Spring Break for Scow Sailors - SailNet Community
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Spring Break for Scow Sailors

MC-Scow sailors eat up the good winds and warm temperatures that Charleston offers in the spring.
"Nothin’ could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning…" or so goes the refrain from an old ditty, but you really have to experience it for yourself to know the truth behind those words. Florida may attract its seasonal snowbirds and the Southern California waters may draw their sun worshippers, but when it comes to sailing in the spring, it’s hard to beat Charleston Harbor in South Carolina. Just ask any of the 33 MC-Scow racers or the 60 or so E-Scow sailors who participated in the annual Easter Regatta at the Carolina Yacht Club over the past weekend. They’ll tell you how to read between the lines of those oft-sung lyrics.

Over the past six years, Steve and Mary Jane Schalk of Lake Geneva, WI, have become regulars here at the southeast’s lone spring festival for blunt-bowed boats. "We originally heard about the event from some E-Scow sailors back home," said Mary Jane after a tough first day with three long, windward-leeward races in southwesterly winds that ultimately surged above the 20-knot mark. "We first came down about five years ago and realized how great it is to sail here. The club is right in the middle of the town, and just about everywhere you need to go you can walk. And the hospitality is unbelievable. We always come a couple of days early so that the regatta doubles as a vacation."

Steve does the driving aboard the couple’s 1998 boat Skating Away while Mary Jane alternates bow duties with another crew and Steve’s brother Dennis handles the middle of the boat. The Schalks say that another reason they don’t mind making the 17-and-a-half-hour drive to Charleston is the opportunity to use this event as a pre-season tune-up for the more than 100 races they’ll compete in back home in the Great Lakes region this summer. "This is our first outing of the year," said Mary Jane. "Today was a little shaky because we’re just trying to remember what line does what on board the boat," she added with a laugh.

E-Scow sailors Steve and Mary Jane Schalk mug for the camera after a hard day on the water.
Like most visiting sailors, both the Schalks and their crew were quick to comment about the challenging tides that Charleston Harbor presents to competitors. "We don’t have those at home, nor the rocky ledges, like those around the club," said Mary Jane. "It’s fun because it’s a challenge." Local conditions notwithstanding, Team Schalk managed to put in a very consistent day, logging scores of 7, 7, and 8.

Another visiting E-Scow sailor, Bill Misenheimer from Indian Lake, OH, had one of those days you’d just as soon forget. After making the 16-hour trek down with his 28-foot boat in tow, his fourth crew (a local) dropped out 10 minutes before the boat went into the water. "We were really light," said Misenheimer of his three-person crew, nursing his bruised pride after the racing concluded on the first day, "less than 500 pounds." (E-Scow crews generally scale in around 700 pounds, which is considered a minimum in big winds.)

Despite posting scores a 14th and two DNFs (did not finish), Misenheimer managed to maintain a good humor about the racing. "We tried to have a go at it anyway, but we dumped the boat twice in the first race and then popped it up and kept going. We couldn’t finish the day though because Johnny (Johnny Vegas, his middle crew) twisted his foot pretty badly, but we did OK."

Bill Misenheimer and crew Jonny Vegas, the core members aboard No Guts No Glor-E.
Misenheimer calls himself a student of the sport. He’s sailed E-Scows for almost 10 years but only recently began steering. "I come from a sailing family, but I’ve got a lot to learn. It’s a different world back there. When you’re on the foredeck, it doesn’t seem like that big a boat. But when you get back there with the tiller in your hand, it becomes a whole lot bigger. I was a little intimidated at first. I started out oversteering. So to overcome that I began taking the boat out at night to sail in the dark.

Like the Schalks, Misenheimer is a veteran of previous Easter Scow Regattas in Charleston. He says that he comes here to compete because there’s always good racing at this event. "It’s very competitive. You normally get some of the best guys from fleets in the East and around the Great Lakes. These boats are very challenging and they’re very technical, which is another good thing about coming to this event because people here are always willing to give you tips."

If you were willing to watch closely, one E-Scow team was conducting a veritable clinic out on the water. Ross Griffith and his crew of Charleston locals showed that they had speed to burn throughout the first three races. If they didn’t grab the lead right off the starting line, they very quickly put themselves in contention for it in each the day’s three races, going home that night with scores of 1, 5, 1, and a five-point lead over their closest competitor. The action in the MC-Scow class was much closer as Eric Hood from Peewaukee, WI, posted 2, 2, 3 finishes to stand one point ahead of Jeff Annis (1, 5, 2) of Savannah and two points ahead of local favorite Lenny Krawcheck (7, 1, 1).

The MC-Scow fleet gets off the line on Day 1 in stiff breezes.
As the competitors slept that evening, the frontal system that had swept in during the last race that afternoon, blew its way across the Carolina Lowcountry, swinging the breeze to the north-northeast for the first two contests the next day. The winds were slightly less intense, but the flood-tide currents were just as mischievous, causing some sailors with big leads early on to find themselves in the cheap seats by the time their blunt bows crossed the finish line.

In the E-Scow fleet, Griffith continued schooling his competitors with superior boat speed and nearly flawless tactics. Even when the wind swung to the east-southeast for the final race, he worked his magic on the class, grabbing three bullets to secure the overall win. In the MC-Scow fleet, the action got a little tighter. Krawcheck and his crew Lisa Annis posted a 4, 3, 2 to wind up tied with Hood, but two bullets to Hood’s one iced the tiebreaker for Krawcheck.

Another out-of-town MC-Scow racer, Jim Gluek—a longtime scow sailor as well as a veteran of the Easter Scow Regatta—was keen to sing the praises of sailing in Charleston. Standing in the garden of Sonny Mevers’ quintessential Charleston home on the waterfront just down the street from the yacht club—drink in hand with the awards ceremonies about to begin—Gluek was feeling pretty content. He had traveled from Peewaukee, WI, with his friend and fellow competitor Deb Ziegler to race, and despite a premature start in the first race of the event, he had captured eighth place overall in a very competitive group.

Jim Gluek, happy to be learning some valuable lessons on the water in the MC class.
For him, it wasn’t just the chance to escape near-freezing nights back home that had lured him here, it was the challenge. "We don’t get the opportunity to sail in the bigger waves and current that you have here. Even though I’ve been sailing these boats since 1983, I still learn a lot here. And this weekend I learned that when a set of three big waves are coming at you, you have to ease the controls more than you’d think. You really have to drop a lot of power into the rig to get through the waves. Knowing how to make those kinds of adjustments is really important. Especially since where we sail at home on the lakes, there are more and more powerboats each year and chop becomes a bigger and bigger factor on the racecourse. And," added Gluek, "it’s a chance to meet a lot of new people."

Just then, MC-Scow racer and local class spark plug (as well as the regatta chairman) Tommy Harken launched into the awards presentation. He caught the group’s attention with his unmistakable drawl, and then said: "I don’t think we’ve had a better two days of sailing here in Charleston in a long time." And he was right. Just ask anyone who was here from out of town.

Easter Scow Regatta Top 10

 1.Lenny Krawcheck18
 2.Eric Hood18
 3.Tommy Harken21
 4.Jeff Annis 30
 5.Jeremy Pape56
 6.Bill Rembold59
 7.Brian Swan60
 8.Jim Gluek60
 9.Frank Hart 61
 10.Ed Durant68

 1.Ross Griffith10
 2.Phil Barrow20
 3.Tom Wiss 21
 4.Mark Jordan23
 5.Crayton Walters  32
 6.Bill Nolden34
 7.Steve Schalk45
 8.Brad Law48
 9.Peter Durst  59
 10.Ryan Hamm 63

Dr. Bill Crum finished first in the Mega Master Division, Lenny Krawcheck won the Grand Master Division, and Tommy Harken was the top Master.


Suggested Reading: A New Inland Lakes Scow


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Dan Dickison is offline  
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