Sports

The sailing season has ended, all the yacht clubs on the bay have been decommissioned, many of the boats are safely stored on land, and winter is just around the corner. Tis the season for .... The Moosehead Luncheon. For those who are unfamiliar with this annual celebration, it is a gathering of all Long Island Sound Race Committees at the end of the season to acknowledge the mistakes made over the season. Actually, it is a time to roast the Race Committees for egregious errors, and the result is side-splitting funny; though this last statement might be challenged by a few committees - especially if they are in current year's group of winners. Without naming clubs that have been singled out for this (dubious) honor, following are some examples of what the Moosehead Committee gathered this past season. Following the lead of many distinguished papers in reporting full disclosure, yours truly is a member of the Moosehead Committee that works hard to expose the errant ways of various Race Committees on the north and south side of the Sound. All the information gathered is factual - we couldn't begin to make this stuff up!

The Moosehead 2nd Class (excerpts): "The black sky to the west appeared to confirm the forecast of severe thunderstorms with squalls gusting above 35 knots. But does that bother this granddaddy of yacht clubs? No way. The Game is Afoot! So the RC launches from the dock into the pre-storm, but doesn't tell any of the racers where it is going. Radios were invented after this club was founded, so why use them? Semaphores were good enough for our grand daddies, the ones still paying the bills, so why give these whippersnapper racers a clue where the starting line and course would be except by flag signals. Well, the forecast was optimistic. The thunderstorms struck with fury blocking all visibility, scattering the racers, and obscuring any view of the race committee and it precious visual signals. Where would the race be held, and where is the RC? And would this crusty group of traditionalists answer a radio call? No way. The Code of Silence prevails. Finally the storm passes, and the racers, apparently using the Braille method, find the starting area. The Race Committee begins to make sound signals and hoist flags. But a halyard breaks and the flags go over the side and into the water. Now, what matters, the flags in the water or the sound signals? And what about the course? No announcement, of course. Only flags...but they sank! When is the warning? What is the course? Only your trust fund manager knows, and he left for Bermuda on an airplane a couple of weeks ago. So for torturing a fleet of experienced racers with silence, and invisible - eventually sunken- signals, the Moosehead 2nd class is awarded to ...."

The Boot-In-The-Butt Award: "We all know that nothing is more fickle than summer breezes on Long Island Sound. That's why experienced race committees create courses with lots of turning marks so that the course can be shortened when the wind departs. This venerable club is very well aware of the conditions on the Sound, and that's why for its big annual race the course included a number of turning marks for just such an occasion. So, with a pleasant breeze the fleet is launched on its circuit of marks and the PRO, well...he had his eye on something other than the anemometer. He ups anchor and departs for the harbor to watch his son, and easy-on-the-eyes crew, racing a perfectly restored classic one-design in the vicinity of the scheduled finish line for the big regatta. As you might imagine, the wind died. The racers made the first mark in a dying breeze and looked hungrily toward the next mark hoping, upon hope, to see an "S" flag (for shortened course) at the ready. No such luck. They drift around that mark, and cursing the absent RC, point futilely at the next while going backward in the current. NO RC and "S" flag to be seen. Meanwhile, in the harbor, the PRO is an anchor at the published finish line enjoying the view of his progeny's new boat (and the easy-on-the-eyes crew) while the racers in the big event manufacture unsavory definitions for the letters P. R and O. For leaving the racers to suffer a slow death out on the Sound while enjoying the view in the harbor, the Boot-In-The Butt is hereby awarded to....."

Lest readers begin to think unsavory thoughts about the Moosehead Luncheon, let it be known that there are two "nice" trophies awarded each year. The Committee Trophy this year was awarded to American and Larchmont YC for hosting the National Championship for Disabled Sailors. Because of the complications in sponsoring a regatta like this, the two clubs planned for a full year. Boats were adapted to for sailors with limited mobility, and facilities and docks need to be wheelchair accessible. And tons of volunteers were found to plan, to modify boats, to help sailors in and out of boats, to act as ballast and to operate safety boats. One committee member actually travelled to Chicago to see what other clubs have done to prepare for the regatta. The organizing committee was so successful in raising funds that all meals were gratis for the entire four day event and the surplus of $6,000 was donated to US SAILING, earmarked for the development of disabled sailing. Kudos to American and Larchmont YC.

The other "nice" trophy, the Donald B. King, is awarded for individual excellence. This year's award went to Charles R. "Butch" Ulmer from Larchmont YC and Storm Trysail Club. Butch has served on race committees of two yacht clubs and served as Commodore of one of them. He has run national championships, Block Island Race Week circles, the NOOD, is an ardent promoter of the sport, and is one of the all time great Principal Race Officers. This year's award is for his involvement in the Intercollegiate Regatta, which is a big boat regatta for college sailors, to give these them a chance to race in a boat other than their usual dinghies. The regatta has grown to 300 sailors on 36 borrowed boats sailing in five divisions. As PRO, Butch ganged out 5 races in light and variable conditions, changing the windward mark for each of the windward legs sailed, shortening courses in a timely fashion, at both ends of the course, all to acclamation of the sailors and owners of the borrowed boats. Congratulations to a most deserved recipient.

Now that the season is over, one would think the Moosehead Committee would relax until next year. With frostbiting just beginning, the Committee is on the look-out for some more material in which to award another animal part. So beware......


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