The forecast called for a beautiful day with winds 5 to 10 knots out of the south, and everyone was excited for it to be warm and windy and to have a repeat of last year’s Rasta Race, which was some of the best racing conditions that we’d ever seen.
When we woke up in the morning, the lake was flat — glass flat — and there were little pockets of thermal breeze, but that’s about it. The fleet arrived at Tiki Cove with boats coming in about one every 20 minutes or so. By the time the sixth or seventh boat came in, we realized this would be a big race. Boats were showing up, but not the breeze. So we waited for it.
P.R.O. Peter McManus thought it would be best to run a short course, starting off going south to a buoy, then heading north around Goldie, the research buoy, then finishing. It seemed like a good decision, because there was very little breeze, but the fleet wanted a longer course, thinking the breeze would fill in based upon the weather forecast. Peter relented and set the course for around Hoyt Island. After much discussion about rock buoys and navigational buoys, we decided the fleet could go through some of the rock buoys at the south end of Hoyt’s and be okay. The race was set, and we took to our boats.
The start turned out to be great. We had about 3 or 4 knots of wind — just enough to move the boats around and make things interesting. The pin side was heavily favored, because the committee boat (crewed by Barb Ford, Sue Greenan, and Lisa Perkins) had set its anchor somewhat to leeward of the pin. So there was a lot of jockeying to get to the pin side at the start. Most of the fleet was oblivious to the right-of-way advantage of a starboard tack start and opted for the obviously easy line of the port-tack start.
At the starting horn, John Gibbs and Sheldon Perkins, either ignoring or not realizing the gamble they took on a port-tack start, blasted across the line as much as three boat lengths ahead of any other boats in the fleet, so they really had an amazingly great start, and off to the right-hand side of the course they went.
Meanwhile, Ben Ford (with crew member Max Krizo) and Sally Beck and her “ringer” crew were on a starboard tack going toward the left side of the course.
It didn’t take long for the fleet to figure out by looking up range that the right-hand side of the course seemed favored, because it looked like the wind was filling in stronger on the right. So most of the fleet started to tack over and head for the right-hand side of the course.
As Ben and Max tacked toward the right-hand side of the course, they experienced lift after lift after lift and noticed that the wind, which had been in the south was very rapidly shifting to the east. This put them in an unusual position, in that they were having to beat down the lake and then beat back over to Hoyt island.
Meanwhile John and Sheldon, followed by Peter McManus in the Designer’s Choice and the Dioli team in the Lightning, took a line through the channel on the western shoreline of the lake, which seemed like a good line as long as the winds stayed strong far outside of the anticipated wind shadow of Hoyt.
Sally Beck and her crew chose to hug the western shore of Hoyt, taking the more direct course that most of the fleet apparently thought was risky due to the potential lack of wind in the lee of the island. As the Ford and Beck boats approached the south end of Hoyt Island, the whole fleet was being headed to the east and, as the wind shifted that way, any boat that was farther to the left on the first leg was heavily advantaged. Ben gained an advantage by being in the middle, where the wind was, and tacked over toward the channel off Witkins’ beach. Once he did, he got into some new breeze as he and Max approached the south end of Hoyt, but still the breeze was very flukey and light. As John and Sheldon watched in disbelief, Sally snuck up the western shore of Hoyt and found enough wind to get around and through the channel close behind Ben and Max, taking second place by a long margin.
John and Sheldon, followed by Peter and the Dioli crew, got mired in a dead zone of utterly flat water soon after exiting the channel, while Ben and Sally got into the solid wind east of Hoyt Island, where they had a beautiful broad reach all the way up to the north end of Hoyt.
Treelaine, in the Day Sailer, and the two Minuets crewed by Dick Greenan and Matti Bradley and Rod and Doris Johnson struggled to find enough wind to make headway.
Eventually, the Gibbs boat, Peter sailing solo in his Designers Choice, and the Dioli clan in the Lightning made it through the channel off of Witkins’ beach and got back into a reasonable breeze east of Hoyt. With the shifting wind, most boats ended up taking at least one more tack than anticipated to get around the markers and into the open water east of Hoyt.
Eventually, Treelaine, Dick and Matti, and the Johnsons realized the winds were not in their favor, and they headed back to Tiki Cove rather than tough out what would surely have been a four-hour+ race.
As Ben and Max were about halfway through the leg east of Hoyt, they heard a strange sound behind them. It was Sally popping her beautiful teal blue spinnaker. Ben didn’t know she had that in her quiver and was quite surprised to see it. He knew as soon as he saw that spinnaker that he was, as he put it, “screwed.”
And, sure enough, Sally came on strong, expertly utilizing the tricky sail and forced Max and Ben to head up so that Sally would pass to leeward of them as opposed to windward and completely steal their air. That also gave Ben and Max a controlling position. When Sally did pass them, Ben and Max dropped in right behind her and stole some of her breeze. So Sally passed Ben and Max, got about a boat length ahead of them, and then immediately slowed down as Ben and Max sat there on top of her, stealing her wind.
While Ben and Sally played chicken to see who would tack first at the north end of Hoyt, the Dioli and McManus boats were closing the gap between them and Gibbs. About halfway up the island, Jonathan Dioli rolled the dice and decided to fly his spinnaker for the first time since he bought the boat. Well, hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. The spinnaker wasn’t rigged quite right, and it dropped off the bow into the water and in short order became a sea anchor, bringing the Lightning to a screeching halt. Peter, conscientious sailor that he is, pulled alongside the Lightning to offer advice, sacrificing an opportunity to easily steal fourth, possibly third, place. Gibbs and Perkins continued on, all but securing a third-place finish.
As Sally and Ben approached the north end of the island, Ben jibed over, and went dead downwind. Ben thought the wind shadow at Hoyt would be much smaller than it was, because the wind had shifted to the east and, sure enough, when he jibed over, he took advantage of the lack of wind shadow and passed inside of Sally around the north end of Hoyt Island, advancing ahead of her by about two or three boat lengths before he had to close haul back up to the finish line. At that point, Ben noticed that Gibbs, McManus, and Dioli had rounded the north end of Hoyt and figured the race was viable enough that it wouldn’t be cancelled, so he continued to sail for a win.
On the beat from the north end of Hoyt back to the finish line, Ford and Krizo worked to maintain a commanding lead. They headed out to the right. Sally stayed in towards the left, taking advantage of huge lifts on the left-hand side while Ben missed getting those lifts. And, as Ben said, “That’s the way it goes.”
Sally had some very capable sailors on her boat, and they took advantage of some really nice air on the left-hand side of the course, as they had early on in the race. Seeing this, Ford and Krizo tacked over and, as soon as they crossed, noticed that all the lead they had gained by rounding Hoyt on the inside was completely evaporated — Sally was ahead of them by about a half a boat length.
As Ford approached the finish, he and Max were still to leeward of Sally. She had tacked on top of them and was blanketing them expertly. It was clear that she would win the race so long as she could make the finish line on the tack that she was on.
Gambling that Sally couldn’t make the finish line on her current tack, Ford decided to tack away and go up a couple more boat lengths and then tack back, so that if Sally didn’t make the pin, he’d at least have a shot to sneak in front of her at the finish.
Ben was wrong; Sally easily made the pin on that tack and finished about 40 seconds ahead of him. And there the victors sailed, back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth, until finally the rest of the fleet came in with Gibbs crossing third followed by the Dioli Lightning in fourth place and Peter in fifth. After handicaps were applied, the corrected-time finish order was Beck, Ford, McManus, Gibbs, and Dioli with three boats not finishing.
The sailors, committee boat crew, and observers convened back at Tiki Cove and shared their stories while everyone enjoyed the potluck buffet and icy cold beverages. Commodore John Gibbs announced the race results just as the winner, Sally, and her crew — who had left right after the race — came back to pick up their sailboat.
Archival opportunist Lisa Perkins scrambled down to the dock with the Rasta Cup and her camera to try and get a photo of Sally with the trophy. Unfortunately, Sally couldn’t come ashore, so Lisa took a number of photos, which she later created a composite from.
The Gibbs’ made an announcement about the July 30 “Rock for the Dock” fundraiser, and people began to slowly disburse, boat-by-boat, until Tiki Cove was back to its normal peaceful pre-sunset state.