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Motor Overboard

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Annual Spud Cup "best ever"

By all reports the recently completed sixth annual “Spud Cup” Regatta, held over Labor Day weekend, was the best one ever. Of course, that could be considered a biased opinion since I had a small part in making it that way. This was my second Spud Cup and those of us in the Sandpoint Sailing Association like to think that we are capable of learning from the experience. To try and compare the races of 2003 to 2004 would be like trying to compare jellyfish to porpoise.

Last year we held a total of six races over the two days. This year we had a total of nine races in the two-day period. Last year’s first day of racing was mostly an exercise in frustration and futility. The winds were light to non-existent. What winds we did have were ‘clocking around’ all over the place. Much of the day was spent drifting along veeeeerrrrry slowly in an almost dead calm for what must have seemed like days to the crews of the boats.

This year the winds were much friendlier to sailors. On Saturday, a moderate wind from the west-southwest increased in strength towards mid-day but stayed pretty much from the same direction. There were 33 boats on the lake Saturday morning in four classes. A group of five Coronado 15s from Canada were the smallest craft to participate in this year’s regatta. They provided much of the drama and excitement during the first day. As the wind grew in strength these small, two-person crafts showed their speed and the skill of their crews. One of the ‘15s’ on the upwind leg toward the finish laid their sail in the water three times in the space of five minutes. The crew righted their boat quickly enough to finish in second place for that race.

I talked to the couple who raced that boat during the break for lunch. The first question they asked was, “When will the races restart?” When they were told they said, “Good, we’ve got time to go over to the motel, soak in the hot tub and get some dry clothes.” This couple was probably in their late sixties, and they were real sailors. Over the seven races that the Coronados competed, this couple, Johnny and Lyalla Lancaster of Cranbrook, B.C., finished second overall. Their competitive spirit made them a favorite on the committee barge and among the rest of the participants.

Another crowd and committee favorite was Al Rueter. Al sailed his J80 in all nine races over the two days to an overall second place finish in his fleet. What made Al noteworthy was that his crew consisted of just himself! He single-handedly managed his boat, shifted sail and flew his spinnaker. In this writer’s view, Al represents all the traits that made this regatta the success it was.

The races were not the only drama and excitement that occurred over the two days. There was much of what I call the “Zen Duck” going on. Simply stated the “Zen Duck” is a state where, on the surface, all is calm tranquility but underneath the surface, that duck is paddling like hell! As an example, as the committee barge was getting ready to set the start/finish line, its motor refused to start. The decision was quickly made to tow the barge into position and fiddle with the motor once the races were started. Thanks to Barb Perusse, who volunteered her boat to tow the barge, the races started close to schedule.

The race committee, officially, consisted of Terry Jensen, Mary Henriksen, Cyne Kram, Kate Henriksen and myself. We had additional help from Barb Perusse, Lynn Whitaker, Joel Whitaker and Angela Potts, who acted as an ad hoc cheering section for the all the finishers, regardless of how well or badly they performed. 

After the start of each race Joel, Terry and I tried to figure out what was wrong with the motor on the committee barge. Joel checked it out visually and could find no obvious fault with the motor. Terry Jensen made a quick run to shore to gather up some tools and additional time was spent checking out the motor. It was after lunch when Terry looked at the hose between the gas tank and the motor and noted it was on backward! What we had been doing every time we pumped the bulb was sucking the gas out of the motor, rather than giving it gas! The motor started easily once it had fuel, and no one on the boats noted our problems because the races all started quickly and professionally.

With five races completed on Saturday all participants adjourned to the canopy on the lawn near the Edgewater to swap stories, drink a few beers and partake of an excellent dinner provided by Peter Mico of Sandpoint’s Spud’s Rotisserie & Grill. The only other event that caused talk under the canopy was the loss and recovery of the motor off ‘Phoenix’. It seems that while ‘Phoenix’ and ‘O’Really’ were rounding the mark, ‘O’Really’ got a little too close to the stern of ‘Phoenix’ and clipped the motor, which then leapt into the lake right next to the buoy. The motor was retrieved by a scuba diver shortly after the last race.

After a superb breakfast, provided again by Peter Mico, Sunday promised to be warmer and with less wind than the day before. After the previous day’s fiasco with fuel lines the barge’s motor was checked before leaving the dock and we were headed out before the fleets. As we were jockeying into the position at the direction of Terry Jensen, I had my own Kodak moment. Terry wanted the barge to go a little bit more in the direction of the railroad trestle. I moved the tiller and increased the throttle some. At that moment, one arm of the motor mount shot straight up into air and the motor jumped off the transom and fell into the lake.

I grabbed the only thing in reach, the battery cables (thank God for electric start!) and yelled for someone to drop the anchor NOW! As I watched the motor do a slow 360-degree horizontal turn underwater—still running—I held on to the battery cables with a death grip and wondered if they would hold the 200 pound-plus motor or would I watch them part as the motor sank to the bottom. After what seemed to be several minutes, but was only a few seconds, the motor quit running and just hung there.

Terry Jensen and I were able to horse the motor back onto the barge and proceeded to set the Start/Finish line. The races continued as scheduled. We ran four more races on Sunday; all started smoothly, and only one boat even noticed that our motor was not on its mount. I’m not sure if that level of unawareness was due to the competitors’ focus on readying to race, the quickness of our actions, or the professionalism shown by the overall race committee.

At the end of the day Barb Perusse again came to the rescue of the race committee and began the tow back to the marina. When it became obvious that entering the marina might be more than Barb wanted to handle, Ray Henriksen came to our aid. He maneuvered that unwieldy barge like he had been doing it for years and brought it gently alongside the pier to the vocal appreciation of every spectator.

Oh yes, the overall winner of the regatta was Russ Jones on a San Juan 21. Russ, who won the San Juan Fleet, had the honor of winning the ‘Spud Cup’ by taking  every race in his class over the two days. The other winners were: Spinnaker Fleet ‘A’- “Papillion”, captained by Marc DeLavergne of Sandpoint; Spinnaker Fleet ‘B’ – “T2” (T squared), captained by Brian Tyrell of Richland, Wash; and Coronado 15 Fleet—Michael and Christel Riemann of Cranbrook, British Columbia. 

All in all it was a weekend that will likely be remembered as the best ‘Spud Cup’ ever. Every participant complimented the Sandpoint Racing Association for a truly memorable event. I’m sure those who came from Canada and Lake Chelan will tell their friends about the great regatta  they attended in Sandpoint. While there were winners in each class I don’t believe anyone who participated could say that there were any real losers in this great regatta held here in scenic, hospitable North Idaho. I know that I had a wonderful time—all things considered—and look forward to participating again next year.

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Author info

Gil  Beyer Gil Beyer A 21 year Navy veteran, lived in Bonner County for over 30 years, Past Commander of the Priest River DAV Chapter and admitted news junkie.

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outdoors, Spud Cup, sailing

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