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Still Smiling.......

Still smiling…

 

     When your 29 year old daughter says that she wants to crew on your Star boat this summer, there is only one answer. Our first regatta last year together was a surprising success, winning the beautiful and venerable “Sir Thomas Lipton” Cup in Oxford but I warned her that it might not always be that way. There aren’t many female Star crews, partly because of the weight needed to hike these over canvassed yachts and partly because they can be physical beasts to crew on. Forewarned, Saidee said, “Let’s do it…and that means we’re sailing the Western Hemispheres and the North Americans too!”  (I like that girl!)

 

       A few days later I had a call from David Schoeder in Northeast Harbor Maine asking if I could sail with him in the International One Design World Chaampionships in Tonsberg Norway. I had sailed the previous Worlds with David at Fishers Island and would love to do this again (especially in Norway, home of the IOD design and build)  I used to own IOD, #5 built in Fredrickstad Norway in 1936 and kept her at PSA throughout the 1980s. If I had to pick my favorite boat this classic 33’ long ended, narrow boat would be it.

 

       The hitch in all this being that the IOD Worlds began a day after the Star Western Hemispheres at Lake Sunapee NH ended! Playing all my cards with work leave, the home front and prior commitments, I decided to do both! It would require leaving the Star regatta a day early (our throwout race), driving the boat immediately after unrigging, from NH to Boston (trailering the Star into Logan Airport), meeting my son’s flight who was flying up to help my daughter drive the Star 9 hours back to Pasadena (after sailing all day), and catching a 10:00 pm flight to Norway. What could possibly go wrong?

 

      Well, amazingly it actually worked out as planned and the kids drove home safely through the night trailing my boat while I winged my way across the Atlantic to Norway.

 

      That’s getting ahead a bit. Saidee and I drove the Star up to Lake Sunapee and entered the “Hemi’s” along with 30 other teams from Brazil, Canada, Italy, Ukraine Switzerland and from many US fleets. Saidee was immediately popular with beefy Star crews and was one of only 3 women crews there (actually, any women crew is a rarity in Stars!). We were hosted by a wonderful family with a lakeside house and Sunapee Y.C. is an old and lovely camp style Club, having had Stars there since the 1930s.

 

     The practice race was breezy and cool. Many boats were late and in practice race style, joined in along the way and don’t finish (it’s the worst luck to win the practice race so most remain victor less). The following day, all dressed up with nowhere to go, the wind disappeared completely and no races were held. Finally the next day we started a race which was abandoned as the wind faded again.

 

    That all changed as a Canadian front roared in overnight and we started racing the 3rd day in a strong, cool Northwesterly. The puffy, strong shifting 12-20 kt breeze gave Saidee a challenge but we were pleased to find that in the flat water we were able to hang with most boats upwind and fly downwind. Turning the corners was a bit hairy in a crowd but Saidee was unruffled and managed the backstays and jib as well as any big guy out there. She droop hiked all day and tacked in and out like a yo yo.

 

    The next several days were the same and we were sometimes up among the top 10 (the pros were seriously out in front). Our last race was unfortunate as we approached the finish in the strongest breeze yet with an assured 6th place finish, we were flagged for “rocking” (undoubtedly we were rocking but not from my doing I can assure you!). We had to do a penalty 720 with only a few boat lengths to the finish so I just told Saidee to keep her head down as we crash tacked and slam gybed around twice, losing only a single boat!  We high fived and headed in to unrig the boat and set off for my next sailing adventure in Norway.  (we later found that we were actually disqualified as our final gybe wasn’t completed before we crossed the line!)

 

    I am still proud and glowing inside that this wonderful crew was my daughter and that of all things she chose to sail with ME in this adventure.

 

    So, as we circled into the Logan Departures lane, there was my son, Tommy right where we planned to meet. I got out, he got in and with a few Dad-like words of advice on trailering, off they went home.  I met the rest of my crew at the airport and the next morning we were in Oslo, Norway.

 

   The IOD Worlds were at the mouth of the Oslo Fiord in Tonsberg. The boats were lovely, some wood, some glass but all equal with group purchased identical sails. In IOD World events the host country provides the boats and boats are rotated each race. Some are rigged differently but considering the variety in age, they were very fairly matched. The Worlds consisted of 14 entrants and we were one of 2 teams from Northeast Harbor Maine.

 

    We sailed 7 races under beautiful blue skies with gunmetal gray bottomed clouds in medium air and flat water. There was generally a current flowing with the wind, favoring one side of the course along the left shore. Starts were crucial to get first out of the current but equally important was a clear lane to get these very heavy boats moving. Having to do several tacks after a start would put you quickly in the rear of the pack. Visually, 14 of these most beautiful yachts lined up on the start line was distractingly lovely. Though they have a huge mainsail, the IODs are very sensitive to jib trim and backstay tension. Once moving, these 33’ full keel boats point very high and calling lay lines was challenging. Their ability to coast into the wind to fetch a mark is astounding - if up to speed.

 

      The Club at Tonsberg is vary much a PSA type, do it your self organization. The lunches for competitors, the meals and parties were all done by members. This rather small Club did have a membership of over 400. It too was very old and has hosted many significant events. A rustic working shipyard with several yard carpenters who could be Vikings was next door and on a lay day provided great opportunities for wooden boat snooping around. In Norway, everyone speaks English and is willing to do so. I have never met such an accommodating, happy and attractive population at any place in the world I’ve been.

 

     Plates and plates of food greeted the hungry racers at the event dinners and in between  we were entertained by our hosts in a Solstice Day boat parade complete with bonfires set at every point of land in the Midnight Sun. At 3:00 in the morning you could still read a newspaper (but why would you?) and the Norwegians love every minute of it! (making up for the long dark winters). Another night we were taken to Tonsberg to row a Viking ship. This 60’ beautiful reproduction Longship was built using the original tools, methods and materials as the famous Oseberg Ship, unearthed in 1904 from a mound near where we were sailing. With 30, semi competent IOD sailors manning the oars each rowing to his own beat, we managed to get the ship going around 3-4 knots and you could tell that these beautifully lined vessels were fast. Under sail a reproduction Longship has topped 13 knots.

 

    Racing ended with our team finishing just below mid fleet but we were pleased with the result and that we had sailed a clean regatta (I shudder to imagine the consequences of a collision between 2 of these sharp heavy yachts!)  Most IOD sailors have raced against each other for decades and it is a very close and well run International Class. The Trophies have many famous names on them and the winner of the event, Penny Simmons from Bermuda is a serial winner! Fleets are from many nations including Norway, Sweden, the US (several), Bermuda, England and Canada (Nova Scotia).

 

     I had several days afterwards to travel around Norway and get a feel for the country. As I mentioned previously, the Norwegians are a happy seeming people and blessed with a beautiful land and culture. My interests run to paintings and to wooden boats. To those ends, I visited the National Gallery in Oslo, seeing wonderful artworks and especially those by the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch (the Scream). Near Oslo were the unearthed Viking Longships found buried with treasures and skeletons of princesses and kings. The Norwegians are very proud of the Viking ancestry. Seeing these actual ships preserved in the beautiful churchlike building where they are housed was very much like a religious experience for this wooden boat worshiper!

 

    My last stop was a pilgrimage of sorts to Fredrickstad, where the IODs were designed and built. Lucy and I had bought our IOD, “Flicker”, built there in 1936 for ourselves as a wedding present and I now sought out the place where Bjarne Aas created them (pronounced Barney Oos). And so I found the very building, now a museum and a statue of Aas, one of Norway’s most famous designers. Inside was an IOD being restored, the original drawing board where Aas created the design and many original patterns and tools used to build one of the worlds first “production” line of yachts - the IOD. 

 

    A very satisfying end to a memorable sailing vacation. I’m still smiling.

  

                                                                                 Best,

                                                                                  Tom

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