The 2013 Season Gets Underway with the Witkin Cup

As the newly elected Commodore of the GPYC, I’d like to thank the club’s members for your vote, and I vow to aspire to the goals of the GPYC, which are to promote the joy of sailing to all who wish to join us, have lots of fun throughout the summer, share friendships and camaraderie, and lastly and most importantly, strive to establish a bona fide youth sailing program here on Great Pond.

Leadership Handoff 2013

Two board positions are officially handed off (from left to right: Former Treasurer Lisa Perkins; Former Commodore, Ben Ford; New Commodore John Gibbs, New Treasurer, Lynne Gibbs) (click to see full photo album)

Thanks to our ex-Commodore, Ben Ford, for all his energy spent in establishing  GPYC and now for his new focus working with SailMaine to bring youth sailing to Belgrade Lakes.

Also, please welcome Lynne Gibbs, our new Treasurer — or, as I occasionally call her, “Commodoress.” She has taken the Treasurer reigns from Lisa Perkins, who we can’t thank enough for establishing the many accounting and operational methods necessary to run a quality club.

The Witkin Cup 2013 at Camp Runoia

We are grateful to have the spacious and comfortable Camp Runoia as the setting for the Witkin Cup. (click to see full photo album)

The Great Pond Yacht Club successfully completed its 2013 inaugural race, the Witkin Cup this past Sunday. With weather and social events finally cooperating for a good turnout, we were once again hosted at Camp Runoia’s beautiful beach by Pam Cobb and Mark Hueberger. Thanks, Pam and Mark, for being so flexible in accommodating two necessary date changes.

The race course, established by Pete McManus, began at Camp Runoia, rounded Otter Island, and finished back at Runoia. It appeared to be a reach to broad reach all the way to Otter and an easy reach coming home; however, it did not turn out exactly that way.

The Hoyty Toyty

John Gibbs and Ryan O’Connor on the Hoyty Toyty (click to view full photo album)

New club member, Ryan O’Connor, who is new to sailing altogether, agreed to crew for me on the “Hoyty Toyty,” a Vanguard Nomad 17. After a quick lesson on shore (don’t sail into the wind; this is the jib; this is the mainsail; and all the ropes on the boat are lines with special names), we jumped aboard the Hoyty and shoved off from the beach.

I finished rigging as Ryan paddled out of the harbor. Winds appeared steady at 10 to 12 knots or so with very little gusting. After a few maneuvers with the other boats testing the winds and beginning to jockey for the start, I decided to set my asymmetrical spinnaker right after the start. It was already rigged for a starboard tack, and I believed a steady 12-knot wind would be okay, even for a rookie crew.

But wait…there’s more.

The Committee Boat

A fine committee boat and crew. (click to view full photo album)

Lynne Gibbs and Lisa Perkins, our official starter and timer, were on the committee party boat, Don and Linda Peterson’s well-appointed floating wine bar, crewed by the club’s sommelier team, Tree Robbins and Elaine Eadler. As they blasted the final start horn, all five sloops crossed the line at just about the same time. Of course, Ben was well windward by the starboard buoy, just to spoil the wind for the rest of us, and to get a slightly better bead on the island.

The start at the Witkin Cup 2013

…and they’re off…. (click to view full photo album)

It was exhilarating with all five sloops in very close range trying to settle into a comfortable but fast heel.

Sally Beck’s new Precision 21, the “Sally Forth,” ably crewed by Meg Griffin and Art Paine, moved very well; however, I noticed most of us were getting back winded and had jibed. Ryan asked if this was normal, and I told him yes, the winds can swirl in a different direction close to land. I explained that one needs to be flexible on a sailboat and go with whatever the winds send your way.

Eventually, the strong Southerlies reset everyone’s booms, and we all picked up speed. Ryan did a nice job handling the jib sheet and barely started gaining his confidence when I commanded a spinnaker set. The winds really did not seem more than 12 knots, and as I looked out over the distant waters, they appeared the same.

Two spinnakers are hoisted (click to see full photo album)

Two spinnakers are hoisted (click to see full photo album)

I could see Ben and Sheldon hoisting the Lightning’s spinnaker, and I thought we needed to move now to stay with them. If Ben was hoisting his spinnaker, what could possibly go wrong? I’d reviewed all the lines with Ryan back on the beach, but that’s almost too much to pick up just minutes before one’s first race, so for the spinnaker set, I called out the colors of the lines for him to pull; in some cases, it was “No, not that red line, the other one!” Hey, it worked…at least for a while.

Ryan did an excellent job hoisting the spinnaker and cleating its halyard. He was nicely flying the blue and yellow chute by pulling in and letting out on its sheet as the winds dictated. He got the hang of it quickly. After sailing on the downwind side for 50 yards alongside the Sally Forth and not being able to pass, I stalled out just a bit and cut to windward off her stern, and the Hoyty took off passing her quickly.

It was not 30 seconds after that move that the winds kicked up another 5 knots or so, and we came way up on a plane moving with the greatest speed that I’ve ever sailed her — well over ten knots I’m guessing. Ryan yelled, “Wow! We’re really moving now!” as I thought, “Oh my God, there is no way for me to regain control over this sloop if the winds stay this high.”

And yes, they went higher.

I needed another crew member, or Ryan needed to gain another 150 lbs very quickly to keep us from flipping. The winds continued to bear down, and the Vanguard 17’s physics started working against us as it heeled more to lee. My next command, which I had not reviewed with Ryan on the beach, was “LET GO OF EVERYTHING AND GET UP HERE, FAST!”

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Meanwhile, on the committee boat…. (click to view full photo album)

I’d already dumped the mainsail and had my chest on the rising gunwale when Ryan popped up next to me. The mainsail and spinnaker had a life of their own and, flapping and snapping loudly in the wild winds, they were still pulling us over. With the deck now perpendicular to the water, I slid my chest and arms another foot over the side, staring at the centerboard, which was now almost out of the water. Ryan asked if he should stay there, and I asked him to please hang on and lean. I was prepared to dive into the water and start the recovery process when, by some lucky chance, our weight was just enough to pull us back down. We were probably balancing there for ten seconds, but it seemed like a minute.

With the boat now level and still unstable, we still could not douse the spinnaker, because its halyard was tangled in a large spaghetti knot of lines including but not limited to the jib furling line, the spinnaker sheet, and the main halyard. As the sails were loudly luffing in the wind, we worked to untangle this mess of knots for ten minutes or longer. We glanced mournfully at the others as they sailed on their merry way toward Otter Island and, sadly for us, those sails were getting small very fast.

I could have sworn I heard Ben say, “Ha! Gibbs is swamped and is going down. Let it rip, Sheldon!” but perhaps my imagination was running a bit wild.

Ryan — what a nice young man — kept apologizing for wrecking my boat, even though I explained that it was my fault for setting too much sail versus our combined weight and not anticipating a very strong increase in the winds. As I said previously, if Ben was setting his spinnaker on the Lightning in this wind, what could possibly go wrong?

The Lightning Rescue

“If Ben is setting his spinnaker on the Lightning in this wind, what could possibly go wrong?” (click to view full photo album)

With the jib and main now finally full of fresh wind and somewhere between a run and a broad reach, we actually started reeling in the others; however, I was confused because I could not spot Ben and Sheldon. Suddenly, a flash of color appeared a quarter mile or so, very low in the water just off to our port side. We could see Sally’s boat feathering close by checking on matters. Yes, it was Ben and Sheldon holding on to the Lightning with their green and blue spinnaker marking the spot.

I guess Sally sailed off as a power boat came to the rescue and, yes, eventually a party boat — Ben’s favorite watercraft — had stopped and offered to help. I understand Ben accepted a ride back to Runoia to fetch his Lyman so he could spare the Lightning’s dignity from being towed by a lowly party boat. Ben, you have to give it up — sooner or later, you’ll have fun on one of these boats and, yes, they will be there to help you/us again. HA.

Pam and Mark took more of wide berth to round Otter, reaching a little farther windward to the south. They had great winds on their island tack and blasted past the island like it was a buoy. Nice move, you two.

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Pete McManus and Chris Kearns on the “Minuet” (click to view full photo album)

Ryan and I were catching up to Pete and Sally, thanks to Sally stopping for Ben; however, the ill effects from our near swamping were still with us. Little did I know at the time, we had taken on about 200 lbs of water, now sloshing in the bilge. As we rounded the island, I checked the mainsail quickly and noticed its head was 2 feet from the top of the mast and the main halyard was loose. We stalled out to hoist it back up, but then were caught in irons and, to make matters worse, stuck on the lee side of the island. Ryan asked if this usually happens in a race, and at this point I had to say, “No, not usually.” I looked a Ryan and said, “You know, one may have to sail for ten years for all these things to go wrong, let alone in one race.” I explained that he was very lucky to be getting all this experience in one fell swoop! I am so happy he had a great attitude.

Rounding the island posed the challenge of a close haul back to Runoia, and the winds were really hammering steadily in the high teens to low 20s. The boat was too much for Ryan and I to handle — we still needed to fatten up Ryan in a hurry, or furl in the jib, or both. For the most part, we limped back with just the mainsail and sometimes, when the winds allowed, a partially unfurled jib.

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Mike Dorr and friends Karin and Leeza stopped to help Pam Cobb and Mark Heuberger while they performed the exhausting feat of overturning “Betty” in heavy winds. (click to view full photo album)

We came in 23 minutes after Sally and 18 minutes after Pete; however, we were high fiving each other for not going into the drink. On our last tack before crossing the finish line, we saw that Pam and Mark had turtled their JY15, “Betty,” and were helped by some people in a power boat.

I understand Pam and Mark put on quite a demonstration of how to patiently pull on the centerboard until the boat rights itself — oh, say, about three or four times. It was impossible to uncleat the main sheet, so it kept catching the wind and flipping right back over each time.

Mike Dorr and his friends Karin and Leeza joined us at the cookout after helping out one of our boats that capsized in heavy winds (click for full photo album)

Mike Dorr and his friends Karin and Leeza joined us at the cookout after helping out one of our boats that capsized in heavy winds (click for full photo album)

Finally, with the help of Mike Dorr from the power boat, who jumped in the water, they were able to keep it upright and were graciously towed in by Mike and his friends, Karin and Leeza.

Witkin Cup 2013 Winners

Congratulations to Peter McManus and Chris Kearns, who win the Witkin Cup on adjusted time. (click to view complete photo album)

Pete McManus, along with Ryan’s friend, Chris Kearns, won the race on adjusted time, and Sally Beck with her crew of Meg Griffin and Art Paine came in second, with Ryan and me taking third.

I know what your thinking: This is no way to win the bronze. But third place on a day like Sunday, sailing with a true rookie, and escaping the odds stacked against finishing the race, was indeed a bronze medal in our minds.

See you on June 29th for our next race, the Rasta Raftup.

Cheers to All,
John

Witkin Cup 2013 Results

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About Great Pond Yacht Club

Great Pond Yacht Club is for avid sailors as well as those new to the sport on Great Pond in Maine's Belgrade Lakes region. Our goal is to create and foster a culture of sailing, racing, and camaraderie on Great Pond.
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