The Flying Scot is not the sexiest sailboat on the pond.
It's no Bugatti Chiron –– not even one made of Legos.
It doesn't foil. It doesn't require crash helmets. It doesn't use more than a skosh of carbon fiber.
Still, the boat is perfect for us right now.
The Scuppernong is a two-person affair, it's relatively cheap (some of our sailing friends in other types of boat pay more for one sail than we have for boat, trailer, and a tank of gas for the Winnebago!). And most importantly for people who like to compete: it has a strong, competitive fleet of sailors.
Between the Florida District series, the North American Championships, and the other events we try not to miss like the Midwinters and Wife-Husbands, we end up racing the Scot around 25 days each year. Weather permitting of course.
We got our first Flying Scot (The Mighty Majestic, #4925) in 2007, Eleven years later makes it 275 days of racing –– plus maybe an additional 50 days of practice sailing, where we gather together with some friends and we all try to go faster and polish our boat-handling skills.
That's over a calendar YEAR's worth of sailing in a bit over a decade.
That's a lot of jibes. That's a ton of tacks, a megaton of mid-line starts, zillions of billowing acres of spinnaker going up and down again, and enough cranks on that tiny winch to lift a cinderblock to the moon. Muscle memory.
Like the Butterbean, the new Flying Scot boat is named for an obscure edible. In this case it's a kind of muscadine grape that can be found in the Carolinas, the Scuppernong.
Scuppernongs taste like beefed-up Concord grapes. The skin is leathery and tannic, and it's riddled with seeds, but the meat is fragrant.
My favorite skipper claims that they are inedible, but I think he's wrong on this one.
A quick perusal of the interwebs shows a LOT of scuppernong-related music. I cannot recommend any of it.
On an earlier draft, I linked some YouTube Scuppernong highlights: experimental plonk-plonk music, an chaotic atonal jazz composition, an odd spoken-word performance, some only-for-serious-fans-of-high-and-lonesome bluegrass.
These were videos with maybe a couple of dozens of views and no comments after years of waiting in the ether. Linking to them was akin to finding something in the fridge and offering to your buddy, saying, "Here, sniff this, it's awful!"
Okay, okay, he doesn't have a beard or a red suit or a nose like a cherry, but the twinkle and the red sleigh full of toys for good girls and boys? He's got that!
Thank you Harry Carpenter of Flying Scot Inc. for delivering Flying Scot #6133, The Scuppernong.
*the Flying Scot is a 60-year-old sloop design by Gordon K "Sandy" Douglass.
I know, I know, she who would tell so execrable a pun is just as like to pick a pocket.
My favorite skipper has been telling me for –– oh –– decades about Cedar Point. Located on the western end of Lake Erie near the town of Sandusky, this amusement park is the Roller Coaster Capital of the World (and home of the Demon Drop). It's also a nice spot for a sailing championship.
He gleefully talks about going to Sandusky for a Hobie Nationals many moons ago (How many moons? Picture acid-washed bluejeans and possibly a Members Only jacket) and when it got really windy at that regatta, he and his crew just betook themselves off the beach and into the amusement park. Where they have the world-famous Demon Drop.
So when we got to the Sandusky Sailing Club, I was not surprised to see the amusement park on the horizon. Our Air BnB sold itself partly on its proximity to the park.
But frankly, I didn't credit Mr. Linton's suggestion that if it was too windy for our Flying Scot, we'd just park the boat and go ride the rollercoasters. Not to mention the Demon Drop!
Seriously, we'd been driving for three solid days of rain, listened to five books on CD, and by gum we were in town to sail.
Sailboat racing, for those who don't know, is a sport that seems to skate along a narrow bit of path, weatherwise: too little wind and the boats won't move. Too much and it's actively hazardous. And the various sailing craft have differing performance ranges. Race an Etchells in 20 knots, and it's a lively ride, while on the same day, a Flying Scot will be a squirrelly handful, at least in my experience.
We skipped the practice day, as the conditions were "fresh to frightening," our sails were fresh-from-the-box spanking new, and we were pretty practiced up thanks to our comrades in the Florida District. High winds actually closed rides at Cedar Point; we betook ourselves to the Merry-Go-Round Museum.
The museum was fun, but time will march. Or possibly time will drop like a demon.
In any case, the Flying Scot North American Championship qualifying series started on a Monday in some freshy-freshy breeze. The race committee reminded us that it was an hour or so sail out to the racecourse.
In the hard waves native to the really Great Lakes we have known.
Thanks to some Flying Scot hero friends (Hi Ben! Hi Deb! Congratulate Deb on her book Alexandra the Great. Better yet, buy a copy of it), we sailed the qualifying races with a borrowed older jib.
First time ever we chose to go downwind in a race WITHOUT putting up our spinnaker. Bill Draheim would have been proud! (Long story, college chums, first Scot regatta, Tampa Bay in super-agitate cycle, and Jeff remarking about eschewing a kite: "Are you smoking crack?")
Happily, most of the fleet stayed upright and the race committee took pity on –– I mean sent us to shore after two races.
The weather is often the star of the show at these sailing events: Lawsy day, but the wind was swirly! Oooh, the waves were square and capricious! My word, but those zephyrs were nigh-on invisible! Green water –– just pouring over the bow!
The 2017 Flying Scot NACs were no different: the aprés sail talk was about finding/reading/surviving the wind. And not a little bit of smack-talk between teams: the heavier teams rooting for more breeze, us lightweights hoping for a little less. In Sandusky, the wind progressively grew less strong on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The race committee gave us two races in the more open Sandusky Bay Tuesday, and then two in the more protected East Bay on Wednesday.
Team Linton had a most excellent regatta. We prevailed over a field of tough competitors who also happen to be lovely people. We got to visit with old friends. We spent time talking with new friends. We made plans of when we might get back together.
Not to sound, you know, disingenuous and all, but we had plenty of good luck, and we didn't make too many dreadful mistakes. Indeed, we did make mistakes, and discouraging words were heard from time to time, but Mr. Linton is a Never-Say-Die kind of guy.
Trophy presentation photos thanks to Jennifer Ikeda.
Within four or six blocks from our driveway, one of us strikes up the song. We don't make a long performance of it, just a quick, twangy couplet. Off pitch, most likely, but in tune:
"We're on the road again/dee-doodle-deedle doh-dee-dee-dee."
It's kind of nice cap on the list-making, packing-and-stowing, what-else-are-we-going-to-need phase of a road-trip. It marks the start of a long book-on-CD (this time, Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris), the continuing dispute with the GPS, and the best the snactitian can manage.
You know how in The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins has the occasional, intense longing to be home, with the kettle just beginning to boil? He goes on the adventure, but he suffers with homesickness.
I don't think I've felt that for years. I get home, unpack, and start climbing that Matterhorn of dirty laundry. I turn the hot-water heater back on, pay the bills, make sure the cars start and the refrigerator hasn't keeled over...but I'd be just as happy to bounce right back out the door and have the next adventure already.
So far, we've visited some buddies, actually stopped for barbecue lunch (!), and visited the delightful Craighead Caverns in Sweetwater, Tennessee for a Lost Sea Adventure.
Before winding our way home again this time, we hope to sail the Flying Scot NACs regatta, do a bit of roller coasting at Cedar Point (billed as the Roller Coaster Capital of the World), and wrangle some farm chores...
After brainstorming a playlist for the Flying Scot Wife-Husband Championship regatta party –– Bon Jovi! The Carpenters! Sir Mix-a-Lot! Weezer! Pure Prairie League! –– well, I am not done with it, but the internal jukebox is pleading for a break.
Thanks to the civilizing influence of National Public Radio, here's the music that I am listening to now:
As far as spectator sports go, sailboat racing is a bust. Unless it's blowing a gale or there are hydrofoils involved, the boats move so slooooooowly. And the actual event ––! When does it start? When does it end? Everything's indirect: the boats don't even go straight from A to B.
Onboard, it's a whole different story. Even on the nicest of days, improbable things happen* –– usually quite rapidly.
*This makes reasonable scientific sense: it's a law of physics that things tend to become more random.
For improbable example, a remora attached itself to our boat. My skipper and I were racing on Sarasota Bay, in our rotund Flying Scot*.
Going downwind, I usually nip back to the stern and give the rudder a quick wipe, in case we are trailing seaweed or we've picked up some other slow debris. Sliding my hand along the slab of metal in the water, I really was not expecting to feel a live, swimming, wiggling fish. A remora.
*(Full Disclosure: all Flying Scots are rotund)
Though I grabbed the fish –– knowing it would be the Best Sailing Story EVER if I could land the nightmarish creature with my bare hands –– it wiggled free and re-attached its creepy suction-cup head to the boat.
I took another swipe at it, and then another: eight seconds of piscatorial rodeo.
Whether because of the yanking on its slippery hind-parts or by virtue of my powerfully girlish shrieking, the fish came loose and swam away after while...one hopes it found a more peaceable commensal partner.
I expected that the ruckus might have caught the attention of my favorite skipper. Surely he'd glanced back to see if I had fallen overboard or lost a limb or something, even if he couldn't fully participate in the battle. But when I scrambled to my usual spot, he replied with a simple, "Huh," after I told him what had transpired.
A fish that can suction its bony head-plate onto boats (or sharks or humans) in roughly the manner of a party-goer applying an Solo cup to her chin? Okay. But it finds our boat? During the selected 25 minutes of that race when we were going downwind?
The universe may tend toward randomness, but maybe there's a far shore of random that looks like order, or perhaps intention. Or not.
Today is the final day of the 2015 Flying Scot North Americans here in Bay Waveland, Mississippi (a state, by the way, that I invariably spell to the tune I learned in third grade. Thank you, Mr. Spering. And, farther away from the road, which the locals pronounce: Ms. Zippy).
Results will appear here.
My favorite skipper steered us to victory over some excellent racing friends this past week at the Flying Scot Midwinters in Sarasota, Florida.
And while I can blather on about our charming little boat, what we do to get ready, or how we maintain a level of physical fitness, or what tactics gave us the tiny edge we needed, really, my heart's not in that story right now.
It's just another sailboat regatta...but not really.
It's never just another one. Each event is oddly* distinct even though we boil the sport down to a few clichés every time, like:
1. It is what it is. This useful phrase helps reconcile any philosophically challenging moments as we wait for the competition to get underway or recommence.
2. Everybody needs a little good luck. It's simple and true: every win in sailing requires an amount of good fortune. Sometimes all the stars have to form a bee-line (technically known as a "syzygy," which is a brilliant Scrabble word, by the way) before you can get the top spot, while only a minuscule scrap of bad luck can destroy months of hard work and preparation.
3. We aren't saving lives/doing brain surgery/making money out here, so we might as well have a beer while we are at it. (Q.E.D.)
There are more. Sports simply must generate clichés because of the repetitive repetitive nature of the games. But these three highlights are sufficient unto the day.
*Truly odd: decades' worth of regattas at the same location for some of these things and not once has the weather, our performance, AND the competition re-aligned to give the same experience. Not to mention the wildly fluctuating levels of good luck...
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