Tuesday, August 22, 2017

North American Championships Wrap-up

      As easy as it can be to get drawn in to today’s current events, this past weekend my dad and I found ourselves traveling in the opposite direction. On Friday we disembarked from home at 5:00am, and with boat in tow made the 10 hour journey up to Bobcaygeon, Ontario for the 2017 M-Scow North American Championships. Pigeon Lake Yacht Club hosted a wonderful and very competitive event featuring nine boats; two of whom hailed from Barnegat Bay in New Jersey, and two from the Midwest from Lake Harriet and White Bear Lake respectively. Upon arrival we were greeted warmly by noted hosts Mike Burton Davies and Fritz Mattern whose shared banter and wit puts most buddy cop movies to shame. Club volunteers organized a delicious dinner at the clubhouse overlooking Pigeon Lake, and after rigging our boats, Fritz and his wife Stephanie gave us a tour of their lovely home, which happened to be our berthing for the weekend. An important detail worth noting: I enjoyed my first legal beer on Friday (but if anyone asks it was my first ever beer also. Kind of bitter! Who knew).

      Saturday we arrived back the club for a refreshingly business-casual skippers meeting, then got ready for the 10am start. Early weather reports showed a chance of storms in the afternoon, so a motion to fit three races in before lunch was made and quickly passed. PI 818 had issues with their jib halyard, and opted out of first race to right the issue. We started off with a fairly short course, so short in fact that the 2 windward-leeward legs were completed by everyone in about 15 minutes. Dave Klein (BE-4) came out on top in the scramble, followed very closely by Joe Schroeder (LH-11), then Tom Welsch (LA-10). Early on the course saw winds of 12-18 kph. The conversion to imperial units remains a closely guarded secret, but for a 420lb crew weight, neither of us sat on the high side very much.
      Race 2 had the house stacked against us. Not only was the locally popular olympic course heading set (the bane of heavy crews), the pin had drifted a fair bit below the committee boat, making a port start impossible. A few people started over the line, but more arrived late trying to maneuver the ensuing mess. Fun fact: In misinterpreting the course set, a few boats (us included) sailed two triangles instead of an olympic – just to be safe. Once again, Dave Klein (BE-4) nabbed first, with Susan Kerr (BH-11) taking second, and Joe Schroeder (LH-11) taking third.
      We rounded off the morning with 2 laps worth of windward-leeward. As the fleet caught on that the right side of the course was favored, boats started tacking off the start earlier and earlier. Even with races twice as long, they went by blazing fast, and the close packed boats stayed competitive through lunch time. This time around Joe Schroeder (LH-11), a consistent top finisher took his first first place finish. Fritz Mattern (15) took second, and Tom Welsch (LA-10) found third.

      Once docked, everyone enjoyed a light lunch catered by Subway. The possibility of storms had lessened by that point, so everybody resolved to fit 3 more races in the afternoon. Tom and I used the break to make some necessary improvements to our rigging, and got back out there for round 2.
      The story of the afternoon was undoubtedly Richard Wilms (PI-58) who broke out of mid-fleet to take the fourth race in convincing fashion. A great start gave him the lead, and he held onto it in spite of the boats at his stern. Tom Welsch (LA-10) nipped at his heels the whole race, but settled for second. Joe Schroeder (LH-11) fell in line at third.
      After he was congratulated on his breakout summer success, it seems Rich decided he wasn’t finished. The board had approved a sequel, and this time he’d be telling an underdog story. Race five began with Rich starting a below a good chunk of the fleet, but as the olympic continues, he managed to erase the deficit, and sneak back into first as soon as the first mark rounding. With that, we had another contender to take the regatta on the scoreboard. Joe Schroeder (LH-11) followed behind in second, with Tom Welsch (LA-10) not far off in third.
      Over the course of the afternoon, everyone’s heeling gave way to hiking. Dark clouds loomed over the lake, but with the exception of some drizzle here and there, none broke. Race six was definitely one for the heavier crews, and this fact was taken advantage of by Tom Welsch (LA-10), who had been hovering around the top of the fleet all day. A photo finish on opposite tacks and left Susan Kerr (BH-11) in second, as Joe Schroeder (LH-11) ducked to take third. Good times were had over pulled pork and chicken sandwiches once the boats were back on trailers.

      Sunday contrasted starkly from the conditions prior. Wind was hard to find out on the lake, to the point where no olympic courses were set, for going that far left would be leaving any form of propulsion. A trend observed on Saturday that strangers to the lake had to learn, was that the wind liked to switch often, but more often than not switched back. Reacting to a shift early was frequently detrimental in the long run, and even more care had to be taken when scavenging for the breeze on Sunday. In retrospect it shouldn’t have been surprisingto see native sailors flourishing in these conditions, but perhaps less expected was the fact that this modest fleet would see yet another race winner. Mike Burton Davies (PI-44), broke his mid-fleet curse by masterfully navigating the shortened windward leeward to take first in the seventh race. Just behind him was fellow Pigeon Lake resident Fritz Mattern (15). Third place was clinched by Joe Schroeder, who managed to beat a boat (us) on the last leg, from both below and behind.
      Guess what. The last race was taken by Mike again. He ended up the third competitor to take two races, and the fifth race winner overall. In similar fashion, Mike came out in front early, and never lost his groove. All the others could only give chase, and chase they did. Supplemented by a one lap race, the final gauntlet was the most competitive and exciting, with everyone finishing within a minute of one another. Tom Welsch (LA-10) finished second, and Fritz Mattern (15) third. Mercifully, the wind filled in for the sail back to the dock.


      Once the final scores were tallied, and the necessary drops were made, there was a tie for 1st. Joe Schroeder and Tom Welsch both ended up with 14 points, and overall results were identical all the way up to the seventh race. Joe Schroeder, having placed one point higher than Tom on the first drop, won the 2017 North Americans M-Scow Championships. Coming in at 3rd was Fritz Mattern, who made the podium despite being a part of the fleet minority that had not won a race! Like an onion, our competition has layers.


    Bobcaygeon is a place so pleasant and charming not even the bugs get on your nerves. Everybody we met was hospitable and friendly, the food was fantastic, and the locale was and continues to be nothing short of idyllic. On top of all that, a competitive, well run regatta was held - with no race-abandoning storms! We look back on this weekend fondly, and look forward to next year’s regatta, tentatively planned for Lake Harriet, Minneapolis. Congrats again to Joe Schroeder, and thank you to all who helped make this event possible. Long live the M-Scow!

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