Sunfish Fleet #17, a.k.a. Mountain Lakes Sailing Association, is the ultimate in grassroots, off-the-beach, casual, fun sailboat racing. There is no clubhouse, no race committee, no sailing instructions, no insurance. Just a bunch of enthusiasts that set up a start line off the beach and race around some fixed marks on the lake opposite my house. The fleet captain (who is also racing) counts down a 3-minute start, sailors are on their honor to return and restart if they are OCS as nobody is watching the line, fouls on the water are dealt with on the water or not at all, and the winner of each race notes down the places of the other finishers. Peter Huston from Sailing As I Sea It would blow a gasket.
As my granddaughter was visiting us last weekend I chose not to go racing but, while she was asleep on Sunday afternoon, I walked down to the dock to take some photos of Fleet 17 racing.
When I arrived all the Sunfish were pulled up on the beach and there appeared to be a lengthy meeting being held in that gazebo. I later discovered that this was a discussion about the previous race, the first race of the day. One of the novices had asked a question and that had triggered a detailed debrief by some of the fleet leaders about wind and strategy and boat handling. Nobody seemed to mind that this informal sail training was cutting into time allotted for racing.
I took a few shots of the start of the next race. The wind was blowing off that beach more or less directly towards me which, given the geography of the lake, necessitated a reaching start. Could have been in either direction but the decision was made to start towards the left from my vantage point. This shot was probably about 20 seconds before the start. The red flag in the foreground is the near end of the start line.
The next shot was taken as close as I could judge to the actual start. Did everybody return to the correct side of the start line? Who knows? There's another red flag over there somewhere but I never saw it.
And they're off. What's the right strategy? Time will tell. There may be an advantage in being at the windward (far) end of the line but that side of the lake is more in the shadow of the trees. Roll the dice. Take your chances.
After sailing round a couple of buoys down the left end of the lake, the fleet passes me again on its way to the one buoy in the right end of the lake. The local hotshot, Derek Jackson, (2nd place in the Sunfish Midwinters this year and a candidate for president of the US Sunfish Class) was way ahead. This shot is of the next pack.
And here come the finishers. Crossing the line in third place, can it be, it can't be, yes it is, the sailor formerly known as Whippersnapper, Son #1 or Litoralis.
I used to race myself with this fleet when we first moved to the USA. There's a certain attraction to this style of laid-back casual racing -- especially when it's almost on your doorstep. Even if the standard of race management wasn't high, the quality of racing at the front of the fleet was excellent. But after a few years, frustration with sailing on such a small lake and a wish to return to my roots in Laser sailing led me to new pastures.
I didn't go racing myself last weekend. Here's the reason. Cutest Granddaughter In The World having a bath in a storage container on my barbecue table.