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Omnium Champlain 98“A Serious Yum-Yum” ?

by Mark Gardnersunset.jpg (5152 bytes)

After last years adventure aboard “Witchcraft” I decided it would be interesting to race on our own boat, “Bark Ode” (Barky) in this event. We left Malletts Bay Friday around 1730 and headed northwest to Plattsburgh in a steady 15-knot breeze. It turned out to be a perfect night for the beat to Plattsburgh.

As we sailed into Cumberland Bay on port tack we met several sailboats under power approaching the Plattsburgh Boat Basin. After a moderately close encounter with a converging boat, we decided it was best to douse the sails and motor the last 1/2 mile into the marina. An interesting navigation problem presented itself, as I had never approached the Plattsburgh Boat Basin at night. The high water has kept the breakwater nearly invisible for most of the summer. I understand that a variety of boats have attempted to cross between the two ends of the breakwater with diminished luck! Having just repaired a “Bird Rock Bump” I had no appetite for an emergency keel job! The problem was the blinking lights on the south and north end of the breakwater blend into the background. Especially when there are 25 sailboats anchored inside the breakwater with their masthead lights on. Fortunately there was a full moon that clearly lit-up the breakwater, or at least the north end of it as we approached. (Could a GPS be in my future?)

We were fortunate enough to have reserved dock space for the weekend so after locating our slip we strolled up toward the “Naked Turtle” to find Mike Parson, our host-interpreter for the weekend. Having worked in Plattsburgh several years back, I would advise anyone from Vermont to prearrange for an experience guide for this event. After all, we are from the “Stupid State” according to Parsons, and need all the help we can get. We crawled away from the “Turtle” at around 0030, having danced the night away to a variety of “Rock n Roll by the Glass Onion (good tunes).

Saturday awoke with some excitement. Fifteen plus knots from the northwest and we only have six crewmembers. The race started right on time with the jib and main only classes getting off first. The Omnium gives each class 10 minutes between starts to ensure that they get off the line before the start of the next class. This year that did not present itself as a problem, as even those crews who were a bit hesitant at the start were able to cross the line with-in a minute of the start.

Two races where held on Saturday. Both were a triangle-windward-leeward course with marks to port. The jibe mark was stretched way out, making the course perfect for jib reaching. Of course what’s good for some isn’t the best for others. The boats in the spinnaker classes found the reaching legs very challenging. There were considerable peaks and valleys in wind velocity making it difficult to keep a boat with a spinnaker on course.

Of course, the best part of the Omnium is lunch. The first race finished downwind at about noon. As the boats finished, they headed back toward the Plattsburgh Boat Basin to drop anchor and eat lunch. The second race wasn’t scheduled until 1400 so there was plenty of time to enjoy lunch. The crew on “Realescape” actually called their favorite pizza place and ordered several pies to go. Compared to what “Barky” considers it’s normal lunch (jam sandwiches… two pieces of bread with a little cheese, mustard and mystery meat all squished down so it will “Jamb” into your mouth with minimal effort) a pizza seems down right civilized! I have to admit, at first I found the “time for lunch” to be an unnecessary delay. But after struggling with the masthead spinnaker for two long reaching legs I was glad to get the chance to take a well-deserved break.

The wind seemed to back a bit for the start of the second race making it difficult to cross the start line on starboard. The pin was heavily favored and the boats stacked up trying to get the best start. Although the line had been long enough to permit a fair start, after the wind veered crossing the line proved challenging to all the starters. Class C was the biggest fleet and the dodging and weaving seemed to demonstrate this. I remember last year at the start of the second race, more than half of the boats were a minute from the line. This year they were dodging and weaving for the best start at the favored end.

At the start of the second race the boats were all stacked up at the pin end looking for a way across. “Rafale” attempted to port tack the fleet at the pin but was forced halfway down the line before they found a hole to cross. The mixture of full racing boats electing not to use spinnakers competing against the traditional “roller furled jib” “heavy weight cruiser” made for some scary moments during tight mark roundings. Plenty of “words were heard” (although I don’t understand French… I did recognize the intent of the discussion) during the heavy weather mark roundings.

Realescape” smoked Class A with a perfectly timed port start and lead easily at the weather mark in the second race. Her magnificent (read humungus) asymmetrical spinnaker paid big benefits during the reaches where she opened up a significant lead. “Barky” reeled her in up-wind and was within striking distance when the wind backed and the run turned into a reach. “Realescape” blasted into the lead and finished two minutes ahead. For this regatta “Realescape” elected to sail with a maximum headsail of 140 % (instead of their normal 150%) giving them a significant advantage in the heavier weather. Although “Realescape” and “Barky” vied for line honors in each of the four races, it was a sneaky little Soling named “Nervous Wreck” skippered by Rolland Sherman that crept up from behind and toasted the two big boats, capturing the regatta in Class A. Could the team of Sherman, McDowell & McDowell be the next dominating force?

In class B, Mike Ra y sailing his Able Poitin 24 “Impulsive” easily beat the nine other boats in his class. “Impulsive” flew their spinnaker on every reaching leg, regardless of the amount of times they rounded up. They also took advantage of the stability of a blooper on the running legs. The final race on Sunday had “Impulsive” leading on the last leg when the wind simply died on the west side of the course. “Fol Amour” hung it out on the eastside of the course and easily won the final race with “Impulsive” crossing the line third just behind “E-Z-Duz-It“.

In class D, Ulrich Holzinger’s Hunter 37 “Edelweiss II” managed to hold off last years winner Michael Barker’s Tartan 34, “Wingdam“. Holzinger counted three bullets against Barker’s three seconds. Both skippers and boats are from the Lake Champlain Yacht Club in Shelburne Vermont.

In class E, Dennis Curtin managed to sail his Ensign “First Fiddle Green” to first against Yves Vachon’s Tanzer 26 “Le St-Yves“. Although Curtin’s Ensign is a fine example of an older boat doing well, we’re pretty sure that the presence of Bill Rowe helped “First Fiddle Green” excel. In the start of the last race, Curtin caught the first shift and simply disappeared over the horizon, only to be trapped in the same wind shift that gathered in “Impulsive” and was nosed at the finish by Vachon, securing “Le St-Yves” a second place finish in class.

Zulu Warrior” a Bénéteau 37.5 owned by Francois Bertheau easily cleaned house in Class C the largest class in the fleet. Although sailing in a white sail only class, many of the boats in Class C are thorobread boats sailed by experienced racing skippers. The likes of a C&C 40, X119, and a J-27 are clear examples of the competitive nature of this class.

Overall this year was certainly as exciting as last years race. With professional race committee (Paul Beaudin — Doyle Sails Vermont) at the helm, the courses had good upwind starts and true weather legs. The racing this year definitely took on an increased competitive nature… although underneath you could still see spirit of the Yum-Yum peaking out… Who else takes two-hour lunches… and I wouldn’t have it any other way.