Wednesday, November 20, 2013
2013 Blue Chip Log
I arrived in Pewaukee during the 34th America’s Cup on Wednesday afternoon, planning on some good practice sessions on Thursday prior to Fridays racing. My E Scow sailing time was limited to 2 days of fun light air racing with the 2012 Mystery Guest, Peter Isler and his girlfriend Miriam Torres Brinkmann at the NY Sates on Keuka Lake in August, as sort of a secret training mission. Prior to that I had sailed a few times in scows many years before and really needed boat time. Keuka was a good eye opener, learning about rig tune and sailing angles and even more importantly heeling angles and timing for maneuvers.
I had left San Francisco on the Sunday prior to the Blue Chip to go back to Maine to clear up over a dozen downed trees from a Kansas style microburst, The America;s Cup score was NZ 7, USA 1, I had the pleasure of riding on the committee boat the last day I was in there, I had been in SF since the beginning of the regatta. It was almost certain that the Kiwis would win one more and take the Cup home, yet it was not to be, the world’s longest AC would distract and entertain me and many others throughout the Blue Chip regatta. Arrival day NZ 8, USA 1.
While in Pewaukee was able to visit Harken HQ to watch race 10, the tipping point in the AC, USA won it! I got a tour of the factory, saw lots of old friends and reminisced about the cold sub-Arctic temperature days of building my Finn in the winter of 1979 at the old factory, a dinghy which I later sailed to 2 Gold Cup wins. Olaf has crossed the Atlantic with me on our Team Adventure maxi catamaran after THE RACE and we had not seen each other very many times after that. Every Blue Chip mystery guest should allow for time to go see this amazing business produce the world’s finest sailboat hardware.
With Jim Campbell, Dave Buckley and Lisa Gutenkunst as my bookends for the racing, we set out for some training which included a stop at the local Sports Dock Bar for lunch complete with Bloody Mary's and beer chasers to warm us up and thicken our blood for the brisk autumn weather.
Getting out onto Pewaukee Lake prior to racing is a huge bonus. Simple stuff such as rigging, dressing, launching and getting out of the weeds into the main body of the race course is well worth it. Then taking plenty of laps around the lake, learning the names of some of the landmarks that my crew would be using to describe the winds was really helpful and understanding how some of the puffs land on the water is key. Racing can take you close into shore and it gets really shifty and puffy.
From what I could figure, all E Scows are very one design, One Builder, One Sail maker and very few differences between boats. Most boats have the newer launcher set up for the kites, ours did not. The races were not won or lost because one boat was tricked out better than any other. We had 17 boats, which for me was plenty big enough of a fleet to deal with. Looking back at the results, we got better every race. A lot of this was due to my incredibly able crew mates and their upbeat demeanor, this helped with my confidence and allowed me to get my head out the boat and understand what was happening in the big picture of the race course. typical of all one design racing, the starts are very important and on Pewaukee lake it was huge to be able to sail straight and fast to then 1st shift and then get in phase all the way to the 1st windward mark and hopefully round in a puff and stretch away from the pack downwind. All sounds easy, yet we did not accomplish this in races 1 and 2. Chalk it up to my rookie driving and not enough head out of the boat sailing. Shifts happen often and fast, feeling confident that I could tack well came later in the regatta. Wishing I had done 100 more tacks in the practice sessions!
All the competitors were super friendly, socializing in the parking lot and certainly at the club bar was great. Saturday night big supper was unbelievable, great ambience and vibes from all the club members and sailors. So much pride was taken in the food preparations, the grill team did an amazing job and had so much fun outside that’s typical of so many kitchens, a lot of people congregate there to hang out and talk and drink brews, the junior sailors waiting on tables and more made for a very memorable evening and extended weekend at PYC.
If you are lucky enough to be the Mystery Guest, take it seriously, find your Keuka Lake style of event if you can and get in some stick time in an E Scow. They are wicked fun to sail, especially when the breeze is enough to keep all the crew to windward.
Plus if you make enough friends at PYC one of them will have the keys to an A Scow and it is easy to get em fired up enough to get out for some rides on the lake. We had an absolute blast and some cold beers and shots of FIREBALL whisky on a super sunny Sunday afternoon before I headed back east to Maine.