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“Get Yer Kicks on Route 66”

“Get Yer Kicks on Route 66”

By Dave Ryan

When it comes to making the decision to participate in your class’ National Championship Regatta (or any out-of-town regatta, for that matter), what are the most critical elements to consider? Desirability of the destination? Prestige of the event itself? Talent level of the co-competitors? Travel expense and budget? Organizational and logistical capabilities of the hosting club? While all of these are valid considerations, I would argue that none of those parameters have any bearing ultimately on the value of one’s overall experience.
As I sit in the DFW airport waiting for my connecting flight back to San Diego, I’ve been reflecting on the recently-completed 2017 CR-914 NCR on October 21-22, hosted by the Greater Tulsa Model Yacht Club and billed as “Heeling in the Heartland”. For me, it represented a welcome return to “tornado alley” three years after Charles “IV” McNamara, Tulsa’s CR-914 “head honcho”, stepped up (on rather short notice) to fill the void left when a certain unmentioned club, that was scheduled to host that year’s NCR, flaked out at the last minute. That inaugural event for Tulsa was universally lauded as a resounding success by nearly all who made the trip from the far reaches of our country. Well, once again, our gracious mid-western hosts did not disappoint, overcoming challenging weather conditions and seamlessly running another great regatta.
Largely a thankless job, the small collection of RC sailing clubs around the country, that are part of the unofficial rotation volunteering to host the annual CR-914 NCR, have the vision and dedication, as well as a sense of responsibility in understanding the importance of preserving and promoting the health of the fleet on a national level via this annual event. While various hosting clubs have come and gone through the years, Annapolis, Marblehead, San Diego, and now Tulsa have become reliable destinations for the event year after year. And now to my point. It’s a given that every one of these host cities is unique in every aspect, from racing venue to style and local culture, but the one universal constant is the People. There’s nothing more valuable and eternally memorable than the rewarding camaraderie and friendships established, both new and old.2017CR914NCRPond
Marblehead has its awe-inspiring history and tradition. The Annapolis region is indisputably one of the top two or three yachting “Mecca’s” in the country, and San Diego, well, there’s a reason the Beach Boys wrote a song called “California Girls”. All kidding aside, the SoCal vibe and weather is special in its own right. So what’s Tulsa’s intrigue, you may ask? Well, at the risk of sounding like I’m working for their Chamber of Commerce, Tulsans are about the most affable and transparent folks you’ll ever meet. They make my fellow laid-back SoCal citizens appear tightly-wound. The city itself has a surprisingly eclectic vibe. With a rich, but declining history as a booming oil industrial hub, Tulsa has developed a growing arts culture and top restaurants that will impress even the most discerning “foodies”. And it’s not just Barbecue, although you can’t go wrong there either. Everywhere you look, the landscape is filled with scattered abandoned industrial reminders of the booming past adjacent to the latest hot-spot eatery. It’s like blue-collar meets hipster. With the city’s image in a constant state of evolution, one thing that stays constant is the eternal hospitality of the locals. And this “Tulsa style” comes through in the “flavor” of the regattas they host. It’s not about some over-the-top glitz and glam, trying to impress they’re out-of-town comrades. Rather, there’s a comfortable, seat-of-the-pants approach to things; a congeniality and flexibility that sets a relaxed tone for the whole event.
It seems part of the reason Tulsan’s appear to “ride loose in the saddle” may be the fact that living with potentially extreme weather conditions tends to facilitate a certain spontaneous approach to life, especially with regard to planned outdoor activities. This year’s NCR was a perfect example of that.
Saturday’s racing was scheduled to begin at 10:00 am, but got moved up to 8:00 am due to an approaching front of dangerous weather, with strong thunderstorms, hail and risk of a tornado later in the day. That’s right...a tornado. By the way, I learned first-hand about the first thing most Oklahomans do when they hear the tornado horns go off. Naturally, they run outside to see if they can spot it. Oh, really? That reaction seemed a bit odd to me, if not completely insane. It wasn’t until “IV”s surprising revelation that, despite being a native, he had never really seen a live tornado; only the destructive aftermath.
After a brief skippers meeting, where self-proclaimed rookie PRO, Mary “Skeeter” Chilton was introduced, the 15-boat fleet took to the water around 8:30. Now how can one not help but have a great time when a wonderful lady named “Skeeter” is in charge. As it turns out this terrific little venue, Carol Williams Pond, located just a few blocks from the iconic Route 66, is a flood-control reservoir with a rather checkered past. Apparently, some time ago a sunken vehicle was found in the pond with a decayed body inside, later identified as a long-time missing person. Is this where the term “body of water” originated? Probably not, but it makes for great historical lore.
A fresh breeze filled in quickly at around 6-8 knots and slowly began to build as the forecast had predicted. By race number 5 we were seeing gusts to 15+ kts, and by the start of race 7 there were so many boats nosing-in to full “pitch-poles” that the down-wind legs looked like a flock of feeding ducks, bobbing their heads under water, with only their tail-feathers sticking up. Race 8 turned out to be the final race of the day, as the wind was continuing to build from a steady 20-25 kts, with boats finding it hard to tack except in a rare, brief lull. So Saturday’s racing was postponed a little after 11:00 am, with Dave Ryan leading Dave Ramos by a slim margin in raw score, but with Ramos toting a couple of likely, future throw-outs. The blustery conditions made perfect college football-watching weather back at the hotel, and left plenty of time to “primp” for the delicious, Asian-fusion competitors’ dinner that evening. Returning from dinner to the hotel saw the first rain drops of the advancing front. With reports of several tornados sighted to the southwest, and the TV Doppler radar showing the imminent arrival of the front, I looked out my window to see the deluge of “side-ways” rain in buckets and wind likely in the 50-ish range. Then, as if a switch was thrown, the storm was gone in a little over 30 minutes.
Sunday’s forecast was for much tamer, yet fresh conditions, and once again the start time was moved up. However, this time it was to make up for lost racing on Saturday and to finish the regatta by 2:00 pm. As racing resumed around 9:00 am, the wind was already filling in at 6-8 kts, and the “Dave and Dave” battle resumed. Ramos got down to business, winning 5 of the first 6 races. Then Ryan strung together a series of bullets, as the breeze had freshened to around 10-12 kts. Meanwhile, local talent, Greg Gerondale, proved it was no fluke in winning the regatta’s first race by a sizable margin. Having already expended 3 of his 4 throw-outs, he was forced to pick up his game, and did just that. Greg notched mostly top-five finishes the rest of the way and vaulted past his streaky-fast brother, Grant, to secure 3rd place overall, after the 17th race of the day (fittingly won by regatta-organizer, “IV” McNamara) put a cap on this 25-race regatta. In the end, it was a “bookends of bullets” day for Dave Ramos, winning the last 5 of 6 races, just as he had started the day. For Dave Ryan, who has been in this situation innumerable times before, being out-lasted and out-blasted by his good buddy, Ramos, there was no shame in claiming a close 2nd. Incidentally, Ramos flew straight to Atlanta from Tulsa the next day to eventually beat 25 other skippers and secure the EC-12 National Championships as well. Maybe there should be a new verb coined to describe this phenomenon. “You’ve just been ‘Ramos-ed’.”
The top 3 skippers received clever and certainly fitting trophies; classic, giant, silver Western belt-buckles. Also, the sterling-silver scale-sized America’s Cup class NCR perpetual was once again awarded to Dave Ramos. Maybe I should try and save some money on the engraving cost and make plaques that just say “Ditto”. I’m only kidding, of course. Finally, thanks go out to “IV”, “Skeeter” and the gang for hosting and running a fantastic National Championship regatta; one that was definitely filled with plenty of “Heeling in the Heartland”, as well as “kicks on Route 66”.

 

 

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