Asheville Sailing Club, Asheville NC
For the fourth year the Jet-14 racing circuit kicked off with the Southern Comfort Classic. There were a few last minute cancellations involving broken bones, house closings, and bachelor parties, but we were happy to welcome 10 boats to the starting line this year.
Festivities kicked off Friday evening with a private party in downtown Asheville involving local beer, hispster crashers, and a couple of rounds of darts. 2-time defending champions (in sailing, not darts) Dave and Sue Michos were there early “warming up” at the dart board by showing off an array of plywood shots, floor penetrators, and “whirlybird” style heaves that looked like Tim Tebow chucking melons in a shot put event. After Hennon disposed of Dave in Cricket singles, a team competition formed with Michos/Michos going up against Hennon/Michaud (who rolled in from the highway looking like death but somehow found a parking spot for his car/boat combo nearby). Sue went first and miraculously put up a triple 15, triple 17, and 19 on her first 3 darts, sending the sporting world into a frenzy. She promptly returned to Earth with three floor shots on her next turn. The competition was at such a high level that everyone left and last call was not far away before Hennon put the final nail in the bullseye.
The rest of the Jets rolled in Saturday morning. It was quite an eclectic bunch, with 6 local boats: Lenny Wells/Lisa “The Rookie” Wilcocks (#1130), Hunter Trombetta/Teri Fosmire (#951), Bruce Sampson/Tom Cannon (#977), Chris Hennon/Meg Russell (#483), Barney Sokol (#962, a Barry Saunders deluxe special), and Paula and Olivia Hennon (#433). Paula rigged up but Olivia decided to take her Pram out for a spin so they didn’t make it out to the course.
The out of town contingent were also well represented. Ernie Michaud (#1136) was clearly enamored with the posh sailing club building, commenting on the deluxe registration card table, “antique” ripped cushion chairs, and 1960s-era stained couch. Carolyn Nye and Sarah Hoyt from the Durham NC area pulled a “Seth” by rolling in about 20 minutes prior to the start with the other “Saunders Special” baby blue boat (#737). Hennon assumed they would be entering ‘B’ fleet but Carolyn quickly squashed that notion and went on to dominate Hennon and most of the other boats all over the race course (more on that later). Dave and Sue Michos (#1157) managed to recover from their 1,436 dart throws the previous evening, although they seemed mentally out of it as Dave tried to use the class membership form as his entry and Sue thought Hennon was selling the rudder cover raffle item for $5. And we wouldn’t have a NC regatta without the Tom “what, my boat looks fine” Grace and Paula “still threatening to leave if we continue to race this boat” Pacheco (#717). At least Tom upgraded his spinnaker to a new North model from his 1970s-era chute.
Everyone was in good spirits as the fleet rolled out into a fairly light but puffy southeasterly. Local Thistle sailor and PRO Don Read tried to set a square course but the by the start the pin became heavily favored. Lenny Wells, always thinking ahead, told The Rookie to tack over onto port at the committee boat so he’d get the anticipated right shift first – which they did – to lead the fleet around the top mark. Unfortunately for Lenny and the rest of the fleet, half the race was downwind and if there’s one thing Tom and Paula can do, it’s fly downhill. They made big gains on each leg and took home the bullet with Carolyn and Sarah looking like pros and finishing second. (Editor’s note: After hearing how well the girls did in his boat, Barry reportedly credited his “Death Challenge” modifications for the improved speed).
Grace/Pacheco shot out of a cannon in Race 2 and assumed control once again until unfortunately sailing into the famous “Lake Julian hole” on the right side near the top mark, allowing most of the fleet to pass. Dave and Sue Michos, still recovering from the previous night’s beat down, finally shook some rust off and exhibited some of the skills that most of the members at Asheville Sailing Club have only read about in Sailing World. But they couldn’t quite catch the #737 girls, who combined exquisite shift reading with excellent boat speed to take first. Michaud finally took his attention off the posh sailing club facilities to grab a third. Hennon and Russell once again brought up the rear of the A fleet by combining inferior tactics with an absence of strategy and a touch of slow boat speed.
Race 3 will be remembered for the sudden wind from the right on the third leg that was wonderful if you were on the right side near the top mark (e.g. Grace, Michos, Nye, Michaud, Sampson) and horrific for everyone else. Team Michos finally put everything together in Race 4 for their first and only victory this regatta.
A fine pulled pork BBQ dinner was enjoyed by over 40 racers and ASC members that evening at Wild Wing Café on Lake Julian. Most of the evening was spent dispensing medical advice to Hennon, who received numerous diagnoses for a bad back that would keep him out of action the next day.
The weather forecast called for about 34” of rain Sunday with winds in the 15-25 kt range, scaring off the entire B fleet. Others stood around for about 30 minutes in a brutal state of non-committal angst. Once exception were Carolyn and Sarah, who practically shamed the older folks into racing before proceeding out to the middle of the lake, waiting for others to join. Michaud showed up ready to pack for home but after 10 minutes with his crew decided to join in the fun. Lenny Wells was up for it, even though Lisa “The Rookie” Wilcocks looked like she’d rather be cleaning the smokestack of the Duke Energy power plant than racing in this weather. Tom and Paula could not stand the thought of losing out on the awesome trophy glassware and suited up to defend their leading position, making for 4 boats racing on the final day.
Conditions turned out to be much better than expected, with steady light to moderate winds with only light rain most of the morning. Tom and Paula were excited that the fleet would be “racing without telltales”, something Tom learned to do since his first nationals some 40 years ago. At the gun of Race 1, Tom’s tell tales were actually flying, but 50 yards behind the start line. Lenny and The Rook used an immediate tack to port off the start to work the right side and gain a dominating advantage at the top mark. But the lead gradually diminished as Tom and Paula worked their way back over the course of the race. Finally, a failed spinnaker incident on the last downwind leg allowed all 3 boats to pass #1130, with Grace/Pacheco taking first and a 3-point lead in the regatta.
Tom only started about 20 seconds late in Race 2 but that was enough of an opening for the Nye and Hoyt to nab the race and pull to within 2 points. Hennon had to go pick up lunch and so missed the third race, but Nye and Hoyt finished in style with their third win of the regatta and an easy second place overall, just missing the championship by 1 point.
Thanks to all who helped out and all who made the drive to Asheville. Hope to see you next year!