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On The Bay: November 9, 2011

Once summer sailing draws to a close and those so inclined are getting their boats ready for the frostbiting season, the season isn’t really over – not quite yet! Every year about this time, a band (a.k.a., committee of about eight) gather together over drinks to plan the current year’s Moosehead Awards. For those who are scratching their heads and asking, what in the world… well, it is quite simple. Race Committees, from up and down Long Island Sound, from every yacht club from New York City to out east on both the north and south side of the Sound, have spent the entire summer, not sailing - like their friends - but out on the water, setting courses and taking times and finishes, to provide a good experience and race results for all participating skippers and crew. They are the true volunteers of the sport, and think giving back to the sailing community is a good and noble thing to do. And what do they get for all the time they spend out on the water, in rain, or really high wind, or hot, sticky no-wind, humid days, or on days trying to reset courses for what seems like forever because of shifting winds? A chance to be roasted every year by the above-mentioned group, who finds fault with them and has no problem explaining to the other race committees attending the luncheon exactly what went wrong in some regatta or event the previous summer. Of course, there is probably some poetic license taken in the reports, but trust me, the results are absolutely hilarious. As we say every year, “You just can’t make this stuff up.” No truer words….

By all accounts, this year was a banner year for the committee, as RC messed up big time a lot, and the friends that ratted on them came out of the woodwork. Take for example, a very prestigious club on the north shore of Long Island. They had such a great year that they were awarded three mooseheads, and not just the puny ones. They got the Golden Mike Award (use your imagination here), the Moosehead 2nd Class and the Moosehead Supreme. And this is hard to believe…it was all for the same event. Ouch! Never in the history of the Mooseheads has one club gotten a trifecta. One can only imagine the kind of day it was for that Race Committee and how they had to slink by the bar in total humiliation to reach their cars. No socializing after that regatta.

You may wonder what club had the misfortune of making history this year, but readers; the club will not be identified publicly. They have suffered enough, and the attendees last Sunday had a heyday with them already. But we can shed light on some the egregious mistakes, starting with the Moosehead Supreme. “All of us, when trying to set a starting line on the Sound, have struggled to find an area free of lobster pots. The rules don’t require it, but the best committees try hard to facilitate a clean start line. After all, there are so many other ways they can screw up, why give it away at the start! But the pro of this highly regarded club used a revolutionary method to set a pot-free starting line…the infamous 9-9-9-9 plan: 9 seconds to run over the pot, 9 seconds to wrap it tightly around the shaft, 9 seconds to assure that the signal boat was firmly anchored, and 9 more seconds to guarantee that racers have one less pot to avoid! Alas, the best laid plans often call for Sea Tow! Once free the RC was eventually able to start the second race after a record number of postponement and general recalls.”

The citation continues, “Now afraid to run the engine (on the RC boat) the batteries faded and, consequently, so did radio transmissions. Nothing but silence as to when the second race would start, or where, or if! At long last, they did manage to start a race…What time did it start, you ask? We … have… no… idea.” One would think that would be enough problems for the day, but no, more troubles lay ahead. “The weather was so crummy, and the RC delayed the second race so long, that all the spectators had gone home! Not to worry! These are hardy one-design sailors here at their national championships for their classic one-designs that have no motors, and no lights. After drifting all day while the RC checked lobster traps, these racers had more than enough energy to paddle to shore – in total darkness – with no hope of a tow!” Enough? Not yet. “There is just one more escapade to this event. Seems that a great job was done in presenting first place trophies, and, of course, one for the overall winner, but completely forgotten was the table full of prizes for second through fifth! ‘OMG, get them back in here!’ they cried. Alas, more than half of the competitors had already been stopped for speeding on their way home. For exhausting all the usual RC atrocities and inventing a few more, the 2011 Moosehead Supreme is hereby awarded to….” Like I said, you just can’t make this stuff up.

Another award that went to a Long Island yacht club: Called the Stern Sheets award, it read in part like this, “What sparrow does not, from time to time, think of himself as an eagle? Who has not, on occasion on their way home from work, fancied himself a Formula One driver? Beware of these impulses, for, as we shall see, our abilities often fail to match our aspirations. Pickle dishes are nice, but if you really want to motivate sailors, dangle a bottle of rum in front of them. Unfortunately, the host club in this case decided that if a bottle was good, a case would be fantastic! This shameless ploy to build participation in an otherwise unremarkable event was so well received that it attracted participants who had no business being on the start line. In fact, turnout was so strong that the organizers decided to split the fleet, and include a cruising division, bereft of the benefits of carbon fiber, Kevlar, or knowledge of the racing rules.”

The start of the race is only minutes away….” The line is set between the pin and the borrowed signal boat, a sturdy trawler type name Le Grand Fromage. As the time to the start ticked away, the skipper of a cruising yacht spies another Brother of the Bimini attempting to pass between him and the committee boat. Blinded by the thought of 12 bottles of amber ecstasy, he simultaneously starts screaming and putting his helm down, closing the door on the hapless, heavy, and ineptly named Jumping Jack Flash. Now a victim of this abject lesson in starting technique, the crew of Jack wound up rafted bow to stern with the signal boat, while in the process removing, in a manner similar to the Stockholm meeting the Andrea Doria, about 200 pounds of fiberglass, teak, and stainless steel tubing. In this committee’s efforts to memorialize the incident, we suggest the trawler’s name be changed to Le Grand Damage. For ensuring that no power craft owner in Suffolk County will ever again lend their boat for race committee duty, and for ruining the summer for two boat owners in one fell swoop, the 2011 Stern Sheet is hereby awarded to the crew of ……

If readers are wondering, there were no big mooseheads awarded to yacht clubs on our bay, but one of our clubs did receive honorable mention, but didn’t show up to receive it.