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The PDRacer World Championship at Allatoona Lake 2009: One Racer’s Perspective

 

For me, the 2009 PDRacer World Championship Race at Allatoona Lake, Georgia, was one of those rare Big Moments in life. About one month before, I had attended the 50th Reunion of my high school graduating class in Wabash, Indiana. That reunion was the high point for the year until I pulled in to Site 9 at Victoria Campground to prepare for the PDR Worlds. What a memorable weekend!

Campsite #9 at Victoria Lake. Later, we had to move the tents to

the gravel pad and the CRV to the blacktop to satisfy park rules.

 

The Z-PDR emerges from the workshop late in September ‘09

Late in the spring, I had started building a new boat to try to entice my son into racing with me at Allatoona. I knew this PDRacer had to be special to pull him away for a weekend from his wife and one-year old daughter, and the Z-PDR, I think, lived up to those expectations. He also knew how important this event was for me, and I think that played a part in his decision to fly up to Atlanta on Friday evening so that he could participate in the events on Saturday and Sunday at nearby Allatoona Lake, a 16,000 acre reservoir north of the city.

 

Our time on the water prior to the Worlds was limited to two brief outings for Ryan aboard the Z-PDR. I thought I would have time to work the bugs out of my boat Wild Duck on the Friday before the race, so I ignored her entirely. We briefly tested the Z with its 58 sq. ft. windsurfing-type sail about ten days prior to the Worlds. A second trial three days before departure was a small disaster. I placed the snotter for the slightly larger 65 sq. ft. leg o’ mutton sail too high on the mast, and the sail became uncontrollable in strong winds. The result was a broken boom and a hole in the bottom that needed repair on the day before I was to pack up and drive to Allatoona Lake. A 100 sq. ft. lug sail and an 85 sq. ft. leg o’ mutton for the Z-PDR that were intended to be used in the race were never tested although I took the masts, booms, rigging and leeboards for each of these setups with me to Allatoona.

Ryan test sails the Z on the Intercoastal Waterway. A second test with a different sail was a small disaster.

 

Loading and carrying two uniquely shaped PDRs on Ryan’s Harbor Freight trailer proved more of a challenge than expected. Consequently, I left Port St. Lucie for the 650-mile drive to Allatoona some four hours later than I hoped. Worries about the trailer’s tires and bearings as well as the security of the boats’ tie downs also plagued me as I stopped intermittently to check the load on the back of the CRV. By the time I arrived and finally located the campground, it was 2:30 a.m. and the gate was locked. I spent the next few hours sleeping fitfully in the passenger seat of the packed car in a small parking area just down the road from the gate.

 

Although I was tired, my spirits improved as I drove through the gates just after they opened at 7:00 a.m. Friday morning. I missed my campsite on the first pass through but noticed two red OZ boats sitting on the ground just outside two large square tents near the apex of the campground loop. I was a little apprehensive when I didn’t see any other PDRs on this first trip through the grounds. Finally, locating my assigned spot, I began setting up camp.

 

Visitors began arriving immediately. Our camping neighbors were Ken and Jean, I learned, enjoying an end-of season vacation in a large RV. Jackie Monies, who wandered up from the vicinity of the red OZ boats, was the next to arrive and introduce herself. I knew Jackie already from interactions with the group and from surveys and emails we exchanged. Mike, her husband, was a customer, so I recognized his name as well. Jackie wasted no time in clarifying that she and her daughter Michelle, the Little General, expected to feed every ducker, every meal, and then promptly escorted me down to their campsite for a hearty bacon, egg, and biscuit breakfast. I was overwhelmed by their generosity. Meanwhile, Mike and his son-in-law Brandon were desperately trying to construct two OZ sails from the two racing PDR/PolySail Kits he had ordered from me a few weeks before.

 

The Monies prepare a gourmet spread while 2009 PDR Champion-To-Be Shawn Payment prepares to get stuffed.

Others continued to arrive as the day wore on. Dale, a Georgia preacher with a PhD, stopped by to express interest in the PDRs and leave me a tract he had written. David Chamness, a local ducker who had just learned about the race and lived only five miles away, stopped by to talk, and I encouraged him to try to finish his PDR and participate. He showed his scoutmaster determination in finishing his boat and getting it to the race on Saturday even though he arrived too late to be competitive. As the day began to evaporate, many others began to arrive, and when I left for the airport at about 5:45 p.m., I counted five PDRs waiting in line to get checked in at the gate, including the Giles brothers Bill and Kenny whom I knew from a couple of Midwest Messabouts at Lake Rend, Illinois.

 

Ryan’s Friday evening flight was delayed, so we arrived back at the campgrounds about 10:30 p.m. to find the gates locked once again. However, since I had already pitched our tents with our sleeping bags inside, we were able to park the vehicle outside and walk into the campgrounds just as rain began to fall. I was elated that Ryan was in camp and immediately fell asleep. Ryan, on the other hand, didn’t fare so well. He reported sleeping only intermittently, kept awake by his old man’s snores in the next tent and by apprehensions about the race the next day.

 

Saturday arrived too soon, overcast and punctuated by periods of drizzle and showers. After another deliciously filling Monies’ breakfast of butter pancakes and syrup, we trailered our boats over to a launch point that Shawn Payment and Paul Helbert had scoped out on a point of land across from the beach. Because of earlier flooding, many of the potential launch sites had been closed, including the park ramp; so while it wasn’t ideal because of the many submerged rocks and small trees, the site was large enough to support multiple launchings and had the added benefit of a day-use parking lot for participants and spectators. After unloading the boats and doing some preliminary rigging, we took a few minutes to meet the Sea Scouts who were assisting with the event.

 

Race competitors gather at the point to rig for the race.

 

Soon, other boats began filtering into the parking area as the luminaries began to arrive. Shorty Routh, the man who established the PDR class and basic rules, was piloting Bill Giles’ hull #2. John Wright, a two-time Texas 200 finisher, rigged his under 70 lb. PDR with an oval sail plan of his own invention. Michael Storer, the Australian who holds the PDR speed record and designed the popular OZ PDR, provided pre-race advice and planned to sail hull #23. Tim Cleary, who along with Bill Giles organized the 2009 Worlds, prepared his much-sailed Mary E. Meanwhile, Ryan and I rigged the Z-PDR and Wild Duck alongside Kenny Giles who had set the American PDR speed record at the Midwest Messabout in winds that quickly chased me and most other boats off Rend Lake. Nearby, Marc Blazer prepared the threatening-looking pirate PDR “Bloody Splinter.” Closer to the tip of the point, Paul Helbert, Shawn Payment, Mike Monies and son-in-law Brandon were busily readying their OZ boats. Except for Brandon, I knew all these duckers by reputation, forum posts, and email exchange, but this was the first time I had met most of them in the flesh. I felt more than a little intimidated with at least 10 other ducks and some experienced sailors and boat builders in our midst.

 

At about 9:00 the South Winds Sailing Club began setting the marks and taking their stations. Soon thereafter, the captains gathered for final instructions, a look at the assembled trophies, and some final banter before launching their boats. The start was to come on a long blast of the horn at precisely 9:35. Twelve PDRs started the first race with a thirteenth that arrived late joining the flock later.

 

Ryan and Dave pose for the Sea Scout photographer before the big races.

Contestants look over the trophies for the winners. All PDR participants win trophies.

Competitors get final instructions from race officials from the South Winds Sailing Club–Don’t

hit another boat was the mantra! Was I there?

 

Under sail for the first time in nearly two years, the biplane-rigged Wild Duck felt solid and fast on a broad reach out from behind the point—until I tried to turn back to the starting line, that is. She stalled and flatly refused to turn!  I backed her through irons and got her moving fast on a port tack toward the line, but now I was worried. Her former leeboard was now on the Z, and I had mounted the new, larger leeboard more forward in the hopes of gaining better handling from Wild Duck’s twin leg o’ muttons. I had also replaced #143’s warped long, narrow rudder blade with a shorter, fatter blade that had once graced my very first boat, a Bolger Cartopper. With my muffed turn placing me well back of the line, I found myself a good 50 yards back of the pack when the horn sounded the start. With the speed and momentum I was carrying to the line, though, I felt I would soon catch the leaders. However, as I tried to turn at the start buoy, Wild Duck again went dead in the water and refused to turn through the wind to a new starboard tack. Eventually, I wrestled her out of irons, and once again, I felt myself flying upwind on a close reach. Suddenly, I heard and felt a sickening crunch. I peered beneath the foot of my sails to find Tim Cleary’s Mary E. impaled on the port corner of my boat creating a two-inch square hole near the gunwale of Tim’s boat. My boat appeared to be undamaged, and, after apologizing to Tim, I dutifully did my two 360 degree turns and sailed on, now well behind the pack who were already around the upwind buoy and headed toward me.

 

I continued to experience serious problems in turning through and around the buoys at the start and at the upwind mark throughout the remaining races. These moments in irons would often be followed by great bursts of speed as the 104 sq. ft. of sail filled on runs and reaches. Ryan, on the other hand, seemed to maintain or improve his start position in both of the first two-lap races. He was third in the first race, and fourth in the second. I cost him a better finish by asking him to launch me from a difficult anchorage at the beginning of race three. I was far back from the point, and by the time he reached and launched the Z-PDR up near the tip of the point, the starting horn had already sounded. Since the third race was only one lap, he was unable to recover and catch the leaders in the final race. I felt very guilty about costing him a potentially higher finishing position than his fourth place finish.

 

Wild Duck reaching on the second leg. The Z-PDR is in the background chasing Bloody Splinter

Rounding the mark for leg 2

Wild Duck wing on wing on a run

Ryan pulls up on the leaders in Race 2

The Z-PDR shows her speed and scoots downwind ahead of several other boats.

Coming ashore at the point was not always easy.

All photos in this section courtesy of Ruth Leber of the South Winds Sailing Club

 

Netzer and Idit Kolan, the son and daughter-in-law of Gil Kolan, a ducker from Israel captured and posted video of the race on You Tube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xps9c25LqE  Acting upon Gil’s suggestion, Netzer and Idit drove up from Atlanta to meet some of the duckers and enjoy the race. We were very impressed by this young couple and enjoyed meeting them. More still pictures from the South Winds Sailing Club are posted here: http://sailswsc.org/php/photo_gallery/file_album.php?folder=2009_PuddleDuckRace&gallery=2009%20Puddle%20Duck%20Race&descr=World%20Championship%20PDRace%20on%20Lake%20Allatoona,%20GA

While I was disappointed with my own tenth-place performance, I was pleased with Ryan’s success. A fourth place finish after only about eight outings on sailboats in the past 15 years must be admired. Later, on the long trip back South Florida, he told me how much he enjoyed the weekend. That was all I needed to hear.

 

Below are the race by race results along with the final results according to race organizer, Tim Cleary.

Race 1 (2 Laps)

Top Five Finishers

Race 2 (2 Laps)

Top Five Finishers

Race 3 (1 Lap)

Top Five Finishers

Final results of the 09 World Championship for the 13 PD Racers that were in the race:

1.        Shawn Payment

2.        Paul Helbert

3.        Ryan Gray

4.        Marc Blazer

5.        Mike Monies.

1.        Kenny Giles

2.        Marc Blazer

3.        Michael Storer

4.        Ryan Gray

5.        Shawn Payment.

1.        Shawn Payment

2.        Shorty Routh

3.        Michael Storer

4.        Ken Giles

5.        Marc Blazer.

1st Place-Shawn Payment in hull #301 "Yowza"
2nd Place-Marc Blazer in hull #173 "Bloody Splinter"
Tie for 3rd Place in alphabetical order:
3rd Place-Kenny Giles in hull #213 "Uke n Sail"
3rd Place-Michael Storer in hull #23 un-named
4th Place-Ryan Gray in hull #351 "Z-PDR"
5th Place-Shorty Routh in hull #2 "Ugly Duckling"
6th Place-Paul Helbert in hull #283 "Kwik Kwak"
7th Place-Mike Monies in hull #341 "Born on the 4th of July"
8th Place-Tim Cleary in hull #59 "Mary E"
9th Place-John H. Wright in un-registered hull un-named
10th Place-Dave Gray in hull #143 "Wild Duck"
11th Place-Brandon in hull #342 "The Little General"
DNF-David Chamness in hull #336 "Whack Whack"

 

 

 

After making a change to the leeboard’s position, I regained some measure of self-respect with a first in the afternoon Poker Run. With the stalls on the turns gone, Wild Duck was again fast and maneuverable, and by augmenting her speed in tight places with oars, my 20’ trailing line and plastic float were only crossed once by other pirates while I was able to collect several cards from others, including one from Ryan. Crossing the trailing line was akin to boarding another vessel in the Pirate Race. Each time a pirate ship “boarded” another ship, the pirate could collect one card as bootie. Eventually I collected at least a dozen cards, and that was enough to produce four queens for the winning hand.

 

After a long day of sailing, we pulled our camp chairs from the back of the CRV and settled in to await the South Winds Sailing Club’s potluck and rehash the races with Shawn Payment and others. As the club members wandered in with their contributions, our trailer became the serving table for another great meal. I filled a plate to the brim with brats and homemade sauerkraut, German potato salad, rye bread and homemade butter. Later, I feasted on an apple strudel dessert that was incredible. One beer on top of that meal and I was about to slide out of my chair and nap on the concrete. I was done for the day, but I can’t say enough about the club’s enthusiasm and support for our PDR activities. They had every detail covered, and their kindness and generosity were beyond measure. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the contributions of some of those club members. First was Gary Holcomb who is the adult leader of Ship 100. He very willingly took over both the race clinic and running the Worlds race with the help of some great sea scouts. Ruth Leber, in her pontoon boat, ferried people around to get those videos and took most of the photos that appear on the SWSC website. Andy Kohler coordinated the food and meeting on Saturday night where we ended up have 15 members of our sailing club in attendance. He also kept an eagle eye on the weather mark from his homebuilt dingy. Finally, Scot Widmier coordinated the 2009 Worlds for the club with duckers Tim Cleary and Bill Giles to help make the event a success.

Potluck on the trailer. Other tables held desserts and beer.

Photo courtesy of a South Winds Sailing Club member.

 

We wondered if anyone would show up for the Small Jury Rigged Sail Race on Sunday morning. By the 9:00 a.m. scheduled starting time, Ryan and I were the only ones at the point except for the South Wind support group. Gradually, however, duckers began wandering in and we cajoled them into forming teams for the event. John Wright and Tim Cleary teamed up, as did Mike Monies and Brandon. Then, Shawn Payment and Shorty Routh combined for the fourth team. By 10:00 a.m., we had assembled four teams and collected about $70 for support of Shorty’s PDR website. Teams had 20 minutes to assemble and rig their sails from kits that consisted only of a 7’ x 10’ tarp, 20 zip ties, and 150’ of 2” wide 3-M vinyl tape. At the end of the 20 minutes, each team had to launch, ready or not. Each team then had to sail out around a buoy and return to shore. When all teams had made landfall, teams switched captains and crew, and again headed for the buoy and back to shore.

 

The “race” was hampered by a lack of wind that failed to fill the three sprit-type sails and one Bermuda-type sail. Even though the buoy was moved shoreward by about half the original placement, the first place team of Shorty and Shawn took nearly 30 minutes to finish. Race officials reported that there was some skullduggery involved, but the other participants were so busy sculling themselves that they failed to notice. A slight breeze on the second leg and a great deal more bending of the rules allowed the second race to go much faster. A huge water fight erupted just before the finish between John and Tim’s boat, Shawn and Shorty’s boat, and a kid in an inflatable kayak. (I learned later that the kid was David Chamness’ son Michael.) Ultimately, the race was decided when Shorty “fell” overboard between his opponents’ boat and the shoreline, and was able to prevent Tim and John from landing first. While Shawn and Shorty could have been disqualified for not landing as a team, the judges determined that there was so much cheating involved, it was impossible to determine who did not cheat, so the order of finish stood. Winners were Shawn and Shorty, followed by Tim and John, Dave and Ryan, and John and Brandon who were probably the most cheat-free team. For prizes, PolySail International awarded the winners two small sails consisting of a 34 sq. ft. lug, and a 28 sq. ft. leg o’ mutton.

Small Jury Rigged Sails Race gets underway

Shawn Payment and Shorty Routh received small PolySails for winning

Race participants from left: Ryan Gray, Dave Gray, Brandon, Mike Monies, The Kid (Michael Chamness), Shorty Routh, Shawn Payment, Tim Cleary, and John Wright

All photos in this section courtesy Scott Widmier and Shawn Payment

 

What a weekend! For camaraderie, food, excitement, and PDR racing, Allatoona 2009 will live in my memory for all my remaining days as the Big Kahuna of Big Moments

 

 

PolySail International

2291 SE Gaslight St., Port St. Lucie, FL 34952-7332

 Email polysail@polysail.com or call Dave Gray at 317 385-3444

PolySails–Sold on the Web since 1996. Customers in all 50 states and around the globe.

 

This page updated on 10/19/2009

 

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