Hazardous Day at Cherry Creek Ends Well
by Phillip Infelise
have been decompressing after a hectic summer helping organize and then
sailing in our great 2004 Nationals at ABYC.
Just a casual Wednesday night race or two and no real thought of
any real serious regattas in Colorado.
was doing my typical Sunday Morning thing
on September 18 about 7:30 – sitting at the computer getting
some work done prior to taking the family over to the Wildflower Cafe in
beautiful downtown Evergreen for our traditional Eggs Benedict feasting
with our closest neighbors, when I got a call.
Expecting my business partner – Chuck – I probably said
something inappropriate into the phone and then I realized it was Lisa
Wildeman. Lisa owns S-20 #609 – Occupational
Hazard – and is an active member of Fleet 28.
Her beau had blown out his back on day one of the Colorado
Governors Cup on Saturday and she was giving me the desperation plea to
come sail with her and Jim Carollo.
Hearing that she could harangue hard enough to force men to leave
the country, I agreed to speed down the hill and hit the infamous Cherry
Creek Reservoir immediately after I threw down my Bennie in record time.
FYI – no mention of the expected breeze for the day (or I would
have made the trip even faster).
little background for those of you who don’t know.
Sailing at Cherry Creek is a test of your patience.
Andrew Kerr will remember our S-20 seminar in 2001 when all we
could practice was roll tacking for two days under 105 degree heat.
That was fairly normal summer sailing. Last year’s Governor Cup
when I sailed with my good friends Tim Dunton and Guy Lindsay on
Chubasco, each race consisted of a .5 mile windward fetch in 2 knots of
breeze and a painful “run” (crawl) back to the finish (I am reminded
not so fondly of this year’s Eastern Regionals at Lake Lanier that was
eerily similar). So, to
have the chance to sail in that venue in any real breeze is a rarity.
In this breeze, it was a thrill.
Italian Job. Another
reason I gave up my days of house chores recovering from the remodel to
sail was the chance to re-unite with Jim Carollo, who sails his J-24 up
on Lake Dillon and for whom Lisa crews frequently.
I have fond memories of my first season sailing 20s with Jim and
Mike Marangola in 1999 on Jim’s Tiburon, even including the long, long
week of zephyrs on Lake Alcova. (Though
remember the last race that year and you’ll know why I was confident
that Jim can handle big breeze). Jim
was slated to drive on this fine day.
the debate begin. On the
ocean, I think I have a pretty accurate sense of wind strength without
the aid of instruments – reading wind chop, what’s in my face and in
the rigging, how we have to sail the boat to keep her on her feet.
I am at a bit of a deficit on totally flat water where the
longest fetch for wave action is about 1.5 miles.
I have cross-checked what I am about to say with two Veteran
sources on Cherry Creek. The
prevailing breeze was 28-30 knots.
A lull would be 26. There
were irregular gusts on top of the 30 that hit more, much more, probably
up to 42 knots in the one puff that laid Chubasco over for 12-15
seconds, right in our stern. This is not the Cherry Creek we are used to, but certainly
one for the history books.
Rating Game. When
S-20s don’t Fleet in CO, they sail in a mixed PHRF Fleet and the PHRF
game is no different here than everywhere else.
The folks that Volunteer to run things get to decide how boats
get rated and can – and frequently do - ignore the standards set
around the country. For a
lot of reasons, S-20s sailing without an accompanying outboard motor
sail with a 212 rating in CO. Certainly
a reaction to what everyone knows: you can’t beat a 20 in light air,
flat-water conditions. So,
you can imagine that the mixed group of Capri 25s, Merit 25s, MacGregors,
Stars (yes Stars, this is PHRF in CO after all) and the like were
licking their chops as they (mostly) put in their double reefs in and
threw up the blades knowing that they would hammer those little upstart
20s. Not so. At
least three 20s – Chubasco, Geoffrey Zahn’s Space
Pipe and the Hazard battled the big boats all
around the course. Now, we
all wait for the rating discussion over the long winter.
the Water. In the Breeze. This
was a day to remember. We
actually hanked on the Genoa, but then looked around and thought better
of it. Lisa pulls out this
brand new, never-been-out-of-the-bag Ullman jib (life is good I think
quietly) and we field test the leads at the dock before screaming out to
the start area. The race
committee made the Kite/No Kite discussion and the male hormones calm
quickly by setting a simple triangular course that would allow no chance
for anything but jib reaching. (OK, so there were moments that I would
have been tempted in my Altitude Sickness but I am not sure that Lisa
would have agree to risk stripping the mast off the boat just to see how
fast a 20 can really go – although honestly, that mast needs to go, as
both Jim and I surely thought it would many times throughout the day).
Twice around. Furthermore, the course geometry was a bit skewed so that you
only had one or two tacks on the weather legs and you were there.
So, it was pretty basic sailing. Keep everything un-cleated and
ready to dump, keep you eyes ahead looking for the next big gust or
green water in the troughs and hang on.
Work the jib sheet and traveler mercilessly and try to get into
groove where you could pinch through the puffs and crab to weather while
other less-attentive boats might be waiting for the mast tips to pop
back out of the water.
In the first race, we started on a left shift at the pin, sailed with good speed and point and rounded directly in the stern of a Capri 25 that then towed us all the way to the jibe mark, surfing on her quarter wake the whole leg. Thrilling and very cool. Concentrate through the S-jibe, slam on the leeward twing and off we go again to the bottom mark
the second weather leg, we made a mistake in playing the left, while Chubasco
played the right and they caught up to us big time. In a few of the ever-building puffs on this leg, I found that
the Hazard had a unique system to deal with the 40+ knot
puffs. Every time one hit
(three total upwind), the main halyard would break from it’s jam cleat
(Hey, Lisa, this is the one place we Sickness boys will allow a horn
cleat on the boat), drop the main about three feet and allow the boat to
stand straight up and crab to weather on the jib alone while others were
trying some mast tip dipping. Very
efficient min-reef system that allowed us to open up a big lead at the
second top mark and ride it to the finish.
(Truckers hitch between races solved that problem, but made us
all worry about what would happen if we had to cut the halyard in a
hurry – you know, like when the stick goes over the side – which Jim
and I both fully expected would happen at some point. Or over the front,
as it did on Chubasco at the Carter Open).
Two started about the same way, but turned Hazardous
for us quickly near the top mark. Yours
truly called us right past the real weather mark (Come on!
They looked almost the same) allowing Chubasco to
round first. Then we tried
to push in at the mark ahead of Space Pipe who was smoking
in on the lay line. (Wait a
minute, are they always smoking? And what’s in that Pipe?) We hit the
mark, listened to Geoff berate us sufficiently, did our circle and
started down the reach leg in Third.
Good speed down the first reach (love those twings for a reaching
lead), jibed right behind the Pipe with Chubasco
with a substantial lead, but somewhat tied up with and slowed by the
larger Capri. Chubasco,
the Capri and the Pipe all took a higher road to the
bottom mark while we surfed our way low and scalloped up when the puffs
subsided. Passed the Pipe
(aw, memories of those college years) but Chubasco still
had some boat-lengths on us. This
time she took the left and we took the right and ended up bow-to-bow
coming into the lay line about 200 feet shy of the top mark.
Chubby (the boat, not the skipper) tacks right in
our stern and then a monster puff hits even before her tack is complete,
lays her down for an eternity and off we go, stretching out on the
reaches and an easy one tack beat to the finish.
Two Races. Two
Firsts. A little gloating,
but not enough to erase Chubasco’s spectacular Day One
with Four First. Congratulations
Having sailed an S-20 for only the last five years is not a lifetime by this class’s standards, but this day of sailing set a number of S-20 firsts for me, and maybe some others:
am thinking that we should share some things we learned about sailing
the S-20 in these conditions:
Question of the Day, or many days? (Besides how the hell
did the Hazard’s rig stay up all day) Does
an S-20 plane? In
my mind, the jury is still out on this.
I felt that the boat would not break on to a true plane even in
the 30-40 knots puff; rather the boat was actually surfing on little 1-3
foot wind chop (I guess some would call them waves).
I have done a lot of planing and surfing in my days in dingies
and big boats (Ragtime at 30 knots careening down the Molokai comes to
mind often) and on this day, even on this day in the 20, I never felt
the effortless light skipping of the bow that I associate with planing,
no total flattening of the quarter wave, no totally neutral helm,
the “nah, nah, nah” hum from the tip vortex, but the
“locked” in feel of a boat that is surfing hard. (I will admit that
for a few brief moments between races while Lisa was practicing her
surfing skills, there was the start of that knowing hum and it was
almost breaking out....... naw, it was just a surf burst in smoother
water). I look forward to a lively debate on this subject.
28 & 13
Sickness – S-20 #679