody here, but I can’t, but you all made my day out there as a spectator. Thank you.

I believe some 26 boats got out there this day.

I believe some 26 boats got out there this day.

Written by Evan Seys


Preliminary Results