2014 Choo Choo Regatta, Privateer YC, Chatanooga, TN
Choo Choo Regatta by Rob Fowler, FS 5152, Fleet 13
The annual Choo Choo Regatta was held at Privateer Yacht Club in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on April 26th and 27th. As usual, we had a great turnout of scots from our sister Dixie Lakes fleets, and from our “adopted” members from Clinton Lake in Illinois. Privateer’s Fleet 13 was proud to host the first regatta in its “almost finished” brand-new clubhouse. The new facility, which replaced an aging structure built in 1953, should be finished in late June and will provide sailors with expanded and modern bathrooms, showers, bar and dining area.
April in the Tennessee Valley can bring a variety of conditions. We’ve had a few years where it turned cool and windy, with gusts and huge shifts coming off the western shore of Lake Chickamauga. We’ve also had more moderate conditions, and even a drifter or two over the years. It’s rare when you get it all at one time, but that’s exactly what happened. Saturday’s racing started with an extremely light breeze from the west, forcing PRO Steve Sherman to set up a short windward – leeward course across the main channel, with the weather mark located under the Western shore. As the starting flag dropped, so did the wind velocity, and the fleet found itself drifting slowly down river. Tom Clark and crew Dave Bergevin sailing “That Green Boat”, and Ben Williams with crew Deb Aronson in “Sophie” found themselves on the correct side of the course when the wind finally filled back in. Both crews finished well ahead of the rest of the fleet. By race two the wind had shifted to the South…the predicted direction! The breeze was still very shifty, and it caused the fleet to split with one group going far left, and the other group going hard right. One minute it looked like the right hand side was going to pay off, then minutes later, the left was the place to be. The lead changed several times before Ed Craig and his brother Tom lead the way across the finish line, followed by Dixie Lakes District Governor Sandy Eustis in “Phantom”, Rob Fowler sailing “Flying Circus” and Tom Clark coming in fourth.
The third and fourth races were more of the same. Radical shifts and changes in wind velocity made everyone work hard, and keep their eyes trained upwind. In the fourth race, Ben and Deb had a commanding lead going into the last upwind leg. Willson Jenkins and crew Bonnie were close behind them, with both crews headed towards stronger breeze on the left side of the course. Half way up the leg though, the wind reversed itself again, shifting hard to the right, and leaving the leaders on a great circle route to the finish. The lucky few who had been out of phase on the right were suddenly lottery winners! At the end of four races, Ed and Tom Craig were well ahead in the standings, finishing first in the last three races. An incredible job considering the conditions! When asked at the party later that evening, how he managed to be so consistent, Ed related to the crowd that he was simply lucky to be in the right place at the right time. The rest of us wondered if the forty years of sailing on “Lake Shiftamauga” had anything to do with his success!
Sunday morning, the District Governor handed out the “Sailor’s Communion” of Mimosas, a tradition started by past District Governor and founder of the Dixie Lakes District, Charlie Fowler. Charlie passed away last year, but the spirit of fellowship, and love of the Flying Scot community has been kept alive by the sailors of our district. After toasts were made, and a few bagels were eaten, we all waited to see what Mother Nature had in store. The forecast was for southerly winds at eight knots, but no one was putting a lot of faith in forecasts after Saturday’s weather. The fleet waited patiently for a couple of hours, watching the bass boats zip along over a mirror finish Lake Chickamauga. Finally, after a couple of hours of waiting patiently, the PRO called off racing for the day. In the end, Ed and Tom Craig were the winners of the event, followed by Rob Fowler and Scott Cline, Sandy and Keith Eustis, Ben Williams and Deb Aronson and in fifth place, Tom Clark with crew David Bergevin. Next year’s event will be held in the new clubhouse, and will also be the first regatta of 2015 for Privateer Yacht Club, which will be the club’s 75th anniversary. We would love to see crews from our neighboring districts and elsewhere, come and help us celebrate!