Eeny, meeny, miny, moe catch a sailboat by the toe…

It’s your turn to be "it"…. no, it’s my turn, now your turn….
And so it went.

The 54th annual Carter Open regatta was well attended this year. BW Bilberry was back from his winter hibernation in Costa Rica, Tom Downing had his camper for onsite accommodations. Jim Ulatowski, Marty May, Brad Lawson and yours truly were all in attendance for a very enjoyable, but very tiring weekend of One Design racing.

Carter Lake was up to its old tricks of shifty, puffy and disappearing/re-appearing winds. No matter what you did, the lake might reward you for it this time; or smite you with a surprise leaving you wondering what the heck had just happened.

It is unusual for this to happen, but, the race for the trophy was really between just two boats,  Jim Ulatowski and crew on Juiced! and the shorthanded Underdog. Underdog usually led the way on the windward legs, but Juiced! would come back and snatch the lead away on the downwind leg.  The two boats took turns finishing first and second until race #7 on Sunday when Marty May spoiled the party by finishing 2nd just behind Juiced! and a half-boat length in front of Underdog.
This put Underdog two points behind Juiced!.
The only hope for Underdog now was to win the final race AND have another boat finish before Jim. This would set up a tie and Underdog would win the tie breaker.

As the countdown to the start for race #8 was winding down, Underdog made a rarely attempted port tack approach. We tacked in front of the starboard tack boats and headed for the pin end at full speed. Underdog crossed the start line within a second of the start signal at the favored end, a perfect start; quite possibly the best start we have ever made. This allowed Underdog to reach the new breeze first and we pulled ahead with a solid lead over the fleet. This time the winds favored us and we kept our spinnaker full on the downwind run and made a quick dash for the finish. The rest of the fleet was not so lucky and had to deal with much more flukey winds. After crossing the finish line, we stopped to watch things unfold among the remaining fleet boats on the course. Crewmember David Mcvey and I watched with glee as both Brad Lawson and Marty May managed to get ahead of Jim on the downwind leg; if these placings held, Underdog would win and it would preclude a tie breaker.
But, things are seldom as they appear, both Brad and Marty passed just a bit too close to the hill on the east side of the lake next to dam #2. Jim had jibed out toward the middle of the lake. Jim had made the correct move and he caught a new breeze away from the hillside. David and I watched with dismay as Jim was able to just squeeze past Marty and Brad as they were finally getting their spinnakers filled.  It was with great disappointment that we watched Jim march ahead the last 100 yards to finish second. While dissapointed, we felt no regret, David and I had raced our best regatta ever and we were still beaten. We can't help but respect the skill and effort it took to win.

While we sailed great to windward on Underdog, Jim and crew absolutely schooled us on downwind sailing and tactics. Any sailboat racer would be well served to study Jim’s methods. Well, David and I are good students, we pay attention in class, so watch out Jim.
Congrats to Jim and his crew, Roy Burley and Robert Pincus, for the win at the Carter Open.

I know that I often mention how close the racing is in this fleet, but on Sunday in race 6, after an hour (or more) of nerve racking, intimately close racing around the course, frequently overlapped, with multiple lead swaps, Juiced! and Underdog approached the finish with spinnakers flying in a dead heat. We crossed the line in what appeared to be a tie. RC sounded two finish horns in quick succession. Neither of us had any idea who finished first. After hailing the RC boat about who won, and a brief pause, they announced “19”. Juiced! had grabbed the win in the final microseconds of the race by mere inches. As I congratulated Jim, he said that he felt like he had aged 19 years in that race; I had to concur with that feeling. This was the closest race in which I have had the pleasure to participate since I started sailboat racing. I won’t soon forget it.

I realize that this report, and many others, focused on the leaders in the regatta. But since I was involved in the action I was unable to see what was happening in the rest of fleet and so I'm unable to report on it. I have no doubt that there was plenty of closely matched racing going on between the other U20s. The separation between the fleet often got extended, but that was due to the on/off nature of the winds at Carter Lake where they are the most challenging of any lake at which Fleet 4 races.

Well, I don’t know if it’s Eeny’s, meeny’s, miny’s or moe’s turn to be "it", but the game continues.
Things are just getting heated up in the 2013 Fleet 4 season. The next event will be the Timberline Regatta at Lake Dillon on June 29-30. This should be an exciting event, likely with high winds and lots of keels exposed for all to see.

Cliff Begnaud
Underdog #126