Monday, July 28, 2008

Governor's Cup for Lark

Here's (most of) our crew of the "Island Lark" accepting the coveted Governor's Cup on Sunday, July 27th. Skipper Tad duPont is standing behind the cup. Co-owner and brother Ebby duPont is standing with sunglasses around his neck. The two brothers have been racing Island Lark for 30 seasons; Tad in the stern with the tiller and Ebby in the bow with the jib. The first race they ever won was the Governor's Cup, back in 1979.

There was no swimming for me this weekend on the Miles River as we sailed 3 races in the Annual Miles River Yacht Club Governor's Cup Weekend. The Lark was moving fast enough to get 3 bullets (first boat to finish gets a shotgun shot off from the committee boat) and correct to 2 seconds for the Covington and Duke Trophies and a first for the Governor's Cup. Other folks did not fair so well in the swimming department.

Island Bird on her side with one of her chase boats Metropolitan giving assistence. Lark's chaseboat, Brougham, waiting in the wings.

Judge John C. North's "Island Bird" took a dip Saturday morning in the Miles River. Every canoe experiences such fates on a regualar basis, some more than others. "Bird" went on to complete the Governor's Cup Race on Sunday. Judge North has sailed "Bird" for over 50 years.

The women of Jay Dee swim in the Miles River Saturday morning; pink shirts and all.

Judge North's son, Dan, has built two wonderful base crews for his canoe "Jay Dee"; the regular crew and the women's crew. The boat was given to the women's crew for the day Saturday as the men of the regular crew helped set up and watched the women attempt the heavy air that awaited us all. Unfortunately, in an effort to fix a gear problem, attention was shifted and down Jay Dee went before the official start of the morning race. Adorned in pink shirts with the female symbol on the back, the crowd of veteran women sailors fought with the 74 year old canoe and seanettles to get "Jay Dee" back on top for the second race (the men were gentlemanly enough to lend a hand...I think Bob Flower even helped).

Lark sails the Oliver Duke Race with a bone in her teeth.

For fear of jinxing our crew, I don't often comment on how well things go aboard Lark. But, for all the wind we had Saturday, I'd must say, we didn't have any close calls while racing. Loligagging around before the starts is another story. Attention to keeping the canoes upright is spread thin when we are manuveuring before the starting sequences. Four canoes capsized before the start of the first race on Saturday.

For the entire weekend Island Lark and Island Blossom were neck and neck while racing. The close competition between the two boats has made us both better competitors and FASTER canoes! Though we finished first ahead of Blossom each race, because of the 12 second per mile handicap we give to her, we lost the first two races by 12 and 39 seconds, respectively. However, the final race, which was for the 1927 Govenors's Cup we beat Blossom with enough time to hold onto first place. The "Silver Heel", owned by Bob Hewes since 1960, was third.

On other adventure fronts, our friends and my family will be heading up to the summit of Mt. Washington during Oxford Regatta weekend. We will be overnighting in the Lakes of the Clouds Hut in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. You can read about one of my trips there last year with adventure partner, Michael "Tuckerman" Valliant, on his blog:

Training partner Dan Bieber is trying to get me to do a Sprint Triathlon on August 17th in Delaware. It looks like a good chance I'll make it. My next entry should be one from the trail. Happy training and sailing everyone!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Maryland Swim for Life

Swimming in brackish water in the middle of the summer is a foreign concept for me. Usually, there are too many seanettles to do such a feat. However, yesterday the District of Columbia Aquatics Club (DCAC) held their 17th Annual Maryland Swim for Life on the seanettle-free Chester River. With the option of swimming 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 miles, there was a course for every swimmer. I rode up to Rolphs Wharf in a new Mercedes driven by 72 year old Ted Gregory, whom I met at the St. Michaels Pool last week.

Ted is a remarkable fellow who swam the Bay Swim this year and has swum all over the world in different venues. We both were aiming to swim the 2 or 3 mile swims. He opted for the 2 miler because of a raucus cocktail party he hosted the night before. I opted for the 3 miler, having never swum that distance ever anywhere.

It was a low key event with around 150 swimmers. There was no entry fee, but each entraint had to bring at least $100 in collections for the different charities DCAC supports. The weather was perfect. The course followed the shoreline and was an "out and back" with buoys every 1/2 mile. My 3 mile course had me turning at the 3rd maker (1.5 mile mark). Between the .5 and 1.0 buoys we had to swim over/through a fishtrap (that was interesting) allowing the top of the net to scrape across my belly as I swam over it. The current was against us on the way out, but with us on the return.

One of the mysteries of open water swimming, to me, is how does one fuel and hydrate? Though I did not see many swimmers take advantage of the availability of kayakers stocked with goods, I decided before the start that I would take water and fuel every half hour, which for me, would be every mile. And that's what I did, hailing a kayaker named Robin on both my stops. I carried a Clif Shot gel and downed that on my first stop with water, and gobbled half a bannana on my second stop. I figured I lost at least a total of 5 minutes with my stops. But, my goal was to leave the water feeling good, having accomplished the distance, and have enough energy for the rest of the day, which included sailing in heavy air aboard log canoe Jay Dee with skipper and friend Dan North.

There was a group of like-yellow capped swimmers that would pass me everytime I fueled. I would catch up to them each time, including the finish. My time was 1:43 for the 3 miles, which if you take away my fueling time of 5 minutes, finds my pace to be better than ever. I really felt good in the water, fast (for me), and comfortable and fearless. There was a time when coming upon somthing as daunting as a fishtrap would have freaked me out. I was, however, one of the last of the yellow-cappers to finish. Events like this, I surmised, attract a different class of athlete than the local 10K running events. I was swimming against verteran seasoned swimmers who know how to kick butt. I'll get there someday, one kick at a time.

A rare photo of Island Lark at the moment of impact with the Cliff City shoal. The boardsmen are being carried forward with the momentum of the boat. The bow of Lark is lower in the water as the rudder is hard aground. That's me on the front board on my way to the water.

In other news, Island Lark, had a stellar weekend of sailing last week on the Chester River, posting a 1st and a 2nd to win the regatta and other prizes. The third race, which was later thrown out by the Race Committee (RC), was the most challenging for our crew. The 10 mile course found us with a healthy lead on the 10 boat fleet. As we rounded the leeward mark, which we noticed was a little too close to shore, we ran hard aground....we're talking centerboard all the way up and rudder firmly planted in the mud. Evidentally, the mark was placed in 15 feet of water, right next to a shelf which went up to 4 feet. As we went 2 boat lenghts past the mark we hit, stopping us like a brick wall, catapulting me forward from my front board into the water. 5 of us pushed Lark through the wind, pivoting on the rudder, and off the bar. By the time we were free we had been caught by 2 boats, of which we beat one over the finish line and would have held a 2nd if the race counted. Many other boats hit the same spot with Mystery capsizing on top of Silver Heel. It was a mess.

The Canoes are racing in the Rockhall regatta this weekend. As our boat did not make it to the races for this regatta, Victor, Greg, Greg's son Graham, my girls, and I found ourselves on the Chester yesterday in time for the afternoon race. Jay Dee took me aboard (an ungraceful entry as I had to jump into the water from Victor's boat, grabbing the hand grips on the back of Jay Dee) and I sailed the race with them. Jay Dee is the largest of the canoes and was most comfortable. She's got a true old time feel to her, and she's fast and powerful. Danny's great uncle built Jay Dee in Tilghman on Devil's Island in 1934. The crew welcomed me, and by the time the race was over (we took 2nd) I felt like a regular crew member. Danny invited me to steer JD home to the Corsica River, which I did, nearly capsizing her at one point and running her aground, also. Sorry, Danny, I'll sand the bottom of the centerboard this week, if you want me to). It is very impressive to keep an old racing yacht in competition and Danny, his crew, and his family do it right. The canoes race on the Miles River this coming weekend, July 26/27th, for various trophies including the coveted Governor Richie Cup, which has been raced for since 1925.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

4th of July Log Canoe Series

Log canoe Island Blossom leading Island Lark at the 2006 Heritage Regatta Sunday race in Oxford. Look closely at this photo and you'll see our "Lark" canoe and crew amongst the Blossom crew. The 2nd mast is Lark's. That's me in the reddish/pink hat. Blossom went on to win that race, with us taking a 2nd and winning the regatta. Photo by Don Biresch @2006.

A different kind of racing held my fancy this past weekend in the form of Chesapeake Bay Sailing Log Canoes. This was the start of my 27th season (23rd on the Island Lark) racing these antique ladies around courses set in the local rivers. From the look of it, this season will prove to be another very competitive season. But first, here's a little history:

The log canoes were the work-horses of the Chesapeake Bay, numbering in the thousands at the end of the 19th century. If you lived on the water, you had one, just like everyone has a car today. It was easier to get around in those days before the automobile via the waterways than on land. Informal racing developed when oyster laden canoes would race to shore at the end of the day in an effort to get the best price. Eventially, some canoes were built specifically for racing. Organized races were held before 1900.

About the boats: They are called "log canoes" because to construct one, several logs were laid parallel to each other, pinned, then shaped into the traditional canoe shape that we know. Most canoes left today are made of 5 logs, but some are of 3. The bilges were completely free from obstructions and frames which lent them well suited for running a shovel down the interior to scoop out the oysters.

Today's canoes are preserved with some modern materials, such as fiberglass coverings, but retain the original integrity and logs they were built with a 100 years ago. The masts are much taller then in the old days. Today's rigs make the boats very unstable, so the crews use hiking boards to press the boat down "on her feet" so she will be propelled forward. Racing canoes are over canvassed and are not ballasted with fixed weight, like modern sailboats. Because of these factors log canoes frequently capsize, ending the race and beginning 3 hours work to be race-ready again.Island Lark rounding the 2nd mark of the 2nd race Sunday, June 29, 2008. Lark continued to round all marks first and win the race and regatta. Photo by C. Bowie Rose @2008

This weekend saw 10 boats compete. There were many capsizes as well as equipment failures. Our boat, the Island Lark (#16), faired better than the rest and took two 1st's and one 2nd to win the 4th of July Series. Our skipper hit the starts very well and kept us in the race at all times. The Island Blossom (#9), our closest competitor, sailed to a 2nd place finish in the series. We had some scarey jibes and a few close calls during mark roundings where we came close to capsizing. My daughter Eleanora bailed for three solid races as we shipped water over the sides, constantly. The winds were strong enough for us to never need the light air "kite" at all over the weekend. On Sunday the winds were stronger yet, and we opted to fly the #2 jib (a smaller jib than the #1) which gave us more speed to windward and some stability off the wind during the gusts. In the lighter spots we suffered with the small jib, allowing Blossom to beat us in race #2.
My daughter, Eleanora and I sharing a post-race moment on Sunday afternoon. Eleanora held the teenage position aboard Lark which sailed this weekend with 6 different decades of ages and 3 generations. @ 2008 C. Bowie Rose

To give you an idea of the historical sense of these few boats that are left racing, I will quickly give you some facts. Island Lark was built in 1901 as a racing canoe. She raced a few seasons, got abandoned in a hurricane, then went on to be worked as a crab/oyster boat for 50 years, complete with engine and cabin. In the 1970's she was converted to a sailboat again and later assumed her rightful character in what she is today. Island Blossom was built in 1892 as a racing canoe and is probably the most famous canoe due to her continuous racing history. Island Bird was built in 1884 and is the smallest on the race course. For more check out: . There is so much more to tell; Magic, Spirit, Persistence, Noddy, Heel, Patricia, Jay Dee, Gift, Billie P, Sandy, Faith, Mystery, Edmee, and Cloud. Maybe another time.

Island Lark with cabin and motor as she was found in the late 1960's.

Chase boat "Brougham". Photo by C. Bowie Rose @ 2008

We are lucky to have abundant crew aboard the Lark and a great chase-boat owned by Victor duPont. Anyone not needed during one of the races gets to hang out on "Brougham" which is complete with a sofa on the roof and palm tree. Music, brownies, libation, and entertainment accompany the race viewing. This weekend saw at least 30 people participate in one form or another to make the "Lark" syndicate happen. It takes a village to race a canoe. I am blessed to be a part of such an awesome program and to have association with these wonderful people. It is awesome to have the opportunity to pass this love of wood, boats, and racing to my girls as they mature. It is the Land of Pleasant Living!