Camellia Cup April 2004
Folsom Lake California
By Lance Purdy
The 2004 Camellia Cup continued in its classic tradition of providing a little bit of everything in terms of wind and a whole lot of fun. For the past 3 or 4 years the date of the event has been returned to the first weekend in April which insures that spring atmospheric instability will prevail instead of the oppressive stationary summer high that exists from May to September. In other words, there solid wind for 4 of the 5 races which isn’t bad no matter where you sail.
Twelve boats showed up for competition, which is a bit down from last year. No boats from So. Cal came this year, and Disaster Area did not make from the great northwest, but we did see most of the usual travelers. Francis Sampson and Bob Harper brought their boats from Huntington Lake. Paul Stephens made the trip from Eugene. We also saw a complete traveling newcomer, Aaron Lee, his crack crew, and his boat Pip Squeak, made the short trip from Alameda.
The first race of was rather comical. The Camellia Cup is run essentially on an Olympic circle. However, for some reason, the start boat did not set up on the center pin. This threw off the compass heading to the weather mark. Despite this, everybody found the weather mark just fine. The problem occurred downwind. With the start point being off center, it put everybody’s sense of perception out of whack and the entire fleet except for one boat went to the wrong mark.
However, the boat that “knew” where it was going, Sea Bear skippered by Lance Purdy, turned out to be missing that all important elusive factor in sailboat racing known as confidence. As sailors, we all know that the more you race sailboats, the more you naturally assume that if the entire fleet is going the opposite way you are, the odds are that you are doing something hideously wrong. Therefore, with a sure victory in its grasp, Sea Bear gybed back to incorrect mark thereby graciously surrendered the entire lead. It appears that sometimes you might be right, even if the entire fleet is wrong, but that still gives you every opportunity to completely blow it anyway. As the group reached the wrong mark, the error was recognized and en masse everyone gybed back to power reach to correct mark. Due to the confusion, the fleet rounded very closely and the rest of the race was hard fought. In the end it was Charles Witcher, Sherron Hart and Charlie Hess on Aggressive Tendencies that took the gun due to stellar upwind speed. Aaron Lee on Pip Squeak was second and Sea Bear in third.
The second race was a classic 20 battle. Close at the start and close at the finish. The wind, which began the day at 12, had dropped to about 8 but was steady. It seemed everyone got off the line clean. At the weather mark it was three boat battle between Sea Bear, Aggressive Tendencies and Pip Squeak, by the leeward mark, Sea Bear had dropped back leaving the other two battling it out. It ended in a photo finish. Aggressive Tendencies again took the bullet but it was so close that they were sure were sure Pip Squeak had won until they got back to the docks. With a brilliant move, tacking into a personal puff, 300 yards form the finish, Jim Coyne sailing Atomic Punk outflanked Sea Bear and got up for third.
The third race, perhaps never should have been raced but it made for high drama. The Folsom typical, atypical breeze finally broke out. The wind died from 8 knots to next nothing with puffs of even less. Also, the direction changed from southwest to east. Anyone who sails on the west coast knows that an east wind is bad news. To make matters worse, the race committee did not shift the starting line or the weather mark, so the start was downwind with the pin massively favored.
Most of the top boats reacted to the shift and conditions by starting near the pin on a broad reach to the mark with chutes flying. One lonely boat, Sea Bear started at the boat, expecting either the wind to shift back to the southwest or to take advantage of the dying east breeze by coming up toward the mark, below the fleet, on a hot angle. Five minutes after the start Aggressive Tendencies had established modest lead on the pin starting fleet and Sea Bear was DFL and buried behind a wall of chutes. Fifteen minutes later after the breeze did briefly shift back to the southwest and then returned east, Sea Bear rounded the mark first on a screaming 0.2 knot tight reach while the rest of the fleet was parked on a broad reach. Folsom had indeed worked it magical ability to turn the fleet inside out. The race was shortened and finished at the leeward mark which was now the weather mark. Sea Bear won by a quarter mile, Aggressive Tendencies was second and Pip Squeak was again third.
After race three, the competitors retired for the Saturday evening festivities which are not dependent on wind and therefore always a smash. As usual the Sacramento Brewing Company provided outstanding refreshment and nobody went hungry either. Of course the sailing tall tales abounded and the questionably appropriate humor that works only among other sailors was not to be missed. Nothing but smiling faces in every quarter.
Sunday brought good wind out of the southwest with shifts and puffs making it interesting for both races. In race 4, Sea Bear won the start handily and covered Aggressive Tendencies hard forcing them back into the fleet figuring it was their only chance to win the regatta. Perhaps Sea Bear was not thinking appropriately because while Sea Bear was concentrating on drastically lowering barometric pressure on Aggressive Tendencies, Pip Squeak snuck off to right side of the course on a seeming flyer. It is only a flyer if you are wrong a Pip Squeak was right. Pip Squeak rounded the weather mark well ahead with Sea Bear in second with Atomic Punk third. The breeze was good and nobody made any mistakes, so the finish places mirrored that of the weather mark rounding.
Going into the last race, three boats were very tight for the lead. With the anticipated throw out, the scores were Aggressive Tendencies 4, Pip Squeak 5, and Sea Bear 6. Unfortunately, the three boat battle narrowed down to just two. The race was a double sausage and the fleet was very tight at the weather mark. Paul Stephens on Aquila rounded first with Atomic Punk in second. Sea Bear and Aggressive tendencies rounded in locked in a personal battle in third and fourth. Pip Squeak was conspicuously absent. The wind was tricky and the top 4 boats shifted places frequently with each leading for a bit and then bouncing back to fourth on a regular basis. Sea Bear and Aggressive Tendencies stayed fairly close in a personal battle. In the end, Aggressive Tendencies prevailed with Sea Bear a close second by no threat to win the regatta. Aquila was third. Pip Squeak, missing in action, was to reported to have served themselves a &%$$** sandwich (Aaron’s words, not mine). Further details are not of printable nature.
Trophies were awarded as follows. The Hess, Hart, Witcher team on Aggressive Tendencies won again for about the 50th year in the row walking away with the Camellia Cup and the Keelboat perpetual trophy as well. You can agonize over constant defeat or you can simply toast the phenomenal skill of the crew on Aggressive Tendencies. Most of us chose to do both by blunting the agony with a few beers. Sea Bear was second mirror last year’s finish in yet another futile attempt to dethrone the winners. Aaron Lee and Pip Squeak was a close third in his very first one-design regatta. I think class has much to fear if he starts traveling. Atomic Punk was fourth. Each year Jim knocks about 5 points off his total score. Next year Jim and his crew should be contending for the win. Paul Stephens on Aquila was fifth.
Next year I would like to more 20’s take a run at Hess, Hart and Witcher. Very few crews have successfully beaten them in their back yard (Folsom) and none in recent memory. Many a class champions has been humbled. The nationals may get your picture in the newsletter, but beating Aggressive Tendencies at Folsom may be the more difficult feat. If you want a real challenge, stick you boat on a trailer and bring it to Folsom next April.