After a year filled with Grand Prix and Moth sailing, pro crew and rigger George “Bear” Peet takes a little breather and gets into one of the most exciting inland boats anywhere. Here’s his report from the E-Scow Nationals, held last weekend on Lake Chautaqua in upstate NY. There are some shitty low-res watermarked images here if you are so inclined, while results are here.
If you haven’t sailed an E scow you are missing it! Bitching boats, hot girls who can rip, and great racing. Aside from the moth, this is the best boat I have sailed…ok, the Volvo 70 is right up there too. But as far as big dinghies go – these thing rule.
For this years nationals at Lake Chautauqua, NY I joined Sam Rogers and Chrisy Hughes. At the last minute with a god forecast, we stole Vincent Porter’s 4th crew, Alex Curtis to round out our team. With four-up we were still on the lighter side, but we knew the lake would throw everything at us so off we went for a shakedown on Thursday. It was super light and we were going well. We cut it short and immediately got into the Coors lights as well as a last minute debate with Vincent regarding the acquisition of his 4th; end of that story – the guy who trades for a living made a bad one here. Armed with two hot girls, a fast boat and some liquid courage, we engaged in a few glorious hours of shit talking and debauchery – par for the course at any E-Boat event, I’m told.
Day one threw some challenging conditions at us. Super shifty, with those narrow lake conditions where both sides get strong late in the beat. We had a great start middle left, got onto port quickly and sailed the outside of a huge lift. Sam was pissed. We battled back to 18th. Second race…more of the same, Great start, avoided starting penalties, and going fast, but couldn’t get out of our own way tactically. We battled all the way around, sometimes getting into the top group but failed to stay there, and finished that one in 13th. We pulled the boat and drowned our sorrows. At least we were sailing with and against a lot of cute girls on fast boats, and the beer was supplied by the excellent Southern Tier Brewing. Not all lost…not yet.
With 100% chance of breeze on, and 120% chance of rain, we were ready for Saturday. Being the responsible group that we are, we decided to leave our vehicle at the yacht club. Sam and Alex went for an early morning shuttle run to grab the car and discovered that regatta leader Andy Burdick had already launched his boat. Sam got fired up, and burst through the front door. “Andy’s in the water, we have to go!”, he yelped. “Jesus Christ,” I thought. “It’s 8:30 and the start is 11:30.” But it wasn’t worth arguing, so off we went. We launched the boat a few minutes before the first shotgun squall rolled through, and next thing I know, it’s a full operation: Sam’s in the water for 45 minutes looking for his iPhone, while Chrissy, Andy, and I were juggling boats trying to keep them from bashing themselves to pieces or sinking. Finally, thing settled down and we were still the only two boats on the water. Sam went home to pout about his phone and grab a change of clothes, Chrissy was drying out somewhere else, and I finally sat down to slam a few cups of coffee and ostensibly relax. Halfway through my first cup, I hear “Sam…your boat” and I didn’t even have to look. I knew our boat was drifting down the lake. I tore through the crowd and went into full Baywatch mode for the 200-yard sprint down the beach and the hundred out into the chest-deep water. Usain Bolt might’ve beaten me, but he wouldn’t have lassoed our wayward ride so cleanly, or steered it over to one of the neighbors’ docks. I resumed my coffee break, once again trying to relax and get ready for racing some powered up boats in breezy conditions.
After all the morning’s chaos, we crushed it. We still couldn’t find a tactical nut, but we did most things well; our starts were solid and we were hauling ass! These boats rip; in 20-25 knots, we sailed between 8 and 9 knots upwind, and we never saw the needle dip below 18 on the downwind legs. I am sold! We posted a 4-2-13 for the day, and that includes some morale-boosting chances at outright wins in races 4 and 5. Race 4 we sailed a bad last run, while race 5 we didn’t hear a course change with boats flipping and the general carnage at the leeward mark. It wasn’t easy to pick out the marks or mark set boats with all the rescues and yard sales on the course, but we crushed the second beat and passed Full Throttle – and then overstood the change mark by a good 250 yards. Dammit! Back to yet another low teens finish. We were all crushed, but the experience of sailing these boats in big breeze with a good team and the availability of cold beer was enough to keep us all reasonably sane.
A few Southern Tiers later, we went home for some cocktails and horseshoes. Finally we were victorious at beating a few Porters; and if you’ve ever sailed against any of those guys, you know it’s ALWAYS a competition. So feeling good after the horseshoe match, we went to a fantastic dinner at the yacht club and met most of the E fleet dressed to the nines. This is a party worth attending! For whatever reason, there are more beautiful 20 and 30 something girls in this class than I even knew raced sailboats, much less a single class, and at this function they were looking great! Full of cocktails and prime rib with a whiplashed neck we went to “Yesterdays” for a few more. Again, we one-upped some Porters and took a few games of pool off of Vincent and his team. We left feeling better about our day.
Day 3 wasn’t looking good. We were in second place and the forecast was dodgy as hell. One more race would see the throwout come in, and we’d no longer be in second. Eventually awe had to leave the dock and sail the last race in marginal conditions. With moments to go before the time limit and a black flag up we were in sequence. Sam and I had a pretty good handle on the race course and the wind. We started just below the mid line in no wind. Right off the bat, it was a shocker. Here we go again, I thought. Boats blowing past us to the left and to the right, “mother&*#er!” I shouted. No sooner did I say that than the breeze came right back to us and faded for everyone else. We tacked onto port and we were OUT. We sailed around in the top three in that race and never looked back. With a throw out now in, the best we could do was second but Throttle needed a bad one. In typical fashion Brian Porter showed up when it counted, taking the final race. Our little M42 took 3rd overall, with Andy Burdick winning and Brian Porter taking 2nd.
All in all, the E fleet is a great one, and I felt privileged to be welcomed into such great boats and a great family; I will sail E Boats anywhere and anytime, and a big thanks to those who keep this historic, awesome class going, as well as to Sam and Chrissy for having me out there.