By Rick Smeriglio for SCN –
As she did in 2011, S/V Tlingit won this year’s Rum Doodle Race and will have her name inscribed on the Rum Doodle Cup trophy, currently housed at the William H. Seward Yacht Club (WHSYC) in the small boat harbor. Tlingit, a 44-footer handily took first place in both heats of the all-women sailboat race on Resurrection Bay, originally held in 1978 and won that year by sailing vessel Rum Doodle. Tlingit sailed in fine trim and made no tactical errors. She turned in a solid performance with a fit crew. In keeping with the spirit of the race as well as the original “deed of race” which specifies only females on board while racing, Tlingit even sported Annie the boat dog (real, live Icelandic sheep dog) as enthusiastically barking mascot.
At the appointed hour, all sailboats cast off lines equipped for gales, but arrived at the pre-set racecourse to discover only the faintest echoes of bygone wind. Sleek, polished hulls with similar crews languished in doldrums. Mighty preparations seemed for naught. While becalmed, the committee boat, which does not race and instead carries the race marshal and supernumeraries, effected an at-sea transfer of a late-coming crewwoman from the non-racing commodore’s yacht to a racing yacht. Commodore Sam Steele considered his options, but spoke not. Hope and salvation came from sister ship S/V Sundance, homeward bound from beyond the bay, flying her most colorful sails and reporting sea breezes acoming.
Big sails grabbed wind as women and hulls leaned into it. Race on! Flags up and S/V Off Tempo crossed the starting line — minutes late. Off Tempo, a plucky 30-foot cruiser, not a racer, has sailed from Seattle to Mexico across the Pacific to French Polynesia, to New Zealand, to the Marshall Islands north to Dutch Harbor to Resurrection Bay where she plans to winter. With her weighty cruising stores still aboard, Off Tempo seemed a bit too low in the water to skim to victory. She finished fourth on points.
Said Skipper Terry Treibel, “My start was really poor, my second start was better. This was my first time in 15 years; it was kind of stressful. I needed to push myself. I was hesitant as a cruiser because there was no need to push myself [as a racer]. I needed to know if I could do it.”
S/V Ulu crossed the line next, hard upon Off Tempo’s transom. The WHSYC uses a racing handicap racing system that in theory equalizes sailing vessels of varying lengths, longer and faster vessels starting later to account for their greater speed. Off Tempo’s start loss made for Ulu’s start gain. At 36 feet, Ulu might have started over a minute behind Off Tempo. The cut of her crisp new mainsail looked too slack and overlarge to allow Ulu to do as well as she otherwise might have. Ulu twice faltered because she misjudged exactly how directly into the wind to steer. Ulu came in fifth.
Said skipper Vicki Lewis in her lovely London accent, “We had two good starts and I learned about fetching the mark [knowing at all times when sailing to windward whether one can hold course and still pass a designated point, the mark].”
Said Nona Wilson, muscular crewwoman aboard Ulu, “She [skipper Vicki Lewis] was awesome, she was decisive, she made her decisions.”
Lewis for a time owned the original sailing vessel Rum Doodle and raced her in 2011. While the obvious object of competing in the race includes winning the race, the spirit of the Rum Doodle race also includes women rightfully seizing the helm of their own boats, win, lose or tie.
Sailing vessels Radiance and Lindsay II tied for second, each besting the other in separate heats. Radiance, a 45-footer, has recently returned to Resurrection Bay after cruising the South Pacific and winning the biennial, from Victoria, British Columbia to Maui, Hawaii sailboat race in 2012. A Seward business, Sailing Inc., owns the 47-foot Lindsay II and makes her available for charter.
The two evenly matched vessels dueled on the windward legs with the Radiance showing superior ability to sail close into the wind. She twice bested Lindsay II in rounding the float that marked the farthest-to-windward part of the course. Lindsay II’s foresail lacked proper tautness. Once around the mark, both vessels gybed smartly and sailed grandly downwind. Radiance appeared heavy in the bow, which slowed her. Lindsay II’s longer waterline length and larger sail area gave her the advantage when sailing downwind. Had the race continued farther downwind, she might have shown her transom to the entire fleet.
Said Skipper Laurence Blakely of Radiance, “We’re still in cruising mode. We raised our waterline [sank lower into the water from increased weight aboard] four inches coming from New Zealand to here.”
Apropos of a vessel with two helms, Lindsay II had two skippers – Linda Kumin and Lona D’Entrone. The two experienced sailors gave high praise to the crew, less so for some of the gear on board.
After the race, WHSYC traditionally holds a fundraiser to benefit a Seward cause. This year the club will benefit the He Will Provide food pantry. The club collected three barrels-worth of food and raised over $1,100 with generous contributions from Linda Kumin and Cindy Chaput of Anchorage.
Additionally, Kate and Hamish Laird gave a slide show of their family’s globe-girdling voyages living aboard 56-foot S/V Seal with their two girls Anna and Helen, starting with the girls aged four and two. Anna and Helen have become very poised, home-schooled adolescents. Kate Laird plans to soon publish a book about home schooling.
When asked by someone in the audience “Where is home?” young Helen answered politely, “Home is Seal.”
The girls have sailed Arctic and Antarctic waters. If the spirit of the Rum Doodle race carries into the future, it surely will do so in the likes of Anna and Helen Laird. May they one day drink from the Rum Doodle Cup.
CORRECTION: The above article as originally published states that S/V Radiance twice beat S/V Lindsay II to the windward mark. In fact, Lindsay II got to the mark first, both times. The reporter regrets the error.