Breezing through winter

Breezing through winter

April 9th, 2009 by Dan Cook in Sports - Outdoors

Contributed Photo by Kristin Thomas Tim Chambers, the leader through January in Shackleton Series of winter races out of Sale Creek Marina, guides his sailboat, Maniac.

Wintry winds seem to bite extra harshly into sports associated with warm weather, but not for those sailors competing in the Shackleton Series out of Sale Creek Marina.

The October-to-March series recently completed its seventh year. Tim Chambers, who grew up sailing in Savannah, Ga., won all but one of the eight races in his boat Maniac.

About a dozen boats sail regardless of weather conditions, according to marina manager Eric Almlie. There were 13 in all in the races, all held on Saturdays or Sundays.

"It can be 70 degrees or 30 degrees or less," Almlie said. "We've experienced all kinds of conditions. We haven't experienced snow, but about everything else."

At least once in the inaugural 2002-03 series, ice had to be broken around the marina to get the boats on the lake, and only three of nine boats finished one of those races because of low wind. The winner required 6 hours and 35 minutes. But that was an unusually cold winter, and the sailors who have stayed around appear to enjoy the offseason series.

The name Shackleton honors British explorer Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton (1874-1922), who led three expeditions to Antarctica and sailed to within 111 miles of the South Pole, asclose as anyone had come to it at that time.

During his Endurance expedition, he and his men survived 10 months on an uninhabited island and ice floes after their ship was crushed by ice on the Weddell Sea.

David Hoover of Harrison read about Shackleton in a book and discussed with Sale Creek Marina owner Andre Rijsdijk the possibility of such a series to honor the famed explorer. Hoover reasoned that, since the best winds came in winter, it would be a good time for scheduling the races.

Rijsdijk, who grew up sailing in Holland and has owned the marina on Chickamauga Lake since 1979, liked the idea.

"We usually have 10-12 boats at a race," Almlie said. "Most of the sailors are local folks, but some of them come from other places - just people who like to get out and go sailing."

They represent a variety of career backgrounds as well, he said, with lawyers, doctors and blue-collar workers ranging in age from the 20s to 65-plus. Typical boats in the fleet are J-24s, Rangers 23 and 33 and San Juan 24s.

Courses are set up for expected wind conditions, usually 3-12 miles long. The idea is for each race to last two to three hours, but some have extended to eight and a half. Endurance is emphasized, as it was for the series namesake.

"We've also started giving a trophy to someone in particular who exemplifies the Shackleton spirit," Almlie said. "Maybe somebody who doesn't miss a race or gives it all they've got."

That went this year to Ellen Long and her crew of Brandi O'Neal, Michelle Cash and Amy Alexander.