Thistle Midwinters East Report: Beware the Flag Zulu

It took four tries to start Race 4, and even then, nearly one third of the Thistle fleet received starting penalties.


J H Peterson

Everyone has their own way of dealing with disappointment. And with nearly one third of the 69-boat fleet receiving OCS and Z-flag penalties, there was plenty of disappointment to go around after Race 4 of 2007 Thistle Midwinters East in St. Petersburg, Florida.Several factors contributed to this mass slaughter on the starting line-dying breeze, current pushing to windward, aggressive competitors, three general recalls. On shore after the race, the offenders mulled around the official bulletin board, some lamenting their penalties, some denying culpability, some forming new arguments for instituting a throwout race at Midwinters.After discovering that his top 10 finish was actually a 70/OCS, Eric Goethert did his best to downplay his disappointment. But it's hard to put a positive spin on dropping from fourth to 18th place. "It is what it is," said Goethert, "What are you going to do?"Paul Abdullah, on the other hand, didn't share Goethert's resignation. Abdullah successfully lobbied for a scoring change after receiving a Z-flag penalty, and remains in third place because of it.Sailing in his 50th consecutive Midwinters, Elmer Richards has confronted OCS disappointment before. Today's penalty couldn't phase him. "The way I see it," said Richards, who capitalized on his head start to round the first mark in first place, "If you get caught cheating, you deserve what's coming to you." Richards laughed off his fellow competitors' consolations, reasoning, "Why is everybody patting me on the back? I'm the one who cheated." Richards' middle crew, his son Peter, wasn't so serene. "All that work for a 70?" he said, "Geez!"Not everyone fell to starting penalties, of course. Greg Fisher slipped away unscathed and remains in first place after finishing seventh. Steve Lavender proved that yesterday's bullet was no fluke, posting a 2 and moving into the top 10. Robbie Brown won today's race and is quietly putting together an excellent series. He sits in second place.As for 1055, the Z-flag came down squarely on our big heads, giving us 25 points on the day and dropping us to ninth place. How do we deal with disappointment? Who's calling it disappointment? We're thrilled to be top 10.