Even the best of us have our moments

Published on November 16th, 2020

Regatta results come and go, but lasting memories occur from the experiences along the way. Here’s a story from Frank Davenport:

Back in the early 1970s, when I was about 14 or 15 years old, my Dad recruited me and my best friend, Randy Wegener, to crew for him on his C scow at the Inland Lake Yachting Association’s (“ILYA”) Championship regatta that year to be held on Green Lake Wisconsin.

In the scow family of boats, the C scows are kind of the blue collar working man’s boat. It is a 20-foot, open cockpit, cat rig, flat bottom boat with about 2-feet of deck and 1-foot of freeboard, and, by scow standards, Green Lake was a pretty big body of water. Back then, it was common to have anywhere from 85 to 100 C scows on the starting line for the Championship.

The reason I highlight these facts is because my Dad was going to sail the regatta with a broken ankle. He had one of those old walking casts on his foot up to his knee with the little rubber nub on the bottom for walking, and he had it all wrapped in plastic. He wasn’t a particularly good swimmer to start with and was now going to race with what was essentially a 20 pound weight affixed to his ankle with next to no maneuverability.

It was going to be interesting, to say the least, especially when it came to him getting across the boat while tacking and jibing in breeze. And of course we had breeze, a lot of it.

In one particular race with big breeze we were plaining downwind and came screaming into the leeward mark as inside boat on starboard. There was another boat flying on a plane into the mark as well but on the outside and on port. We hailed for room to jibe and round, but the other boat just kept coming at us on a full plane apparently out of control.

There would be no crash jibe for us given my Dad’s limitations, so the other boat rode up over our bow and wedged itself in between our mast and forestay. We were now stuck together just screaming downwind in big breeze, wing and wing, us on starboard and him on port.

I scampered forward and tried to push his bow out from between our mast and forestay, but every time I got them off and clear and let go to get back in the cockpit, they would just ride right back up on our deck. I tried maybe three times to do this and every time the same result.

We had sailed way beyond the leeward mark by now and we were starting to run out of water as the lee shore was fast approaching. It seemed rather hopeless, so finally my Dad hollered to the other boat that he was going to jibe away and that they should watch out for our boom as it was going to sweep their deck and possibly take out their backstay in the process.

We all braced and then went into the jibe, and somehow we were able to complete the job and steer clear of the other boat without anyone getting hurt or sustaining any further damage.

As we sailed away I looked up at the sail number of the other boat to see who it was I-1. Turns out it was one of the hotshots at that time from Melges Boat Works, Bruce Moore. Even the best of us have our moments!

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