the 2017 Clark Lake Fall Regatta
Clark Lake YC * Sept. 23-24
Regatta Report by Uncle Al
updated: 29 September 2017 at 2131 hrs - work more or less complete
 Forecast for little wind cuts into Clark Lake Fall Regatta attendance

Our lovely if windless venue: the Clark Lake YC near Jackson, Michigan

(170929)  Despite forecasts of unseasonably hot, sunny weather, that little line that promised gusts up to 4 knots on Saturday, and a whopping maximum of 7 knots on Sunday, appears to have discouraged many sailors from taking part in the annual Clark Lake Fall Regatta, The Tim Dowling Memorial, hosted Sept. 23-24 by the Clark Lake YC in southern Michigan. By the time the usual fine lunch (below) had been served, the registration desk had been underwhelmed to the tune of eight Wayfarers, Rebels and Sunfish five each plus one each of Interlakes and Buccaneers. But the lunch was lovely, as always.

The RC used Code Flag #4 (a.k.a. the Denmark flag) since the AP (Answering Pennant = Postponement) was nowhere to be found.

Unfortunately, the forecast - that there would be no wind until mid-afternoon was quite accurate and after a postponement of just over an hour, a nice little breeze filled in, and by 2:30 PM we were out racing. Of note was the fact that Tom Marriott, the lone Interlake, was invited to sail the Club Rebel that had belonged to the late and much-loved Woody Woodruff who sailed it into his 90's with the M*A*S*H sail number 4077. Tom and crew, Nat, accepted and presto! the Rebel fleet was up to six boats!

Two races later we - and the wind - were done, in plenty of time for the fine, catered supper at the club. The racing had been exciting, not to say nerve-wracking. Rebel standings showed 4 of the 6 boats within two points at the top, while Marc Bennett and Sue Pilling (below) were tied for the lead in Wayfarers (eight boats). Of the five registered Sunfish, only three actually raced, and the top two had been pretty dominant.

Sue Pilling and Marc Bennett (W10861) duel it out in Sunday's first race.

Sunday brought more warm sun and the promised slightly stronger wind (above) and our fine RC wasted no time in getting us going - good thing, too, because by not much after noon, the wind was dying down as we completed the day's second race. So the RC wisely called it a weekend with four races - all to count - completed. Small fleet, speedy haul-out, relaxed lunch, awards and a drive home in perfect weather. What could be nicer! Thanks, Clark Lake Yacht Club and members, for putting yourselves out for us and giving us what is invariably one the best events we get each year! Of course, I personally, cannot vouch for Fall Regattas before 1988 ....

What happened in each Class:

Surprise winner in closely fought Rebel series!

In a very well matched Rebel fleet, the Interlake interlopers, Tom Marriott and Nat Hill (above), won the finale and the series when an amazing numbers of stars aligned just right for them. After finishing 3rd in each of the first three races - not bad in a small but strong fleet that included last year's defending champion from the Fall Regatta plus two past Rebel National Champions - and were lying series 4th going into the finale. Turns out Tom and Nat won that race but needed miracles to come out on top. For starters, they needed Steve Cummings and daughter, Lyndsie, the defending champions to finish the finale 5th of 6 or worse. What were the chances of that??!! Actually those chances got better when veteran Rebel racer Bruce Nowak was given a turn at the helm by his relatively novice skipper. Sure enough, Bruce threw a proverbial cat among the pigeons by placing 2nd in his turn at steering. To make a long story short, many times National champ, Dave Nickels finished the finale 3rd ahead of his nephew, Tim Nickels while Steve got the 5th that the Marriott miracle needed. So there it was: Tom Marriott with Nat Hill got the Gold with 10 points while three boats ended up one point back at 11 points. Dusting off dear old Appendix A and its tie-breaker provisions, Steve and Lyndsie took Silver (most firsts) beating out Tim Nickels and brother, Brad, who in turn knocked off their illustrious uncle, Dave Nickels (best race = 1st vs. best race = 2nd). Boosted by Bruce Nowak's fine 2nd in the finale, Jay Topping, moved up and left the basement to past Nationals champion, Kevin Nickels and his daughter, Brianna. Small fleet but deadly.

No surprises in Sunfish

Sunfish veteran, Gail Turluck, was on the Sunfish DL (disabled list) but registered and attended the regatta anyway in a display of spirit that smacks of Uncle Al. Gail pointed out that the results here were in line with the expected pecking order: Mark Kastell winning all four races, in each case ahead of Jim Richter who did, as I recall, give Mark a pretty good run for his money in at least some of the races. Relaxing in 3rd place in each of the races was Richard O'Boyle.

Superb Shannon Donkin crew work lifts Uncle Al to third straight miracle finish

SHADES/Glory Days ghosts along the north shore of Clark Lake.  (Gail Turluck photo)

(170928)  Two weeks ago it was the US Nationals at Tawas, Michigan, where Uncle Al and Frank Goulay came back from a seemingly insurmountable deficit. They came back to win races 4 and 5 and created a three-way tie at the top, and then completed the Cinderella story with one more win in the final show-down race. Then, in last week's Pumpkin Regatta at London's Fanshawe YC, things again came down to the final race, winner take all, Al and crew, Dave McCreedy, hoping to pass Leo and Joanne Van Kampen after trailing all series long. As had happened in the previous four races, Al fell far behind early, only to make an improbable recovery to win that race and the series. Al and Dave sailed extremely well but horseshoes were a significant factor - as indeed they were during Al's early demises.

This week, at Clark Lake, it was a slightly different story. After losing a heart-breaker to both Marc Bennett and Sue Pilling on the final beat of the second of two drifters sailed on the Saturday, things looked hopeless for Team SHADES with a forecast of more light winds that would continue to make life tougher for the heavier Uncle Al. The race 2 result had left both Teams Bennett and Pilling with 1-2 scores in this no-drop series while Al sat at 3-3. And with no one from the rest of the fleet showing realistic signs of beating the top three W's in any race, there seemed to be very little hope for Team SHADES aka Glory Days. They would have to win the remaining two races on Sunday and hope that Marc and Sue each scored a 2-3. In that case, there would be a three-way tie at the top, and Shannon and Al with two firsts would win the tie-breaker.

A fairy land of conjecture. Yet that is what happened. And not just two firsts but mini-horizon-jobs! For the second week in a row, I felt a bit guilty, this time when Marc and Julie who were running 2nd until the final beat of the last race and were therefore in line to grab their second straight Clark Lake Wayfarer win until the lightning-fast Team Pilling passed them near the finish and left the standings in a three-way tie for Gold.  With the aforementioned tie-breaker that left us in the following order:
1. Uncle Al and Shannon (most firsts)
2. Sue Pilling/Steph Romaniuk (who beat Marc and Julie in the last race in which both sailed)
3. Marc Bennett and Julie Seraphinoff

Series 4th went to Joe DeBrincat of Walled Lake, MI who introduced Larry Lewis of the host club to Wayfarers. The two smokers held on to edge out fellow Michiganders, Ian Pouliot and Jake Wolny of Mt. Clemens by a single point. In fact boats 4 through 8 in our fleet were very evenly matched as each of them finished as high as 5th in a race at least once.

Two helms who had sailed the US Nationals as a team at Tawas Bay earlier in the month, ended tied for 6th: A fine 4th in the finale gave the team of Dave Wilpula and his Alpena crew, Gabbie Smith, the nod for 6th ahead of Dave McCreedy and crews, Vitaly Gonchard (Sat.) and Jorge Vivas (Sun.)

By placing series 6th, Dave and Gabbie became one of the evnt's three Most Improved teams, each of whom beat their seed by one place.) The others were Uncle Al with Shannon (2nd seed) and Sue and Steph (3rd seed). Unfortunately, no one got the traditional Most Improved caps for helm and crew, since fiscal belt tightening by the CWA, resulted in the CWA paying for such prizes only at Canadian venues. Sorry, Dave and Gabbie!

A further victory for young Gabbie was the fact that she beat her Dad, Erik, and his crew, young Ted Johnson, a promising Junior sailor out of Alpena. The two teams, daughter and father, were in fact tied going into the final race where Erik and Ted placed an unfortunate 8th of 8.

Congratulations to all eight teams as we all flew the spinnaker in each race (I think) - often in very challending conditions. We generally looked very capable out there and were a credit to the Wayfarer's image!