2008 High Sierra and North Americans Wrap-up!


High Sierra Sailing

Huntington Lake, a crystal-pure alpine lake about four miles long, is located in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains at about 7000’ elevation. Huntington is one of the premier sailing locations on the West Coast, with a reliable thermal breeze that turns on every morning at about 10am and blows between 8 and 18 knots all day. Combine this steady breeze with bright blue sky and 75° temperatures, and you get an incredible sailing experience. Since 1953 the Fresno Yacht Club has sponsored the High Sierra Regatta, with about 300 boats (ranging in size from Optis to Olson 30s) trailering up the mountain to race during two July weekends. The Ultimate 20 class enjoyed five days of competition, July 19th —23rd, with the High Sierra Regatta providing a tune-up for our three-day North American Championships. Fifteen boats, with skippers from six American states and Canada, enjoyed close and friendly sportboat racing.

The weather has been fantastic. The wind was at typical Huntington velocity, blowing hard enough at the bottom end of the lake for short bursts of hooting and hollering planning action on the downwind spinnaker legs. Beating to the top of the reservoir, boats encounter phasing shifts with lots of big gusts and holes. You pick a side of the lake, and then try to keep in phase and hunt for pressure.

Textbook strategy, as usual, involves a long Starboard Tack board from the start toward the Boy Scout Camp on the left side of the lake. This is followed by short-tacking around the bend along the left shore, followed by a transition to the center, left, or right, depending on where the gusts and lifts are waiting (or where the parking lot holes are lurking). This place provides really demanding sailing.

North Americans
Day One

Classic Rock with Boston and Layla
After three races in the preliminary High Sierra Regatta and three more on Monday, a clear trend has developed. To the surprise of just about nobody, Brad Boston has clearly outclassed the others, winning five of the six races. Layla, with Tom Burden, Trish Sudell and Boston henchman Lee Shuckerow, has at times given Boston some competition. Two races have turned into virtual Honour/Layla match races, with those two far ahead, trading tacks and gybes up and down the lake. Unfortunately for the Layla team, Honour has a clear, if minimal, edge in downwind speed. Their flawless roll gybes, combined with a broad-shouldered and powerful kite, have provided just enough extra "oomph" to allow Boston to recover from mistakes and prevail at the finish.

The Princess Goes to the Ball
Cinderella Story, with John Andrew, Gordon Wanlass and Jennifer Andrew, always battles Layla very hard, and this week is no exception. These two boats finished the High Sierra Regatta tied with seven points (with Andrew winning the tiebreaker due to a Sunday first place finish). They are currently tied once again after Day One. Expect more brutal racing between Eric Clapton's paramour and the pumpkin-carriage princess over the remaining contests.

Rogue, Enigma, Babe and Ricochet Have Their Moments
Further down the scorecard is more very close racing, with the finishes scrambled and boats crossing the line seconds apart. One group of five boats finished within about three seconds on Monday. Several teams have sailed out of their minds for one race. Phil Kanegsburg on Babe led around the course in Saturday's second race, to finally be ground down by the near-flawless Honour. Babe capsized during a tack, and Layla came past with looks of astonishment on the crew’s faces. Something about Phil managing to catch his tiller in the lifelines,with the masthead now rinsed by the sparkling Huntington water.

Kevin Egelhoff on Ricochet was on fire Sunday, sailing brilliantly and following in second place behind Cinderella Story, who had gone right on the first beat for an unassailable lead. The wind was honking on the final beat, and Layla pounded Ricochet down with a tacking duel, but the new San Diego team deserves major credit for a fine race.  Rogue, with Class President Bob Aman driving, has shown lake-sailing smarts, as has John Buchanan's Enigma. These two are in fourth and fifth after Day One.

Too Tuff—The Legend Continues
One amazing story concerns the legendary Too Tuff, U20 #2, the oldest and hardest traveled U20 in the world. Tom Hughes and his team watched their new Glaser kite flutter down into the lake in Saturday's first race when the halyard shackle opened up. Showing great cool, Hughes intentionally capsized Too Tuff, laying the rig in the water and then climbing out to the masthead to rescue their kite halyard. He's spent a lot of time and cash on his boat, and Too Tuff is in great condition with a rebuilt keelbox and plenty of new rigging. This famous U20 has appeared on the cover of not one, but two major sailing magazines, adorning the covers of both Latitude 38 and Sailing.

Peter Lyons Snaps Images and Washes His Camera
The camera jockey responsible for one of those cover shots, Peter Lyons, has been on the scene at Huntington, blasting images with his Canon digital cameras from both above and below the water. Unfortunately, Peter’s underwater camera is now headed for the Camera Emergency Room due to a seal failure in its waterproof housing that admitted several pints of Huntington Lake into the interior. Such are the job hazards of the pro marine photojournalist. Check his site for great images of our racing: http://lyonsimaging.com.


Day Two

Ethyl Merlyn Gets Game
Clifton Odom had not been enjoying the best of luck at Huntington. When a sailor returns to the dock with blood all over his cap due to a scalp wound from getting clobbered by the boom, with a ninth place finish in the mix, well, there is room for improvement. Throw in a broken traveler car, with the mainsheet hanging in midair, connected to the boat only by the traveler control lines, and we're talking about a disaster in the making.

Ethyl Merlyn's luck got a whole lot better on Tuesday. First, Clifton has a hard head and needed no stitches, but only a medium sized bandage. Second, he jury-rigged his traveler with some stainless steel wire, lashing it in the center of the track (who needs a traveler anyway?) so he could trim his main properly with the sheet and fine-tuner. Third, the kapow to Clifton's head sent his sailing game into high gear, giving Clifton remarkable ability to see lifts and pressure, and Ethyl Merlyn moved to the head of the fleet on Day Two. A third and a first place finish catapulted them into fourth in the series, only four points out of second with a throw out.

Brutal Close-Quarters Combat
Race Four, a 9.2-mile Course Seven hotdog/triangle, turned into a battle that involved almost the whole fleet. U20s all go about the same speed upwind, and the fifteen boats reached Mark Five in a pack, which condensed further after the mark rounding. Trailing boats rode gusts up to the front-runners, who desperately tried to avoid holes. The priorities were to pick the correct side of the lake, ride the gusts and to maintain clear air amidst the crowd of asymmetric kites.

Mark One, located 100 yards above a rocky point next to the Race Committee, provides up-close spectator viewing as the boats douse their kites and make a starboard rounding. The first eight boats all reached the mark within about thirty seconds, with Honour and Enigma in the lead, followed by Cinderella Story and a three-pack of Junta, Layla and Salsa.

The Filling in the Spanish Omelet
As this trio of boats approached the mark rounding, they were overlapped with Salsa on the inside, Junta outside, and Layla in between. Unfortunately, Utah sailor Mark Allen was too involved with lowering his kite to provide buoy room. Three vessels crashed together amid loud British- and American-accented yelling, forming a sort of Junta/Salsa Spanish omelet, with Layla as the filling in the middle. The folks on Team Layla found the taste too spicy, as the unfortunate trio drifted downwind across the lake. Junta performed their 720 penalty. Matt Boroughf on Salsa grabbed some entertaining video footage of the mashup. Here’s Salsa’s YouTube video for your
Amusement: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4m9YCGaYMg

Honour's Wing and Wing Secret Weapon
At the end of another lap up to Mark Three, across to Six and down to the bottom Mark Eight, the Boston team onboard Honour had taken control of the race. These guys have an extra gear downwind, sometimes sailing wing and wing with their kite opposite the main, straight down
the lake making incredible velocity-made-good. Honour frequently reaches the top mark in third or fourth place, misses wind shifts like the rest of us do, and does nothing remarkable with boat speed. Downwind Brad, Curtis Florence and Eric Vigrass are hard to handle, with big, smooth roll gybes and generally flawless technique. The rest of us have some practicing to do. We would like to thank the Canadians of Team Honour for making a forty-hour trip to Huntington to help us all raise the level of our collective sailing technique. At the finish, it was Honour, Cinderella, and Ethyl beating Layla by inches.

Horizon Job by Ethyl Merlyn
Race Five was an 8.6-mile double windward-leeward. Ethyl Merlyn brilliantly worked the left shore near the first dam, riding a port tack lift to round Mark Five in the lead, which they gradually built to unassailable distance. Honour rounded the first mark in about sixth place, making a gradual recovery to finish second. Cinderella Story and Layla battled each other for two laps.

At Mark Six, Cinderella pulled ahead when Layla blew a tack and ended up on their ear. In a case of clear Skipper Abuse, trimmer Lee Shuckerow accidentally slugged skipper Tom Burden, knocking him to the floor, sending Layla into a tailspin, nearly throwing tactician Trish Sudell out of the boat. Situation bleak as Cinderella escapes and Honour passes at the mark rounding. Unfortunately for Cinderella Story, they failed to cover Layla on the final beat, sailing to the left side of the lake allowing Layla to find the lifts on the usually favored North Shore. As we begin the final day, these two boats are a point apart. Honour can now enjoy a pleasant day-sail, as Cinderella Story, Layla and the re-energized Ethyl Merlyn duke it out for second overall in the North American Championships.


Day Three

The third and final day of North Americans sailing (and the fifth glorious day of U20 racing on Huntington Lake) dished out more of the classic High Sierra experience—deep blue sky, 75° temperature, refreshing cool clear water with small chop and breeze at eight to fifteen knots. Little drama remained in the quest for the North American title, as Brad Boston needed to merely finish one race to clinch his fifth championship (which he did with a bullet, overtaking Layla at the last mark in Race Six). Lots of tough racing remained for the rest of the fleet, including a chess game between Cinderella Story and Layla to decide second overall.

Real UFO Sighted on Huntington
Trent Watkins always sails tough on UFO, his veteran U20, nearly winning the Pacific Coast Championships at the 14-boat San Diego NOOD Regatta in March. Trent is also not afraid to pilot his veteran sportboat in the nastiest weather. Thus, he was extremely frustrated with a case of The Slows at Huntington. Team UFO worked hard to find the magic gear with lots of practice and speed testing on the lake, and Wednesday the real UFO finally showed up. Pressuring the leaders in both races, UFO managed two third place finishes. In this very competitive fleet getting shoved to the back was easy. Babe, Junta, Ricochet, Enigma and especially Ethyl Merlyn all enjoyed dazzling success and frustrating failure—that's the brutal reality of strict one-design U20 racing.

Chess Match Ends in Checkmate
In our last exciting episode, Cinderella Story ended Tuesday's racing one point ahead of Layla and four up on Ethyl Merlyn. Race Six turned into a two-boat Cinderella/Layla chess match, as Ethyl got a bad start and belly-flopped to a 13th place throwout.

Cinderella Story started at the starboard end of the long line, with Layla down the line at the port end. Layla had to bear off through the lee of the close-winded Rogue, allowing Cinderella to win the first crossing at the Boy Scout Camp. That was Layla's last mistake, as Tom, Lee and Trish were clearly sailing In The Zone. They got into phase on the beat, rounding Mark Five with a 150-yard lead on the entire fleet, with Cinderella rounding about fifth in he pursuing pack. Layla's teamwork finally came together Wednesday with nearly flawless roll tacks and gybes, as the somewhat hyper Lee Shuckerow had forgotten to drink his morning coffee. Mark Allen's Junta and the all-pro Honour team gained ground on the run to Mark Two, but the race to the bottom
of the lake turned into another one-on-one Honour/Layla duel.

Layla held off the unstoppable Boston machine for four downwind legs, with both boats overlapped as they hoisted kites to round the island after Mark Seven. Both had trouble with their sets, Layla with a twist and Honour failing to fully hoist the kite halyard. The amazing Lee Shucks rapidly cleared Layla's hourglass, and the two boats battled hull-to-hull for the final reaching leg. A brilliant spinnaker douse by Honour broke Layla's overlap at Mark Eight, giving Honour the lead. Boston's team won the race and headed for the dock, without needing to sail the finale.

Déjà vu All Over Again
The folks onboard Layla expected Cinderella Story to attack them at the Race Seven start like a desperate cornered animal. However, the Disney Princess declined to engage, and their relative positions at the gun were a rerun of the previous race, with Layla once more being squeezed out by the high-pointing Rogue. Cinderella once again crossed in front, but several shifts later it was Layla tacking into a safe leeward position. Their mission at this point was clear—sit all over Cinderella Story and drive them back—a task they successfully accomplished.

While these two were battling it out, Clifton Odom had once more found the shifts, with the young brothers Richard and Jaime Hoffman handling the aging Ethyl Merlyn (U20 #6) flawlessly. Repeating their fabulous Race Five performance, the Ethyl crew rolled to an impressive lead and didn't falter. Like a sheepdog, Layla herded the group of five spinnakering boats surrounding her, gybing onto starboard to force UFO, Babe and Rogue to tangle with each other. A shrimped kite by UFO and a blown hoist by Babe gave Layla a comfortable second place margin, with Cinderella Story mired in fifth.

Brad Boston Triumphs Again
Thus, the 14th Annual Ultimate 20 One Design Class North Americans closed with Brad Boston's Honour winning their fifth championship with seven points, and then packing up for the long trek to New York, and their next battle on the pro circuit. Layla grabbed second place, with two-time North American champ Cinderella Story third, San Diego's Ethyl Merlyn fourth, and Oregon's Rogue in fifth position.


Thanks To Our Sponsors!

Thanks are due to our sponsors, including West Marine, US Yachts, Spinnaker Sailing, Doyle Boston Sails, Glaser Sails, Douglas Gill and Sailing Anarchy. Del Olsen (our volunteer Principal Race Officer) ran flawless races with his five-person team. Drew Harper of Spinnaker Sailing and his assistant, Garrett Greenhalgh, organized our barbecue and provided banners and raffle prizes . Jim Jackson purchased food and headed up our crash boat operations. Web site and U20 Class communication by Gregg Henning. John Andrew provided beverages, other key support and advice. Keith Dettman and Francis Samson of the Fresno Yacht Club provided the umbrella of equipment, US Forest Service permitting and race course management. Thanks to you all for making this great regatta possible.


2008 North Americans Site


Story By Tom Burden

Photos By Jim Jackson