We filled the northern area of Charlotte Harbor with catboats on Saturday, November 5th, and it was a great day for sailing! The wind averaged around 15 knots all day, with mostly clear skies and temperatures in the 70s.
Tom Scott had prepared the day before by inflating race marks that we borrowed from West Marine, courtesy of the Charlotte Harbor Community Sailing Center. He secured them aboard his old Morgan 30 in a creative way.
I managed to bring in a ringer to sail the Wily Conch for me – Charlie Jones, who was passing through the area on the Meridian 25 Tehani and decided to stay for the Sun Cat Nationals.
By the time we sailed out to the race area, Tom already had all the marks out. In this picture, he’s gesticulating with his notepad and giving some kind of official instructions. We could see the course marks, and given the relatively short course and the strong wind, we knew we would be doing two lap races, so we did not really care that we could not hear all of what Tom said. We were just having fun sailing around in the starting area!
I was glad to see the white Sunday Cat out at the starting line. It looked like we would not have a Sunday Cat at the Nationals this year, but when I contacted Com-Pac Yachts to ask about participation in the event, I heard back from Gerry Hutchins that his son and daughter in law would be able to bring a Sunday Cat! They had one prepared for a demo ride for a dealership, but that was canceled due to weather. No reason to let the preparation go to waste!
Also prowling the starting area, I got this picture of the Sun Cat BlueCat. The lazy jacks with stack-pack sail cover and the decision to race with the Bimini top up made Dick’s boat easy to pick out from a distance.
I caught Butch plowing up a nice bow wave as he reached along in Catnip prior to the start of racing.
Sonja took this picture of the Sun Cat racing fleet just prior to the start of race one. Notably absent from the picture is Wily Conch. We were nowhere near the start line when the race began because I had used one of the horn signals to carefully calculate that my watch was “about two minutes” slow by GPS time. Charlie got us across the line with good speed right when I told him to, which was about one minute late.
Despite our late start, were in a mid-fleet position by the time this photo was taken. The fleet was on our first starboard tack toward the upwind mark, and from left to right are BlueCat, Indy Anna, Sunday Cat, Odd Duck, Suitsus, Wily Conch, and Frisky. Foreshortening in the photograph makes it hard to tell actual positions in the race, but we were pointing high and closing on the fleet. Hey, bringing in a ringer was a good idea!
As we were preparing to tack toward the windward mark, Frisky came splashing across our bow.
Scott was also ahead of us on the way to the windward mark, but he had a little trouble with the sailing instructions. We did not know when to start, he did not know which way to go around.
By the time Suitsus backtracked and went around the mark in the correct direction, the Wily Conch had slipped by to round ahead. In the background, Odd Duck is making it around and in the distance on the left are the Sunday Cat and Horizon Cat Class leader Good Juju.
Still trying to get the whole fleet in one picture! I could not get Frisky in this one, as they were out in the lead, nor could I get Suitsus, who was busily plotting to steal our wind. From left to right are BlueCat, Catnip, Good Juju, Sunday Cat, Indy Anna and Odd Duck.
This picture was taken at about the same moment from the mark boat. Frisky is far enough ahead to be out of the shot, but Suitsus is chasing Wily Conch as Odd Duck enters the frame.
Note the smug look on Scott’s face as Suitsus passed by us upwind, momentarily blanketing our sail. Charlie and I discussed pushing him upwind all the way to the bridge, but decided it was not the kind of thing one does at the Sun Cat Nationals. Besides, it would have helped the rest of the fleet more than it helped us!
He managed to pass us before the reach mark, but not far enough before it to prevent us from squeezing around ahead. There may have been a little “room at the mark” confusion, but in keeping with Sun Cat Class rules and tradition, no boats were scratched. We’re hoping the Horizon Cat Class adopts this tradition, but more on that later…
Here he goes again, and with that same smug look. Maybe he just smiles like that when he sails? Nah, he was enjoying going by us!
Sonja captured the scene from a distance as Scott went by us. He may be a bit faster with his larger sail, but I think it’s pretty obvious who was winning the “ugly bag of cloth hanging out of a reefed sail” competition. At least until Catboat Willy showed up, but let’s not skip ahead…
Frisky had rounded the leeward mark and was beating back upwind as Suitsus and Wily Conch approached the mark.
One of the duties of the jib trimmer on a Sun Cat is to perform the function of “snacktician” during races. For non-racers, this is a person who is always first to the best snacks aboard, and who occasionally makes comments regarding tactics and sail trim to those actually paying attention and sailing the boat. In that capacity, I suggested that our best approach for the second lap of the race would be to take a long starboard tack out until we could lay the windward mark in a single tack. Coincidentally, this strategic choice was also the least work. Charlie agreed.
Our plan took us out toward the Port Charlotte Beach Park, where we encountered Catboat Willy coming out in his Sanderling to join the fun. It was immediately clear that the “baggy stuff hanging from reefed sails” competition was over. We had the same general technique, but he had us beat on square footage.
Sonja caught some good shots of the rest of the fleet beating upwind. This one shows Scott hiking out and burying the rail on Suitsusu in an effort to catch Frisky. In the background is Odd Duck.
A better shot of Odd Duck sailing to windward, this one showing a good profile view of the custom stainless railing Dennis put on the boat.
This picture of the catboat fleet making their way upwind to the finish line shows Frisky beating Suitsus over the line. (They had been paying attention, and knew there was no second lap to this race.) If I had noticed them crossing the finish line, I would have thought nothing of it. Tom Scott had told us that the start/finish line would be an open gate, meaning we could cross it during the race if we wanted. I did not notice them finishing and we were too far away to hear anything.
This picture was taken a few minutes later, and shows Whimsy and the red start/finish line buoy, Wily Conch still sailing a non-existent second lap of the race in company with Sea Bird, Suitsus sailing over to clue us in, and Frisky heading back around to the catboat parking area to await the next race.
Meanwhile, over on the left side of the course, Charlie and I were enjoying our second lap of the race and having a nice time sailing along with Catboat Willy. I looked up and noticed that Suitsus was not pointing all that high, and appeared barely able to cross our bow, though moving along very well. Right about then Scott ruined our second lap of the race entirely by yelling, “Hey! You guys need to go finish!”
That might not be an exact quote, but the message was clear. We had sailed past the finish line because I thought it was a two lap race. I remembered Tom saying something the night before about doing two lap races if we had enough wind and a short course. Actually checking the designated course on the race committee boat prior to the race would have been a good idea. We ducked back down to go around the finish buoy, managing to take 4th place. I think Charlie would have done better in that race if he had been unencumbered by my assistance. Starting a minute late and missing the finish line are not known to be his style of racing.
Just for the record, Don in Frisky had the correct reaction to my error: let it continue! If someone is doing something stupid, let it go on as long as it is not dangerous. This is especially true if I am the one doing something stupid, because then I don’t have to check with anyone before writing about it. While I thank Scott for preventing further embarrassment, it would have been funnier if he had let us sail all the way to the upwind mark before realizing that everyone else had finished.
Sonja caught a picture of Good Juju heading for a victory in the Horizon Cat Class. Something to do with Horizon Cat Class traditions makes it prudent for racers to sail with fenders deployed.
I got no pictures from the first race from Charlie and Isy because they had left the camera at the welcoming party the night before and did not arrive in time to get it prior to the first race. They got it from Sonja and took this “dueling photographers” shot between race one and race two.