2012 Aspen Open

Things seemed bleak on Saturday morning while we all sat around on the windless water. Someone must not have paid the utility bill because the fan just would not turn on. Finally, at about 1 pm, the thermal activity stirred. You could see wind building on the east end of the lake and you could see it building on the west end. Eventually it turned into a confused mess, but race we did. It was mountain lake racing as usual for the eight U20’s in attendance. Marty May, with only two on board “Red Line”, won the first race. Underdog played the right as the fleet went left and pulled into second from 4th on a well sailed leg.
In the next race, it was Junta’s turn to pull a similar coup as he rounded the last mark in 4th place but finished first. Payback hurts, Underdog had rounded that same mark in first place, but finished 4th. Eric Altenbernd on Bosa Nova put in a great performance in race 2 and nearly won it, but he would have to settle for second, Juiced was 3rd.
Showing some consistency, Underdog rounded the last mark of race 3 in first place again but Juiced! turned on the juice and passed us for the win. In the downwind leg Junta made the mistake of cutting through the start line as the J22 were starting and found itself with nowhere to go and had to round up while doing 13 knot or go through a J22. The subsequent flogging made the spinnaker pole cowl let go sending the pole skyward.  This meant that he could no longer fly the spinnaker and would be severely punished on downwind legs in race 4.
Finally, in race 4, Underdog put it all together and managed to grab a bullet with Juiced! second and Red Line 3rd.
Saturday’s racing was great fun with some high speed spinnaker runs where boats were able to plane nearly the entire length of the lake. As you might expect there were also some spectacular crashes with much effort expended to get spinnakers under control or out of the water. The day was could not have been mixed more with drifting and planning on the same leg. Luck and careful planning was the name of the day and select boats were rewarded for their performance.
Some of the downwind legs were beats and some upwind legs were runs. One fleet in race 4 got a downwind start. I was actually looking forward to trying this, I could easily envision 8 U20’s headed for the start line with spinnakers flying. I suspect there would have been lots of hollering and some recalls. Instead, RC just turned the course around 180 degrees, the pin became the boat end and the boat became the pin end.
Planning strategies was difficult. We never knew what to expect and strategies that worked previously at Ruedi could not be reliably counted on to work at this event. Underdog finished the day with a slim one point lead over Jim Ulatowsky on Juiced!. Mark Allen and crew on Junta were not far behind in 3rd place.
Sunday morning started off in a similar manner as Saturday… no wind. Fortunately, it filled in a bit earlier than it did on Saturday and off we went. Mark had re-attached the cowl and now had the use of his spinnaker; he was back in the fight.
Juiced! took control of things early and led the fleet around the course for their second win. Marty May on Red Line
took second, Underdog 3rd.
The second and final race started with a fair breeze, however, before the fleet could reach the windward  mark the wind completely died. Those racers that could, attempted to get near the shore. Brad Lawson (Redbeard) went to the middle-right side of the course and short tacked on every little puff until he had groped his way completely around the fleet. Underdog went to the far left, everyone else was scattered in between.  Redbeard was the most successful with his strategy and he rounded the mark far in advance of the remainder of the fleet, he would keep that lead for the duration of the race and score a win for Redbeard. Boats that had started well, and managed to creep closest to the mark, caught the new breeze first and the rest of us became small specks in their rear view mirror. My crewman, Andrew, made the comment… “horizon job”. Yes; Brad, Jim and Marty looked like toy boats on the horizon.
This race was a long one with RC sending us around the course twice. On the second downwind run the wind started building and before the race was over the winds were absolutely howling! A few boats wisely retired and headed for the dock but most stuck it out and finished. The leaders were so far in front that I don’t think that they spent a great deal time in the heavy wind while still out on the course. But they did have to deal with it as they tried to dock. There seemed to be more carnage going on at the docks than there was on the racecourse, due largely to the estimated 40 knot wind that blew right through the dock area.) Sadly, Juiced lost their bow sprit pole in a collision with a J22 while attempting to dock. Hopefully, a new one can be procured before the Dillon Open.
Congratulations to Jim and his highly skilled crew for a well sailed event. They most certainly deserved this victory.
I hope to see you all at the Dillon Open on August 4-5.
Best regards,
Cliff Begnaud
Underdog #126