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Seattle NOOD 2014 Viper Last Bites

Wed, 21st May 2014
By S. Orsini

Seattle NOOD 2014 Viper Last Bites

Doug Stumberger’s Viper 640 Whack a Mole is well named because just when you think you have him under control, he pops up right in front of you then sails away to weather as if he had a smooth tunnel of water already dug by the Mole.  On Kaa, named after the fast python in Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book, we knew we had our work cut out for us.  

Friday, the wind for the 2014 Seattle NOOD was a steady 10-12 knots.   This was our breeze and we had adopted the newer tuning for our Viper from Ullman sails just the week before the Regatta.  Not the changes you want to make before a major competition but we followed the recommendations.  What we learned was that Kaa was deadly fast in this 10-12 knot range with the base at Loose 30 on the upper shrouds.  We were pointing higher and sailing quicker than Whack a Mole (WAM).  

Wise Asp, Viper hull number 147, recently acquired by Dan Holden was sporting a new set of Ullman sails.  With the black hew of the Ullman’s against the red-hulled Asp, topped off with a purple kite, she was the finest piece of eye candy amongst the 115 boats that registered for the two and a half day event.   

With the breeze up and steady, Kaa’s upwind speed combined with quick sets and planing down wind, topping 13 knots in one gust,  Kaa  racked up three bullets and one second on the day.  

At the start of the second race, however, Rafe Beswick’s blue hulled Dragonfly was over early.  He knew it and quickly circled back, dipping the line and restarting on starboard.  Meanwhile, Asp had gotten a good start ahead of WAM who was forced to tack away onto port.  Asp covered and Holden was looking aft at WAM not having witnessed the restart by Dragonfly.  From Kaa we saw the classic port/startboard collision course developing but thought surely the crew on Dragonfly would make a row, but they did not until it was very late in the game.  Finally, we heard someone yell “tack!”  Asp in a desperate attempt to avoid contact turned down, but a Viper accelerates like no other monohull in this mode.  The resulting crash was loud and sickening.  Asp’s very strong bow(there was not even a scratch after the collision) caught Dragonfly under the gunnel on the port side and put a foot and a half long tear in her vulnerable underbody.  We did not see this at the time, but our worst fears were confirmed when Dragonfly called for a chase boat to tow her in as she was taking on water.

We went on to race two more with WAM winning number four, but on that same fateful second race, Asp’s spin halyard parted and she had to go wing and wing downwind.  (Doesn’t rain but it pours!!) To Dan’s credit, he kept racing but WAM and Kaa hove too and agreed it was time to notify the race committee that we were all headed in to tend to our two wounded comrades.  

While I went off to buy a new halyard for Asp, my partner Garrett Johns, headed over to check with Rafe.  One look at the long gash confirmed this was not a quick fix situation.  As soon as Asp limped in, Dan shot off to apologize to Rafe.  Both were very cool about the collision and the Viper class comradeship won the day. 

The next two days of the Regatta were light.  We had shipped on Dave Reed, Editor of Sailing World as our bow crew for these remaining days.   I was fist shaking angry with the weather gods for robbing us of nice downwind Viper rides for Reed, but he is a good dinghy sailor and handles the light as well as the heavy.   

Although Kaa shifted gears backing off shrouds, we should have shifted from fourth to second but only shifted the rig into third.  Both Asp and WAM were quick up wind in this light stuff.  Kaa won the first race by staying in along the shore and sorting out a massive shift.  Despite this success, amnesia hit in the second race and we gave up the lead to WAM on the last beat to the finish line.  Things went from bad to rotten in the third race.  We did not follow our own advice of hitting the beach and paid a terrible price when a hole developed off Meadow Point in this last race of the day.  We were just happy to finish before the 30 minute time limit elapsed between us and WAM with Asp in between.   Now we were in front of WAM by just one point after day two of the Regatta.  

Sunday dawned with the same light overcast, quickly burning away to sunshine with the sky pocked with lazy white cumulous clouds that signal a stable air mass.  The breeze looked good at the start but faded dramatically.  We were now ready for the light but Asp, in growing confidence, had a good start and was off like a greyhound after the mechanical hare.  We were content to stay ahead of WAM, covering her to get a second but we would have had a terrible time catching Asp who pulled down a well earned first and had the big grins all around to show it.  In the final race of the day, WAM tacked shy of the port layline to the weather mark, but dialed in a magic lift which carried her perfectly around the windward mark while we ghosted in from an over stood position.  On the last leg to the downwind finish, we gybed away from the leading WAM but she chose not to cover.  We found a finger of wind and passed her 50 yards from the finish to pull off our final win of the Regatta.  

Looking back several of these races could have gone either way.  With close racing all around, the Vipers had a good time despite the adversity.  Dave Reed seemed pleased too calling us his “Viper friends” during the awards presentations.  Plus we developed a new rule of thumb for sailing in the light stuff at this venue. 

    When in trouble 
    When in doubt
    In Seattle- don’t go out! 

This article was posted on Wed, 21st May 2014