And so it begins…

23 03 2010

Saginaw, MI Thursday March 18, 2010. 

It’s official as my ride arrives at 3:30am for our 5:30am flight.  Sailing season 2010 has begun.  By 9:30am we will be driving away from Tampa International Airport on our way to St. Petersburg Yacht Club(SPYC) for the Lightning Class’  last leg of the Southern Circuit, the Winter Championship in St. Pete.  Our departure is during one of the mildest March’s in MI  in past years going into Florida(FL) which is experiencing one of its coldest winters recently, be not afraid I grumble to JB(remember I don’t function before 6:30 or coffee).

I will not offer up a history of this illustrious event or the great history of the  Lightning Class itself, but direct you to its website (www.lightningclass.org).  70+ years of great sailing and many more to go.  I will also not try to describe sailboat racing and its nuances, I will just try to help you relive my experience for a fleeting moment.  See, it all goes back for me to 1991, a college graduate buying his first boat, transaction taking place in a dark seedy parking lot (ok it was the Saginaw Club so not so seedy but it was dark, I was there for a wedding) with visions of sugar plums…wait a minute…visions of screaming reaches and silver adorning the mantel.

Back to today.  My Lightning is named Scars & Scrapes which in its self could be the subject for a blog.  this is my 4th in a historic(remember this is  whose blog?) lineage of Scars & Scrapes.  Her hull number is 14937 and she is by far the prettiest girl at the dance if you know what I mean.  This is the only of the 4 I have had built just for me, to my specs with what I wanted and where.  You see, I had dreams…dreams of wins, big and lots of them, but also to go to the Southern Circuit, a three venue mid winter event few other organizations can even get close to in fun, great racing and history, the year…1999.  Needless to say Scars & Scrapes has been to the circuit before, the big dance if you want to compare it to the NCAA final four.  This would be her second trip, alas(fun word try to use it in a sentence today, damn near a pirate word so it is fitting) as with the first trip I would not be sailing her.

Many things screw up perfectly good plans or dreams.  Time, money, women, commitments, responsibilities, jobs, family, friends(anyone notice how I snuck women in there?…just checking if you were paying attention, I guess you could  insert men) to name a few.  I never made it to the circuit with my beloved boat.

However(insert dramatic trumpet music) I did, finally make it to the dance.  I get by with a little help from my friend(s).  A very generous offer from a great friend in need and I found myself on that 5:30am flight off to St. Pete to sail with him and the gang against Scars but that was ok because this Lightning Class is friendly, really its about family.

tight mark rounding in St. Pete

Tampa International, 9:37am as Herve Vilchez used to say we were “deplaning”.  I reached into my back pack and threw on my flippy floppies(so we could ride dolphins and …).  Sunny and….what the…its cold.  It’s ok, we made our way to the SPYC to set up boats.  Hard to explain but we actually put one  boat on top of the other kind of like boat spooning and pulled them down with one truck, ok?  We arrived to find out the Obi Wan and the Actor had the boats set, sweet.  Willy was under the weather.  No sailing today, gnarly conditions, we chose to soak in the sun, behind the barn out of the wind and tweak the boats.

Scars & Scrapes looking sweet with the Spinnaker flying

An uneventful night found us raring to go Friday morning, the first day of racing in St. Pete.  We went out in a dying NW wind.  We were able to complete one race and then bobbed around as the wind tried to switch and fill and finally racing was called, 8 hours on the water, the boys were ready for some cocktails.  We found them.  Tired from a long day we chilled and watched MSU Spartans win a game in the NCAA tourney, yeah like old guys.

Saturday we arose to the predicted no wind.  The hope was for the sea breeze to fill in the afternoon.  We had the morning to explore the excellent downtown St. Pete area complete with the cool market in the streets.  We cast off at 1:30 pm and were able to get 2 races in before dinner where it was told to me we were drinking rum, oh goody.  Some tired, that’s why we were staggering, boys made it to bed to wake up to…

Carnage, is how i would describe sunday.  Man it was cold and blowing to beat the band.  We were on the water at 8:30 to try to squeeze more races in ahead of the front that was coming across the Gulf.  Before the first sequence we saw a boat flipped and when it came up it was missing its mast.  We did get one race in, a screamer, lots of wind, lots of wave(ebb was flowing against the wind) and lots of flipped boats with swimmers in the water.  We made it through with some sort of conservatism and had a great finish to round-up a great time.

As we hit the dock to hoist, it started to rain.  Come to St. Pete someone told me, it will be warm and sunny,*##@%*!! (you can figure that out if you try a little, starts with B and ends with tards).  We are soaked from the waves and now getting drenched by the rain, great.  The not so glamorous side of Sailboat racing is the set up and the take down.  Our beers are getting water in them and our clothes are soaked.  Still our heroes(I like to think and with the welcome I got when I got home I defy you to prove other wise) manage to get boats stacked and packed and on the road home by 3:00pm, nice.

We leave FL in the rain, 70 degrees, tired, full of great memories.  Satisfied to a degree in our performance talking about whats next and where and next March.  20 hours later and 27 degrees later we are home. 

We met great people, Jan Davis, finally(check out the website) and saw old friends like Karen, Skip, David,  Greg, Jeff, and Geo and met new friends like Aroldo(wearing my team MEX hat with pride), Monica and so many others and watching with awe as teams comprised of  family took honors like the Ruhlman’s, Fishers, Mac Donalds and Davis’.  Great Stuff.

Now I lay me down to sleep, with sailboats dancing in my head, dreams of Kitten and Sydney and I sailing Scars & Scrapes…..

Photo credit goes to Bill Clausen and Matt Princing

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One response

24 03 2010
Stacey Wistehuff

Your published! Very cool……

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