Cruising into 50 Years

Cruisin’ Down the River
October 2004

By- Diane Goebes

The National’s Cruising Fleet went on its maiden journey for the 50th Anniversary. This new addition to National’s Weekend proved to be a success. The idea of having a vintage boat contest never quite left the dock (maybe next time). However, the Cruising Fleet had a great time sailing a long point-to-point course around West River. While we had a “start” and a “finish” the emphasis was on taking your Albacore for a fun sail on a beautify Saturday afternoon. This event was a great way to include people who didn’t want to, or couldn’t, spend three days racing, but who wanted to participate in Nationals in another way.

This concept appealed to me, since I want to do more racing with my husband Bob, but wanted to break him into it gradually, maybe even imperceptibly. Jousting with over 40 competitors on the line didn’t seem like the best place to start. So we decided to join other cruising teams, comprised of Wilda Heiss and Dustin Hays, Jay and Carol Sanders, and Charlie Loutrel skippering Giget, with John Duncan crewing. (This was the oldest Albacore at the regatta, being number 267, a boat Charlie owned some thirty years ago and that came from the Hyannis Port fleet.)

Race committee was Peter Jones from West River, assisted on the water by Matt Edwards and Larry Jensen. Larry also brought along his dog, Lexie, just in case we might need some canine assistance. Peter described a course around the channel markers, handed out charts of the area, and we were off.

Actually, not quite…About 15 minutes before the gun, Arnold Cohen arrived with a borrowed Albacore, filled with several seasons’ worth of leaves. The boat didn’t exactly look ready to launch, but the men teamed together and had it cleaned, rigged, and in the water within the half hour. Crew was shanghaied from the dock.

The boats lined up for the gun, in light winds. Charlie looked as if he was replaying the final race at the 1968 Albacore Nationals in Annapolis in which, leading the regatta, he inadvertently went to the wrong windward mark. Seizing on the opportunity presented to her, Wilda took an early lead, rounding the first and second marks well ahead of the pack. I was in second by the first mark, followed by Jay, with Charlie and John in the rear. Arnold Cohen had had some last-minute problem and dropped out as precipitously as he arrived.

Following the "cruising" course proved challenging. It was hard to read the markers from a distance, but Matt led us in the committee boat. With the winds picking up as we beat further out toward the mouth of the river, Charlie and John proved that the last shall be first. They rounded the next mark ahead of the Sanders and us, and eventually they passed Wilda and Dustin as well. We dropped to last, with the Sanders in third place.

Picking up a shift, I moved ahead of skippers Jay and Wilda by the fourth mark. Charlie continued to lead the field. Meanwhile, Jay was having difficulties keeping his rudder in place, and dropped back. The long reach to the fifth mark separated the fleet further. As we approached the sixth mark, Charlie was well in the lead, followed by myself. At the finish, the order over the line was Charlie, Diane, Wilda, and Jay.

All of us were rewarded for our efforts with bottles of local wine at the crab feast and party later that evening. The cruising proved a fun, relaxed way to participate in Nationals. Bob and I had a great time. I hope it will become a regular feature. Thanks to the planning committee for coming up with the Cruising Fleet idea. Thanks also to our race committee Peter Jones, Matt Edwards, and Larry Jensen with his pup for their assistance.

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