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home : sports : sports September 15, 2014

8/27/2013 1:28:00 PM
Sisters sailors shine in 'Log Boom Race' at Detroit Lake
A record number of sailboats turned out for a regatta on Detroit Lake last weekend. photo by Beckie Zimmermann
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A record number of sailboats turned out for a regatta on Detroit Lake last weekend. photo by Beckie Zimmermann

Three sailors from Sisters had a successful outing on Detroit Lake on Saturday, August 24.

Longtime cruising-sailor Gary Miller; Beckie Zimmerman; and cruiser/racehound Pete Rathbun competed in the fifth annual Frayed Knot Yacht Club's end-of-summer "Log Boom Race" at Detroit Lake aboard Zimmerman and Miller's "White Rabbit," a Schock 23 sailboat.

The race was out-and-back, with the start/finish line just outside Kane's Marina at the northeast end of the lake and the rounding mark "about a boat-length" from the log boom at Detroit Dam - making the course a full 14 miles long.

The record-breaking official roster of 10 boats grew to 13 once underway, with a fairly even mix of old-timers and newcomers to racing the full length of this demanding lake, the faithful crew of White Rabbit being among the latter.

In an unusual - but very successful - departure to usual sailing tradition, tactical command was tag-teamed between Miller and Rathbun in a shifting rotation to capitalize best on the talents each brought to the team.

As the boats were gathering at the starting line it looked as if the race would be a drifter, with little to no wind, but a beautiful day nonetheless. The wind started to come up around 15 or 20 minutes after the start, however, and the fleet began to move. Much to the crew's surprise, and with Rathbun's gentle touch on the tiller during and after the start, they soon found themselves in a favorable position, with only one or two boats ahead of them in the fleet (they had started in fourth or fifth place).

For the next hour and a quarter or so, the fleet did it's best through the typical fluky - but ever-increasing - mountain winds of the northeast arm of the lake. As the wind started gathering intensity at the infamous "Triangle" section of the lake, Miller made an early decision to reef (reduce the area, or "down-shift") the mainsail, which proved to be a crucial decision during the rest of the upwind beat to the dam.

When White Rabbit turned the corner to head northwest to Detroit Dam, the "real" lake wind took over, blowing what seemed a gale from the northwest; straight on the nose between the boat and the rounding mark, a little over two miles away.

With the exception of the 10-time-race-winning machine "Full Tilt" - who even after starting with a self-imposed 15-minute handicap still beat the fleet by another 15 minutes - newcomer White Rabbit had gained and held the lead since sometime after the start. Several of the following boats were making up ground fast during the early part of the beat to the dam and the crew had some difficulty maintaining and then finally re-gaining the lead.

Once at the dam, White Rabbit made the turn to run home in the still-howling wind well ahead of the rest of the fleet, and enjoyed a comfortable lead (though not without some very exciting moments) throughout most of the remainder of the


After bruising and battering many of the boats in the Triangle area, back on the northeast arm of the lake the wind-gods went back to sleep, the flukiness settled in again, and White Rabbit's comfortable lead dwindled to only a nail-biting minute or so. In the end Zimmerman, Miller and Rathbun, although still way behind Full Tilt, scooted over the line under a late spinnaker set to be the second boat in by enough of a margin to assure an official third place overall on corrected time.

"Corrected time" refers to an internationally recognized handicapping system in which boats with different characteristics (waterline length being a major one) are given a rating in seconds per mile, with slower boats having a larger rating. The rating for a finishing boat is deducted from it finishing time to determine its corrected time. White Rabbit's handicap is 189, so if she finished a 14-mile race in 3 hours, 45 minutes, she'd have 44.1 minutes deducted from her total time, for a corrected time of 3 hours, 54 seconds. There were almost as many types of boats in the race as there were entrants, so the only way to ensure that the finishing places are determined by crew quality over boat design is to use the handicapping system.

All hands from the fleet gathered that evening for an award ceremony on the dock, and the crew of the White Rabbit came away knowing they'd put in a good day's sailing.

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