Annually, there’s a unique sailing regatta held at a different sailing club on the Tennessee River called the Tennessee Valley Challenge Cup.
The structure of the regatta is made up of seven sailing clubs on the Tennessee River that come together annually to compete. To qualify, a club must enter at least three boats with at least one of those being a keel boat. Not all of the seven clubs make it out every year but there are usually 3 – 4 represented well.
The event was held at Browns Creek Sailing Association on Lake Guntersville in North Alabama this year. This is a great venue and the folks there are wonderful people with an active club. They have had a strong presence the past few years and so it would stand to reason they would put on an event worth traveling to.
Josh Landers and I had decided earlier in the year that we were going to make every effort to be there. Due to some scheduling issues with other events, it was hard to get a strong turnout so we ended up with Josh and me on our Melges 14s and Scott Irwin with his local friend on Scott’s Catalina 22. Not a strong turn out in numbers, but not too shabby on talent as you will see.
We (Josh, me, and our M14s being hauled on the fleet trailer affectionately named “Your Mom”) departed PYC around noon, Friday Sept 20th for Browns Creek. The drive down took all of two hours and we were pulling in the parking lot before the tires got warm. As we were unloading the boats in the afternoon sun, Josh stepped on an ant hill and did a little dance as his foot was bitten several times. It was entertaining to watch, while in the hot sun, putting a boat together! We then setup our tents right on the water in an area named “Camp Awesome!” due to its rock star location and regular campers it attracts. Josh found out real quick what that one thing he was forgetting was, just the cordless inflator for his air mattress. He was lucky that one of the locals had one……the only problem, it used a 12 volt port in a car, meaning we had to drag his tent with the air mattress inside over to the truck. (see above picture) Ahhhhh the joys of regatta weekend!
That night Browns Creek had a cookout for dinner and setup a large projector screen that played the movie Wind. It was like a drive in theater!
Saturday morning was brisk and cool, making a beautiful way to wake up, even if it was 6 in the morning. The smell of a full spread breakfast was in the air and a light breeze was on the water. The breeze lasted until about the time of the skippers meeting, and then it started to die a slow, painful death. It was possible to sail to the course; however, it wasn’t exactly optimal conditions.
The PRO had kept the course selection real simple with one option – WL4. The first race went off in anything but a consistent breeze that was equal parts shifty and patchy. The first leg was a connect the dots game in which a Thistle from Muscle Shoals did a masterful job…….until he got stuck just before the windward mark. Josh and I were creeping along until the local RS Aero made him tack out toward the right side of the course. I quickly calculated that if one of us took a side of the course, someone would surely get lucky for PYC. Josh’s decision paid off well as he was able to stay within striking distance of the Thistle. I, on the other hand, got pin-wheeled at the windward mark to the point where I actually sailed above it and had to tack to get back down and around. Downwind was slow and unpleasantly warm. Luckily the PRO had mercy on us poor salts and shortened course to the leeward mark for the finish. Josh pulled a 1st corrected time on the Thistle and I was able to get a 3rd.
Watching the keelboat fleet sit was like looking at a painting. The redeeming part was that Scott Irwin was right in the pack which means he was doing quite well on corrected time. Turns out he pulled out a 4th place which, considering the conditions, was spectacular.
There was a half hour or so delay before the second race while the race committee was ordering another round of wind. Once it settled in enough to sail, they kicked it off. By the time the sequence was down to one minute, the wind was .001mph from three directions. The dinghies were only a third of the way through the first leg when the keelboats got breeze from behind on their start and came bearing straight down on us. This set everything up for a race to the edges of the course to get some of the wind coming up from behind. Once again, Josh and I split to opposite sides of the course and, wouldn’t you know it, I got around the windward mark first with Josh right behind me. About that time the wind went away and another 180 degree shift took what little breeze was there. Josh and I ended up getting a 1st and 2nd respectively as he played the inside and I went out looking for the breeze further out.
As we looked back, Scott was right there in main pack of keelboats once again. He was able to wear the others down to a third position finish. Very good indeed!
Saturday night dinner was an excellent meal catered by Taziki’s with plenty to go around. I may have had 3 plates. The entertainment was a very talented musician who played all of the classics including Sweet Home Alabama, The Boot Scootin’ Boogie, Friends in Low Places, and many more. Just before I turned in for the night the keg was floating, so apparently everyone enjoyed themselves.
Once again, Sunday morning the breeze looked just fine and with an earlier start time there was an expectation that we would at least get one full race in. I must admit that the party the night before had me dragging a little, but I still had at least one race in me. Josh and I got on the water early to check out the breeze. After cleaning wads of grass off our foils for the 20th time, the breeze started fading fast. As if the proverbial switch was flipped, at the start it went to 0 with an emphasis on painful. After just five or ten minutes of racing and only moving five or ten yards, the PRO threw up the November flag with three glorious horns!
We knew from the night before that if we didn’t get a race in, a bit of controversy would ensue due to tie breakers. Usually tie breakers are clear; however, with the formatting of a club level race things get a bit complicated. The home club and PYC were both tied at 14 points, we both had the same number of 1st, same number of 2nd, and the same number 3rd place finishes. Since the rules state that the overall points are based on the top three boats, they then look at the how the two clubs performed in the last race sailed. Josh had a 1st, I had a 2nd, and Scott had a 3rd which sealed the deal! Not exactly how I like to win but it made the trip home a lot easier knowing the conditional suffering on the water was for something.
Overall, this TVCC was an excellent weekend spent representing PYC. If you haven’t traveled to a regatta in a while, or at all, I highly recommend making this one. It is never more than three or four hours away and it’s a lot of low stress fun. It was nice getting to enjoy someone else’s club and not having to do all the work. Also, getting to see how other folks do things and building relationships on the Tennessee River is great PR for our club. PYC’s consistent participation in away regattas is a big part of it’s stellar reputation among the sailing community. Get out and represent your club every now and then!