2003 US Snipe Masters September 5-7
Lake sailing has been an essential part of Snipe sailing in the US for a long time. Sometimes we sail on big lakes like Ontario, and other times we sail on small lakes like Quassapaug. The Quassapaug Yacht Club is run by Snipe Fleet #231, and sits on a beautiful lawn over-looking the lake from the south western corner. The racing area is directly in front of the club and spectators have grand-stand seating on the lawn. The fleet has prepared for this regatta for two years and even had a large write-up in the local paper, page 1 of the sports section, on Friday morning. While tropical storm Henri was dumping tons of water on Florida, and Hurricane Fabian was taking aim on Bermuda, the cold front had moved off the coast and sunshine and blue skies prevailed in Connecticut. The fleet was served a fantastic brunch in the club house, then we set off for an afternoon's racing on the lake. The lake is small, so you get the feeling of Arena Football; you have to tack frequently, and you will never get used to the out-of-no-where 40¡ shifts. Through the years the club authorities realize where they must set up to maximize racing, so the RC was set up way ahead of time. The wind was out of 350¡ + or - 30¡, and light, about 5-6 kts most of the time. Big puffs came down unannounced at about 10-12 kts and did not seem to be associated with any pattern.
The first start was without incident. At the time of the start the left end of the line was heavily favored; Art and Jennifer Rousmaniere were the first to tack onto port and lead the fleet to each new puff and rounded first. John Lally and Kerry O'Brien, and Woody Norwood followed closely behind and continued to challenge at the gybe mark and the leeward mark. Art and Jennifer were unable to pull away but maintained the lead at the second windward mark. Lee Griffith and Nancy Gilreath rounded inside the leaders and moved into first place at the second leeward mark and successfully worked up the middle to win the first race. Lally and O'Brien were second; Art and Jennifer were third.
The wind remained very shifty for the second race however the puffs were more impressive, occasionally jumping to 14 kts, however most of the time it remained around 6-8 kts. The same Olympic course was chosen, however the line was again heavily favored to the left end, and as a result there were two general recalls. The third attempt at a start was clean, and again Art and Jennifer Rousmaniere were at the left end tacking first onto port. They stayed to the left and ahead of the fleet moving from one puff to another, always being in the right place at the right time, and rounded the first mark with a 15 boat-length lead. Martin Fraser was second and Sherry Welch with her sister Carol Huffaker as crew, were third. A few positions changed by the gybe mark, but the leeward mark was much more congested allowing many opportunities for gains and losses. Lee Griffith and Nancy Gilreath moved up after the second windward mark, with Dick and Mike Funsch also moving into the lead group. Art and Jennifer retained their lead, and moved further out in front with every leg, to win the second race with ease.
The fleet sailed where the keg was already tapped and the party had started. Dinner was barbeque chicken with western costumes required and the square dancing went on until midnight.
Saturday morning the club put on a terrific spread for brunch, and we all enjoyed the beautiful fall morning overlooking the lake. The forecast was for light breeze from the northeast shifting to the northwest but no chance of rain. The scheduled time for the start was 1300, and everyone was out and ready. Four boats were over early, including Lee Griffith who was tied for the lead; all restarted. The left end of the line was again favored, and this was compounded with a 60¡ left shift allowing everyone that started at the pin to roll over the rest of the fleet. Out in front again was Art and Jennifer Rousmaniere. The RC correctly felt that a beam reach to the first mark constituted an unfair situation even on a small lake, and abandoned the race. The wind promptly died. Another small breeze came in from the north, and another sequence was begun only to be postponed then abandoned for giant shifts and no velocity. Little teasers came in for a minute or two from just about any direction for the next few hours, but it was apparent that there would not be any racing today. The party began.
Sunday morning was beautiful; not a cloud in the sky and there was wind. The club put on another brunch, and entertainment included a horse race on the lawn. Don't ask, but it was a blast and one of the jockeys got a ride on the Commodore's Snipe (see the photos for details). The light north westerly breeze held allowing the RC to set the same 'reverse olympic' course that they used on Friday. The left end of the line was favored so a crowd built up before the start, and a general recall resulted. The second start was clean and the fleet tacked over to port looking as if they were going to make it on a single tack. John Lally and Kerry O'Brien got a terrific start near the left end and punched out early. Art and Jennifer Rousmaniere were farthest to the left but had a slow start and a lot of traffic. Lee Griffith and Nancy Gilreath were behind Lally and trapped. Half way up the beat the right shift came in; the leaders had to stay with the increased pressure but that gave Lally and definite lead. Susan Lodico and Bob Coyle, and Martin and Suzette Fraser also moved out with this puff. Lally and O'Brien rounded first, with Lodico and Coyle immediately behind. Then came the Fraser's and then finally Art and Jennifer Rousmaniere with Lee Griffith and Nancy Gilreath rounding sixth. The first reach was more of a run, and the fleet spread out playing the puffs and looking for clean air. Lally held on to the lead but Rousmaniere and gone low and passed three boats to round second. John and Peter Wolcott had gone high and passed a bunch of boats to round fourth behind Griffith-Gilreath. A puff brought most of the boats in the middle of the fleet to the mark at the same time, making for an impressive mass-rounding, but typical for the Masters events there was very little yelling and only a few did circles. Art and Jennifer played the stronger puffs on the left side of the next beat covering Lee and Nancy. They both passed John and Kerry who was now fighting to hold on to third. There were a lot of changes in the middle of the fleet as the puffs came down unevenly across the course and the players had spread out to get fresh air. Rousmaniere won, Griffith was second, Lally third, and Wolcott fourth.
The fourth and final race was sailed immediately, however the start position was moved farther to the east reflecting the average wind direction. It was still only 6-7 kts. The first attempted start found almost the whole fleet over at the pin end of the line with 10 seconds to go; general recall. The next start found several boats over at the RC end blocking their view and they signaled another general recall. This was a big break for the Rousmaniere's who were over at 10 seconds to go and were rounding the RC boat to wait in line to restart, while Lee Griffith was long gone up the leg. The next start was clean. Susan Lodico and Bob Coyle got a great start and moved out to catch the first puff and move away from the fleet. Art and Jennifer stayed to the left of the fleet along with the Wolcott's. Susan and Bob rounded first, and held on to the lead until the final downwind leg, when Art and Jennifer finally passed. George Walker and Holly O'Hare rounded third with Lally and O'Brien next. The racing was very close in the middle of the fleet with tight roundings and many circles having to be done. Art and Jennifer won the fourth race clinching the series. Griffith-Gilreath were very deep on the first leg and slowly passed most of the fleet ending up ninth in this race. Lally and O'Brien moved up to second overall for the series with another great finish.
The club had beer at the dock to assist with de-rigging and trailer loading, then a wonderful lobster-steak dinner before the prize giving.
The Snipe Class thanks the Quassapaug Yacht Club and all of their officers and volunteers for making this such a wonderful event. These folks really know how to party.