This past weekend 7 Vipers traveled to Huntington Lake for the 57th High Sierra Regatta. After 6-hours on the road and no AC, Team Viral arrived around 12:30 Thursday evening. The drive through the San Joaquin valley smelled strangely similar to Texas and it was just as hot there too. Tim Carter, Bryan Milne, and myself set up camp at the Dear Creek campgrounds and then walked down to the lake to see the stars. It was such a beautiful sight. I can’t remember the last time I could see the Milky Way.
Leaving Thursday evening and having all day Friday to set the boat and practice was key. We made several runs up and down the lake to get a feel for the wind, and decided that the south side of the lake would be the most favored. Huntington Lake is 7,000 feet high, which makes it a perfect mixture of cold water and warm air during the summer. There was a lot of buzz about the viper, and after our practice Tim and Bryan took a guy out for a spin. He’s been bitten. The rest of the vipers rolled in through out the day.
The one thing about camping is there aren’t any showers. Luckily, I had brought the organic and biodegradable soap and we were 30 feet from the lake. We gave all the campers quite a show. Baby wipes also were very handy. After our team bonding, Jeff Young and Laurent Dion and their crews came over to our camp fire and had dinner and smores with us. Campfire talk is always the most interesting and fun.
Skippers meeting was at 9:30, and there was talk of a possible postponement due to lack of wind. Around 10:15, the wind turned on and we were ready to go. Our first start was great; we were definitely pushing it. Within minutes of the start our outhaul popped off and we were immediately boat lengths behind the fleet. Bryan was able to quickly get the outhaul on and Tim got the boat going again. We had a lot of catching up to do. We played the shifts off the points and shifted gears through the puffs. We were the first to the windward mark, and ahead of all the traffic. Getting ahead of all the traffic and staying in phase kept us in front for the rest of the race. The second start was around 1:30. We had another great start – middle/pin so we could get to the left side quickly. The second race was extremely shifty, making us work even harder. It was really important for us to stay on top of our game and change gears quickly. We rounded the windward mark again in first, but we were out of phase for three-fourths of the downwind leg. Jeff rounded in second and was able to stay in phase through the shifts and sail fast. We were able to hold him off the entire race, just barely.
After racing, most of the boats came over for dinner, and a few drinks later we stumbled down to the lodge for the party and band. Not only did we find a great 80s cover band, but we also found a few laughs from Jeff’s crew, Ken. My jaw hurt the next day from laughing so hard. Just ask him about white picket fences.
Sunday morning we woke up and packed everything up. It was sad to see such a great weekend end. We had a great start to the last race of the weekend and played the shifts really well until the top of the course. After we passed the last point, the wind was really fluky. We went from first to fourth very quickly. After rounding the mark, we passed one boat and began to catch up to Jeff and Bill Chase. Jeff’s extensive local knowledge and great sailing kept him in front while we were battling with Bill. There were at least 6 lead changes between the three boats, but after the last gybe mark and a close call with Jeff and an Olson, we were out in front and held onto it for our third win. Team Viral placed first with three bullets, Bill Chase from the Bay Area came in second, and Jeff Young from San Diego came in third.
It was really great to do some lake sailing again, and the High Sierra Regatta is one of the top regattas that I have been to since I moved to Cali. A huge thanks goes out to Fresno Yacht Club and all the volunteers for making this a great regatta. The Viper fleet looks forward to sailing here again next year!