Date: June 15, 2003
Course: French Creek to Comox
Distance: 28.55 nautical miles
Dawn came early for the Cheekee Monkee, the Skipper woke up early again, (that’s “mee”), affectionately know as the Cheekee Monkee (50 something) by some and by other unmentioned epitaphs by others. We the crew were riding high on the success of Leg 1, we were second boat in, first in class and first overall. Could we do it again? Could we hang on to the coveted Yellow “Tour de Van Isle” Flag? Could we improve our performance with a line honors finish? If Only!
I looked out the motel room window to gaze upon flat water, no wind and bright sunshine. What a change from yesterday. From rip snorting wind and tumbling seas to a glassy flat calm. Well, we like it both ways; in fact we like it any way we can get it.
Let me take a moment to introduce the crew of the Cheekee Monkee for the inside legs. In alphabetical order, Jason Arnold, my son-in-law, Colin Haigh, an Aussie Mate currently is residing in Canada and Joe Rome, my sailing friend from Marathon, Florida in the Florida Keys.
Jason (30 something) was introduced to the Cheekee Monkee on his honeymoon, Tracy and Jason elected to spend their honeymoon in 1996 cruising the Florida Keys with Lynda and I on the Cheekee Monkee. Jason grew up in Manitoba and his boating experience was limited to runabouts and jet skis. Shortly after hoisting sail the first day and screaming down the channel in 3 – 4 feet of water at 13 – n14 knots, Jason was hooked. He has been a regular on the Cheekee Monkee ever since his first Swiftsure in 1996.
Colin (50 something) met the Cheekee Monkee at Cowichan Bay in 1999 at the Cow Bay Regatta. Colin and Lois own the F-9AXT “Mango” (a virtually identical boat to the Cheekee Monkee). Seeing Colin at the dock, I immediately started offering unsolicited advice as I am wont to do. As Colin proudly showed about his boat, I suggested that if he was here to race then he should take the refrigerator off the boat and leave it on the dock for starters. Amazingly enough he took my suggestions in the light that they were offered and started off loading equipment onto the dock. Colin has been campaigning on the Cheekee Monkee since I seemed to have spirited him away from Bad Kitty. In fact, he skippered the Cheekee Monkee in the 2001 Swiftsure while I was recovering from surgery.
Joe Rome (50 something) met the Cheekee Monkee in the parking lot of the Lauderdale Yacht Club just before the start of the Ft Lauderdale to Key West Race in 2000. I had taken the boat down for the winter race season and the next thing I know Joe has given me the keys to his house and moorage out front for as long as I wanted. A great guy, very generous and a pretty fair sailor himself. Joe and Cynthia own the Lucky Star, an F-31 like the Cheekee Monkee and more recently, an F-28R known as Porn Star. Joe is no stranger to speed, having actively competed as a professional Indy Car driver in the 70’s and 80’s.
Enough digression, back to the IF ONLYs. The race started on time at 0900, winds very light with flat calm seas. We lined up at the pin end for a starboard tack start and slowly sailed away from the line. The fleet faced with large patches of flat water and small patches of wind eventually split into two groups. One group headed to the right side towards Sisters Islets chasing zephyrs and the other group headed left further into the dead zone. We found ourselves headed towards the right moving from wind patch to wind patch. Soon, it was just Redshift and the Cheekee Monkee slowly moving out into the lead.
These two boats are fairly evenly matched and with flat water and light winds, Redshift was fast. We sailed side by side, each of trying to gain and advantage on the other. In fact we got into a couple of luffing matches and ending up trading gybes several times. Sometime the Monkee came out with the advantage at other times, Redshift was dominant. By the time we came together again at Flora Light on the SE end of Hornby Island, we were side by side again. As we worked our way towards Comox we favored shore towards Hornby and Denman Islands. The two of us were clearly leading the entire fleet. The wind was freshening slightly and we were continuing to pull away from the rest of the fleet. If only we could break away from Redshift…
We were sailing hot angles trying to get past Redshift when the gybed away, looked like a small break for us. We kept going, hotter and faster, 14 knots, 15 knots, trying to establish a breakaway lead. It looked like it was working; we were ahead of everyone, in sole possession of the lead. If only, we could have finished the race then and there.
One of the problems of being out in front is that everyone behind you gets to see how effective you are at picking the fast wind lanes and when you manage to find a hole. If only the wind had held for us all the way to the finish line. But it didn’t, Bad Kitty and Dragon Fly had finally broken free from the doldrums and were hot footing it our way. Redshift was coming on strong too. Well there we were, right up front and a very big NO WIND ZONE between us and the finish line. We could see wind at the finish line and we could see wind behind us, Redshift was bringing it with them.
We all meet up, the four us together, with in a few hundred yards of each other and only a couple of miles to go. We try to break away again, if only we had found a wind lane to the finish. The break away seemed to work, then petered out. Bad Kitty had gone to the far right, Dragon Fly in the middle, Redshift between us and them, we went left. We looked very good for a while, by the finish line was just too far away to sustain our final breakaway. In the final few minutes, Bad Kitty beats us to the line, hotly followed by Dragon Fly, Redshift is coming on fast right behind us. We need to beat them by 7.14 minutes on this leg and they are only 2 minutes behind us. Can we at least beat them across the line? If only we had been faster, we might have had line honors, if only we had been quicker, we might have had 2nd place, as it turned out, we crossed the line in 3rd spot and finished 3rd in class.
We had a great race, it was challenging, the crew performed admirably, the boat was fast, our tactics reasonably sound. Forget the If Only, we are happy to take a 3rd place in such a competitive fleet.
Sail Fast, Sail Flat!
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