Kerr Lake, Henderson, NC
Eight Jets, all from NC, registered for the 2016 edition of the North Carolina Governor's Cup Regatta. The event also served as the District III Championships, so tensions were high the evening before racing was to begin. Barry Saunders thrilled the audience at camp that evening with tales of unexplained boat noises, explanations for the noise you hear when you hold a conch shell up to your ear (it's the ocean - duh), and grotesque descriptions of all of the mice he had caught on one of his other boats. Paula Pacheco, last seen admonishing her skipper for starting 15 minutes after the rest of the fleet, had enough and scored some Dos Equis for the group. Unfortunately, nobody had a bottle opener, which lead to a series of events culminating in Lenny Wells - not quite the most interesting man in the world - opening the bottles by placing them between his legs (don't ask). Connie Berchem and Teri Fosmire had had enough of this spectacle and retired early, resting up for the 15-20 kt conditions expected the next day.
The next morning, Tom Grace was immediately thrown off his game by the sudden appearance of "Jolene", a regatta organizer who spends her entire offseason waiting to see her "Thomas" again. Just like a scene out of Casablanca, Jolene greeted Tom with a warm embrace, oblivious to Tom's crew/partner Paula, who could only watch with amusement. There were a few mishaps and harbingers of what was to come as the Jets rigged for the day. Don and Rebecca Janeway (#1115), in their second ever Jet regatta, launched their 1970s-era Thomas spinnaker in the parking lot in a not so subtle attempt to intimidate the rest of the fleet. Unfortunately, Rebecca's look of desperate panic at the thought of actually flying this thing on the water in 20 kt. eliminated any intimidation factor. Runner up for the "Antique Rigging" Award was Tim Porter, who showed up with a set of pintles believed to be excavated from Saratoga burial grounds during the Truman administration. Porter would be shocked when one of pintles, clearly in a state of advanced decomposition that not even a quart of Mas epoxy could reconcile, cracked in half just after the end of the first race, ending his regatta. Showing no mercy for Porter's sorry state of affairs was Evan Trudeau (#1050) from Lake Townsend in Greensboro. Evan had been on the NC fleet radar for awhile now as a mystery Jet-14 known to race PHRF at Greensboro - it was great to see him and Haiying out there with us.
With a dismal wind forecast for Sunday, more pressure was on the fleet to perform well in the heavy air on Saturday. Race committee, in a moment of questionable reasoning, started the Jets with the 10-boat Thistle fleet, making clear air off the line a priority. The committee boat seemed slightly favored near the start, as the entire 20-some boat fleet approached the line on starboard with sails luffing. Hennon/Russell (#483) used a port tack approach to start near the middle of the line in clear air, giving them an early advantage over most of the other Jets who got overrun by the Thistles. With the consistent 15 kt winds and occasional gusts near 20 kt, along with a very long 2 lap course, boat speed would play a significant role in determining the finishing order. With numerous capsizes in other fleets occurring all over the course due to the high winds and confused waves, most of the Jet fleet wisely kept the kites in the boat and sailed the rhumb line to the bottom mark. One exception was Barry "In it to win it" Saunders and crew Todd Ochoa (#737), who rounded mid-fleet, launched the kite, and experienced an unexpected gybe which immediately lead to a devastating capsize. When questioned by reporters afterward, Saunders called out his "wussy" competitors and looked forward to the next opportunity to flip his boat over during a race. Lenny Wells (#1130) with crew Caswell Kern sailed fast and along with #483 separated from the rest of the fleet. Porter and daughter Madison dug out of a third row start to finish a strong third before his pintle exploded. Grace, still warm and fuzzy from his parking lot greeting, managed to follow Porter in for fourth.
Following the Porters in after Race 1 were the Janeways and Connie Berchem/Teri Fosmire (#951), who discovered a not so subtle crack developing in their air tanks and decided it would be best to not risk a sinking. Race 2 featured some tight racing early on between #483 and #717 (Grace/Pacheco). After rounding the top mark within seconds of each other, Grace pulled out some kind of Nixon-era whisker pole and immediately took off and gassed Hennon/Russell downhill by sailing fast by the lee. As the boats rounded the bottom mark, Grace appeared to be in control until he decided to sail across the border into Virginia in search of a shift that was never to come. Wells/Kern, to this point not even a factor, took a flyer to the other side of the course, caught a mammouth right hand shift, and found themselves on the layline halfway of the beat and suddenly in second place. Grace/Pacheco would have to settle for third and looked to regain their composure for Race 3.
Hennon/Russell again employed the port tack approach in Race 3 to get clear air and even gassed a couple of Thistles trying to work their way off the line. In fact, all four of the remaining Jet fleet was going fast and crossing Thistles all the way up the first beat. #483 appeared to be in control of the race again until Wells went back to the well on the right hand side of the course and found another favorable shift. They rounded the top mark together and #483 fought desperately to keep Wells on the outside of the downwind line. The two boats, never seperated by more than a couple of boatlengths, battled all the way down to the bottom mark, trying to get the inside winning position (the finish was a quick reach leg). A capsize from a bigger boat near the leeward mark created a safety hazard and the two Jets called a truce to navigate safely around the carnage. In the end, Hennon/Russell barely managed to hold off #1130 and secure the regatta lead at the end of the day.
Mercifully, racing was over for the day and the fleet headed in. As Grace was taking his boat out and tying it to the trailer, he could hear the faint callings of Jolene on the wind, perhaps distracting him from the task at hand. Maybe the boat crashing down on the concrete ramp was a metaphor for the struggles endured that day. That evening, Jetters enjoyed a delicious BBQ dinner and then retired to the grass for an impromptu song circle, lead by Tim's insanely talented daughter Madison. After she belted out the final chords to Imagine Dragon's "Radioactive", Saunders took the guitar, strung a few chords about the joys of capsizing, and entertained the throngs with his musical talents. There would be no more racing this weekend, but all agreed that new memories were forged and that we would all be back next year. Jolene will be waiting.
Chris Hennon (#483)
|District III Championships||Race|
|483||C. Hennon||M. Russell||1||1||1||3|
|1130||L. Wells||C. Kern||2||2||2||6|
|717||T. Grace||P. Pacheco||4||3||3||10|
|1050||E. Trudeau||H. Zeng||6||5||4||15|
|645||T. Porter||M. Porter||3||DNC||DNC||21|
|737||B. Saunders||T. Ochoa||RET-AF||4||DNC||22|
|951||C. Berchem||T. Fosmire||5||DNC||DNC||23|
|1115||D. Janeway||R. Janeway||7||DNC||DNC||25|