Charlie Gray, Fleet 4

The good news (at least for me): the Presidential Division of the 1999 Pacific Coast Championships in Eugene, Oregon, was won by Modesty Forbids, with son Michael, as crew. There were six boats in the Presidential Division, two of them with all-woman crews (a tip of the hat to all you feminists out there). Of these, Margie Clune and Sheena Schroeder had me worried in light air, and Mandy Miller and her daughter, Emily, had me worried throughout the regatta. As it turned out, the first two days were light. My finishes were reported as Second, Second and Second, although, personally I thought that in the first race I was Fourth. But who am I to argue. Maybe I was thinking of the practice race.

At any rate, over the course of the week, everybody had beaten me at least once, so it's not as if they were giving trophies away. In the second race, I was in third place sailing toward the finish line, when the lead boat, skippered by (name withheld) unaccountably sailed to the wrong side of a finishing mark. The third race was an honest to goodness second. Then the wind picked up. Michael was not available for the fourth race, so Bryan Root, son of National Champion, Phill Root, crewed for me.

The course was an Olympic course, which is to say that the start-finish line is at the center of a circle formed by the course marks, which are anchored N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W and NW of the center of the circle, one mile out. They are numbered 1 through 8 in the same order, like so:


                                                       *8                       *2
                                                 *7            *--*SF            *3
                                                       *6                      *4


The course is designated by a letter (A = Triangle + Windward-Leeward was the only one we used) and a number which designates the windward mark and is chosen on the basis of the wind direction to have a beat for the first leg. The course chosen was A5, which is to say that the marks to be rounded were, in order, 5-3-1-5-1 then finish. There were enough boats in the Presidential fleet (sometimes referred to as the B fleet) to warrant a separate start, which I liked a lot because I could see where my competition was a  lot more clearly. Also, the B fleet was a lot less aggressive in their starts (except, of course, for M. Forbids, who got killer starts in every race, right at the line, right on the gun).

So, off we go. I rounded Mark 5 in second position, but set my spinnaker and moved ahead, while everybody else appeared to be intimidated by the strength of the wind. I rounded Mark 3 in the lead, jibed onto a close spinnaker reach on port tack and headed for the next mark. By then I was well ahead. We rounded the mark and were starting the beat back to 5 when Bryan looked back and remarked: "That was 2 we just rounded; we were supposed to round 1". I looked back and, sure enough, he was right. So I bore off and sailed down to 1, where the presence of the Race Committee stake boat strongly suggested that I was sailing the right course. I looked back, and every other boat in the B fleet was beating back to 5, having rounded 2. So I deployed my protest flag (codeflag Presidential -- a little code flag humor here). As I was approaching Mark 5 for the second time, two of the other boats came close enough to me on their run that I was able to hail them to inform them of my protest, as the rules require. The rest of the race was uneventful. I crossed the finish line last, but in first position (I hoped). The Race Committee noted my protest and we all sailed in. I filed the protest in writing, within the required time, the hearing was held and my protest was upheld. So I was first, everybody else was DSQ, except for one boat which hadn't sailed and was therefore Second! Later, Chuck Wilson, whom I've known for the 18 years I've owned my boat and with whom I've exchanged as many as 18 words in that time, walked over and said to me: "My hero!" Apparently, everybody in the A fleet had sailed the same course as the rest of the B fleet! So, of the 18 boats on the water, I was the only one who had sailed the correct course!!! The A fleet finishes were allowed to stand, since no other protests had been filed and my protest specifically named each B fleet boat and only B boats.

Michael crewed for me in the next two races. The wind held at almost but not quite planing conditions. We won the fifth race: good start, clear air to the weather mark, superb spinnaker work by Michael, then covering the fleet to the finish. I had just rerigged the spinnaker and the new rigging works really well; in particular, it allows me to jibe in a way that avoids the crew being brained by the boom when contending with the spinnaker pole.

I was busy congratulating myself on how my gear had held up when I noticed that the nut holding the tiller had fallen off (the fastener, that is -- not me). The bolt was still there but was sure to fall off if something wasn't done. However, belying son James' remark that I had learned nothing in Sea Scouts, I dug around in my "at sea" tool box and came up with a C-clamp which proved sufficient to the task of securing the tiller (I believe that there is no problem of the human condition which cannot be resolved by the judicious application of C-clamps). And so we went on to win the sixth race. Overall, my finishes were 2, 2, 2, 1, 1 and 1.

BAD NEWS:  As a result, I am no longer eligible to sail in the B -- pardon me -- the Presidential fleet. However, I would be honored to serve as Grand Marshal of next year's B Pride Parade.

(This was without a doubt the most fun I've ever had at a Day Sailer Regatta. Many thanks to all the friendly folks of Fleet 89 and Eugene Yacht Club who made it possible.)