Monday, September 06, 2010

Ketchup: Meet Spiderman's Supermen


Sigh, every now and then I forget that a lot of people who read this blog happen to be racing the same races I do. I get much needed blogger's ego building support, which compensates for my sailing performance. But also, if something doesn't seem quite right, or deserving of a different comment, I hear about it. And I am very happy that I do! Etienne Portelance noticed that the recent picture of Ketchup and crew was not the same victorious crew as the race I was reporting on: "It's the wrong crew on the boat!!!" True enough the photo was from the previous week end, and George was sailing with Jake and Peter. Etienne and Courtney were the supermen on board when they won the Hudson Distance Race in the big blow this past Saturday. Etienne also helped me out by finding a dead link in the directory at left. I appreciate the heads up. Several regular readers have said they would like more frequent posts too. Every now and then, a guest article saves the day for me! Here comes Etienne to the rescue with some more feedback on Hudson's big race, and the guy some of his old buddies call Spiderman. (Hey, maybe someone else can explain the spidey reference some time!) - Ralph, Montreal Sailing

Hi Ralph, here is a short article on Ketchup (to be pronounced Catch-up) George and me.

I met George 14 years ago. I sailed against him before sailing with him. I sailed on a Fireball he had sold and wondered at how he could make it go so fast as nothing worked very well.  Then he came up with this big orange boat with faded color.  A Shark was OK as a second boat, one to have picnic with the family, but certainly not a racing boat.  He had an emotional attachment to it as the boat had been in the family since it had been built. 

14 years later, the Shark Canadians are in Beaconsfield and the Shark worlds are in the same place a year later.  I've participated in two world championships before and it has been a great learning experience both times.  I wanted to sail both events without sacrificing  too much family time.  The compromise: Noé, my 4 year old son is often with us on the boat, and I only sail Tuesdays.  George's 4 year old son Mathew is also a regular crew.

George decided his most regular crew would be with him for the Hudson annual long distance race: Paula and Courtney.  I had told George I had never sailed in this race, that I was interested.  When Paula said she was unavailable, I was pleased I could sail with Courtney and George.  Courtney is a big guy, who had not had the chance to sail when he was young.  He modestly calls himself a puppet: "When somebody asks me to pull a rope, I pull a rope."  He understates as he knows what to do in a lot of situations on the boat, but an illness has left him less mobile and agile than most people, so I took the foredeck position this time.

The start of the Hudson long distance race was a confused place. Without a VHF, we had no idea when the countdown started.  I looked at the line and contradicted George when he wanted to get a closer look at the committee boat: "Better to start two minutes late at the pin than right on time at the boat."  So we looked at the fleet and tried to guess what was going on when we decided to go for it.  George said it was probably 4 minutes late. It felt like all the fleet was over the line, but they were still below us, so only a few boat were far ahead of us at the start.  It's a long distance race in boats where the corrected time is most important.  The bigger boats have an advantage: potentially they sail in better wind as they should get it first.  On
a small boat like the Shark (possibly the slowest boat in the race) we sail in air that has been bent around the sails of lots of faster boats, so it is difficult to sail as fast as the boat's potential.

George is a lot tougher than he looks, he played the main, traveler, backstay and rudder for the first two thirds of the race.  I was never bored though I didn't have much to do, we stayed in the middle, looking at boats catching up to us from one side, then from the other. It always looked better away from where we were.  Then there was a really big gust.  The first boats rode that gust all the way from the top mark to the end.  We were on a close reach while they were on a broad reach.  After the top mark, the wind dropped a notch so we decided to fly our chute.  George had an old spinnaker from the days when triangular courses were the norm.  It was stealthy silent, but narrower, so we could point higher than those with the pure downwind chutes that are used today.  When a stronger gust came, the chute came down, but it went back up when the gust was over.

The boat's newest sail in heavy air is the 5 year old main. (The genny and running running spinnaker are a little more recent). One important modification was done to the backstay recently: it now has a cleat on both sides.  It has inherited 40 years of tools and parts that have their home in the cabin.  A big bucket was not enough to empty the water that had leaked in during the three hour race.  "Why three oars George?"  "Because I own three."  I have sailed on boats where a person on board would inspect the duffel bags of the other crew to make sure nobody brought too much stuff.  Not George.

George called me today to say that we had won the race by 24 seconds on corrected time.  He was very happy as it was the third time he had won this race. I'll keep sailing with the skipper who tolerates all the questions and moods of two vivacious 4 year olds.  Thanks George!

Etienne