With a huge sigh of relief, the race committees on both circles at the 2004 Texas NOOD managed to get one race in the bank in a breeze that couldn’t seem to make up its mind. During the attempted second race, the wind changed direction 180 degrees and dropped down to nothing, leaving Galveston Bay looking like a perfect spot for waterskiing.
“We went to the right places at the right time,” said Dick Baxter, of Houston, skipper of Crusader, which placed first in the Ensign class. “We lit cigarettes to tell us where the wind was.” Baxter sails with son, Richard. “It was important to keep our heads out of the boat today,” he said. “You needed to keep the concentration level up,’ said foredeck crew Mike Gorocco. “It was easy to drift off.”
Having a tougher day was the crew of Scarab 2, a Schock 35 owned by Todd Crowell and his son, Alex, who have recently moved the boat down to Houston from Dallas. Scarab 2 took a fourth place in Race 1, in conditions that they know the boat performs well in. “It’s been an adjustment from sailing in Dallas,” said Crowell. “It takes some time to get used to the conditions.” The Scarab crewdressed to the nines in matching polo shirts at the regatta party later that daywere particularly disappointed at the abandonment of Race 2, which they were leading when it was blown off.
Shiraz, a Melges 24, is leading their 6-boat class. “Our key today was our strategy of keeping the boat in the breeze,” said owner/helmsman Michael Sher, of Denver, Co. “We stayed out of the holes; we found a few, but fewer than the other guys; it’s always better to be lucky than good.”
Terry Flynn, of Houston, who’s leading the 10-boat J/22 class, echoed Sher’s sentiments. “The wind was up and down,” said Flynn. “We just kept the boat aimed in the right direction. You also need to know that as quickly as the lead can disappear, it can come back. You’ve got to stay focused.”
Perhaps the best zero-to-hero story of Day 2 belonged to the crew of Roxanne, a 1D35 owned by Douglas Haas, of Dickison, TX. “It had started raining heavily before our start,” said Haas, “and we’d taken the sails before the squall hit.” Somehow, after the squall passed by, the crew of Roxanne missed their warning gun. By the time they figured out their class flag was up, they were in sequence. “We scrambled to get the sails up, and as we got near the committee boat I was worried about whether or not we might be barging. I had two boats close by, so we tried to head up and stall for a minute. Then the rudder stalled.” Unfortunately for Haas, the committee boat was close by. “I knew we were going to hit, so I tried to make it a glancing blow. We took out some of their rubrail, and when I spun the bow away, the stern hit hard enough to pop it open. We had a four-foot-long crack and started taking on about a gallon of water a minute. While one guy bailed, the rest of us used duct tape and a pair of vise grips to hold the boat together and stop the flooding.”
Once the crew of Roxanne had the damage under control and figured out they could keep sailing, they went to work on the rest of their class from behind. “We thought we’d start by hunting down the fastest boat in the class, the J/44 [Kenai]. We tried to engage them at every opportunity and finally passed him on the last upwind leg of the six-leg race.” Roxanne ended up winning the race and is looking forward to the final day of racing, where Haas is hoping for “two races and two bullets.”
The final day of the 2004 Texas NOOD is Sunday, and the race committee, the entire fleet, and this correspondent are all hoping for at least two races.