Today is my wife Lyndaís birthday, fortunately for me; she and Tracy have been traveling along with us since our finish in Victoria. Often the Van Isle 360 has me in the dog house as the race usually interferes with either our wedding anniversary (6/7/69) or her birthday. This year I was able to get her something nice in Victoria which has excellent shopping and then was able to present it to her in person on her birthday. It wasnít really what she wanted, she had made it clear to me and the Cheekee Monkee crew that she wanted a first place finish for her birthday and I am very relieved that we were able to deliver on her birthday wish.
Cheekee Monkee won the Multihull division of the 2005 Cadillac Van Isle 360. Racing in our division was unusually tight; the lead changed hands several times over, up until we moved into a first place tie with Dragonfly after leg seven, at that point, four consecutive first place finishes from leg seven through ten clinched the first place trophy for us.
At the start of leg ten, first place overall was still up for grabs for all four boats in the fleet, talk about close racing! Going into the start for leg ten I had an on the spot change of strategy. I had actually determined several months earlier that the best strategy was to take the outside course south of Saturna Island through Boundary Pass; there was a very strong flood that would squirt the fleet north into the Straight of Georgia with a clear sail up to Nanaimo. The inside route had a limited window of opportunity after midnight. It was windy at the start and there was a very real possibility that we could get through Sansum Narrows before the tide changed at 9PM and then get to Dodds in time for the flood. Now here is the question, if I knew better, why did I do what I did, why take the risk?
Well in part, that is what this afterword is all about. Having the courage of your convictions and the discipline to fully execute them as strategized. On several occasions throughout the course of this race, I have wavered slightly or made conservative concessions. In each instance, it appears that I was being greedy, thinking that I was potentially giving something up when in reality, the opposite was the case, the strategy was correct and the biggest gains would have been made by aggressively executing the strategy. So where does the doubt and indecision come from? Itís all about head trash and self worth, itís that baggage we all seem to accumulate and it sometimes or frequently gets in the way. The treatment for this problem is to give myself full and unlimited permission to fail and to look foolish. That is the real prescription for success, half measures avail us nothing. It is only when I can truly relinquish my vanity and approval seeking nature that I can live my life fully and without any self imposed limitations.
This kind of introspective thinking takes place when you are totally committed to an event like the Cadillac Van Isle 360. This is a race (truly a unique experience) in a breath taking setting within a community of sailors that will change you. Sixteen days of life fully lived, no holding back, no fear, full of gusto - that is the Van Isle experience to be had. No Fear you Cheekee Monkee!!!
In these after thoughts, I want to express my appreciation to the crew of the Cheekee Monkee, my son Shane who did a great job on main sail trim, my son-in-law Jason whose primary function is headsail trim (Jasonís second effort demonstrated in the final minutes at the finish in Victoria paid off with a 1st place over Dragonfly) does an excellent job and is always assessing our options, Mike McGarry, watch captain and a good friend who flew in from Melbourne, Florida to support the crew with his speed, trim and tactical expertise provided excellent leadership and helped the Cheekee Monkee go just that little bit faster, and rounding out the team, Morgan Tedrow. In his role as foredeck and back up trimmer, he did a great job in his second season on the Cheekee Monkee. Thank you, each for your time and contribution, the boat doesnít go quite so fast with just the skipper on board.
I also want to thank Fran and Vaughn who did a stellar job as our shore support crew, driving the truck and hauling the Cheekee Monkee trailer around the island for us and Time Bandit. It is a huge tactical advantage to have competent shore crew, we would arrive at a finish line and step ashore after tidying up the boat or dealing with the necessary repairs etc and we only had to make our way to our rooms that Vaughn and Fran had checked us into. They even had our non sailing gear already in our rooms for us. In the morning they would restock the boat and all we did was walk out of our rooms each morning, have breakfast, go to the boat and cast off. Talk about the ability for us to focus! Thank you Fran and Vaughn!
A special thanks go to our wives, families and significant others as without their patience, love, support and encouragement, we wouldnít be here to participate.
The race committee did a great job, thank you for making the Cadillac Van Isle 360 an adventure for all of us to participate in.
This race was unlike the 2000 and 2003 editions, I marveled that in all three events, the races have all been unique for us, some of what we learned in prior races helped us, and some of it hindered us. The lesson here for me is to keep my mind wide open and donít let the past limit our opportunities today.
I am sure all of you reading this have seen the video clip from leg three, Comox to Campbell River when Mike and I went overboard. You may have noticed that we didnít appear too concerned about the experience and didnít seem to suffer negatively either physically or from a performance basis. We, I in particular, expect to be challenged; I push very hard and sail to the limits. As a result, we have prepared the best we can in advance for these types of situations and fully expect to be put to the test. We view the Cheekee Monkee like a large wet water sport toy or like an oversized beach cat. Getting wet and going in the water is part of the package. When Jude flipped Makika in November two years ago at Grand Prix in Seattle, we rescued them with our 4788 Bayliner, Monkee See which we use as a mother ship. I was impressed with their actions in the water at that time, with dry suits on in November, in and out, swimming under the boat, getting the lines on so we could right it. I was sold on dry suits then and there. Each member of the Cheekee Monkee crew has a dry suit to wear. It was the same with us, floating around out in the Straight of Georgia, we were very comfortable, now if it had been an hour or more instead of 15 minutes, it would have been much harder on us, but other vessels in the race would have been there to help us if the situation had been more serious or deteriorated. In fact Mike and I had a fairly pleasant time floating around out there waiting for them to come back and get us. I am sure the tension on board was high as the crew worked effectively and quickly to get back to us. Once back at the boat, with our low transom and mast support arch, it is very easy to get a man back on board very quickly. This is not the case for many boats and getting the man out of the water and back on board can be one of the biggest challenges with a man overboard recovery.
I canít stress how important it is to have the right gear and to be properly prepared for all the possibilities that we can face in a race like the Cadillac Van Isle 360. The waters of the Pacific Northwest are dangerous and claim lives every year. Growing up on the waterfront in West Vancouver in t he 60ís, we witnessed a tragic drowning fatality when a local teen who was a good swimmer decided to swim back to shore from a capsized D9 sailing dinghy out in front of his house. His friend, the poor swimmer stayed with the boat and was recovered safely by one of the neighbours who launched a skiff to rescue them. It can happen anywhere to the best of us, be prepared, practiced and do the right thing. I am very grateful that we have the opportunity to experience sailing in these waters and to practice and improve our skills as sailors in a race like this one.
Planning and organization are key elements to succeeding in this type of stage racing. Logistics spares and taking care of the crew are the winning formula. Planning for each Van Isle, starts in Winter Harbour each time when we confirm with Dick at Dickís Last Resort that we will be there next time. Space is very limited for Winter Harbour. We then book the hard to book locations next as soon as we have the dates for the race which we hope is about a year before the event. We look to finalizing the land side accommodations for the whole race as early as possible. Because the shore crew has a big role in the program, we try to make it very easy for them as well. The requirements for the boat for each leg are predefined and everything is prepackaged and loaded in the trailer in advance. At each stop, whatever is left on the boat comes off and the new supplies go on, the only variables are the perishables when are stocked up as we travel around the island. We never know what may go wrong during the race so the trailer is loaded with every spare part that I own and all the stuff that we could possibly need to affect repairs as we travel around the island. Being prepared means planning in advance for all the possibilities and then having as much as that covered up front as you can.
It costs more to be prepared, but in the end, it really costs less. I would like to encourage the Cadillac Van Isle planning committee to expand on the Van Isle Village concept. Yes the race is about the boats and the crews, but for this type of stage race, it is much more. It is about community and that includes the shore crews and families that follow the race around the island like a gypsy caravan. I would like to suggest that this aspect of the event be high lighted and promoted. Get some vendors to travel around the island with us, have a big tent and have space for the shore crew vehicles at each venue, let it become a traveling village and location for the community to spend time interacting with the crews at each stop Ė expand the program to embrace the families and support teams, we will all be better for it.
Finishing the race is the first and most important goal, yes winning the division is great thanks to Bad Kitty, Blue Lightning and Dragonfly for making the race as challenging as you could. Congratulations to Dragonfly for winning the fastest elapsed time trophy this year. Congratulation to Time Bandit for the Division I win and to Myrrh for the Division II win and finally, congratulations to White Cloud for the First to Finish for Leg Ten and for winning the overall corrected time award.
To all those boats at the dock on Saturday morning giving us a big Cheekee Monkee welcome by beating us to the dock, you really did spank the Monkee Ė but even better, you all slayed the Dragon! Well done sailors!
Adding foils to an already fast boat increases the level of complexity on board. There is more to deal with and we now find that we need to race with a crew of five. We used to do well with four on board, but there is just that much more to do and by going faster just that much less time to do it in. The demands on me personally have increased as a result and I found this race to be more debilitating than it has been in the past, the stress levels are higher, and the amount of adrenaline we use seems to go up exponentially. So the price for foils can be measured in both a monetary sense and a physical/emotional sense. Is it worth it? Foils are like being addicted to drugs, you donít want to do without them. The next couple of seasons racing the Cheekee Monkee should tel us the rest of the story.
See you in 2007 or at a race near you, stay tuned to www.cheekeemonkee.com for further developments.
Sail fast, sail flat.
Kim Alfreds, Monkee Trainer.