Written by Jay Harrell

Many people don’t realize it, but South Georgia has two sailing seasons each year – spring and fall.  Summer is too hot, not to mention that the wind doesn’t blow much and the motor boats are in the way.  The other thing that people don’t realize is that Spring Sailing Season starts in January.  Yep, as soon as the holidays are behind us, it’s time to hit the water.
So it was for the first Viper 640 Regatta of 2009 and the kick-off of the 2009 Viper 640 Southeastern Series, held January 10-11 at Oconee Sailing and Yacht Club on Lake Sinclair Georgia.  The weather forecast had been back and forth all week, but in the end Saturday arrived partly cloudy with temperatures in the upper sixtes and a nice front scheduled to push in some good sailing wind by afternoon.
Seven Vipers made the trip.  We kicked off a bit late on Saturday to give people time to drive down and set up boats, and by 11am, the small parking lot at OSYC was filled with Vipers and crew busily raising masts and rigging sails.

After a short delay to accommodate late arrivals (something about getting lost and making U-turns in the red clay), racing started at 1:30am.  Wind was moderate at about 8 with puffs to 15 and from the south, which is unusual for OSYC, and unfortunately the shortest direction on our lake, giving us a relatively short course for Vipers.  We ran two-laps around a windward-leeward course and put in four races of about 30 minutes each.  As the leading edge of the front arrived, the puffs increased, with some recorded near 20 while the gradient wind died back a bit at the same time.  To add drama, the puffs were right shifted as much as 30 or even 40 degrees.  Getting the most from these puffs became the key to staying in front.

The racing was tight and the mark roundings were close.  The winners figured out that the right side paid more often than the left, and after four races, Justin Chambers in #40 and Doug Kessler in #101 had pulled away from the pack to lead the day.

Back on shore, dinner was served shortly after sunset, with grilled chicken and sides provided by Chef Ken.  The hungry crowd devoured everything set in front of them, followed by extensive pontificating and story-telling all around.  The forecast rain even held off until everyone was safely back in their hotels.

Overnight temperatures remained moderate, only dropping to 50 degrees for the low, so were able to get a early start at 10am Sunday morning.  The predicted front came through overnight and left in it’s wake a NW wind blowing 10-12 with occasional puffs to 15.   This time we had room for as much course as we wanted and the RC set it up about twice as long as Saturday.  But with more wind, the Vipers ate it up and still finished two laps in under 40 minutes.  The course wind was challenging: the weather mark was set just down from an island with the wind was coming in from both sides and converging in the middle of the course.  Clearly the middle was bad, but left or right was tough to tell.  Most of the fleet went left.  Gary went right, found a lift near the shore and smoked us all.  And again in the second race – another bullet for Gary.  For the final race, the wind picked up a bit, giving top speeds around 12 knots downwind and wrapping up the weekend with the typical Viper grins back on shore.

We wrapped it up around 1pm and had everyone on the road home by early afternoon.  All around a big success.

Full results are posted here.   DestinationOneDesign also ran a feature article on the regatta.


More photos posted at http://phield.shutterfly.com/27