2002 DN GOLD CUP WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Our Mission: Travel from Detroit, through Germany and Sweden, to Estonia… and have more fun than anyone!
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We began our odyssey ten days early, when we shipped our masts, sails and runners just after the North American Championships, which were held as scheduled January 26-28, 2002. Traveling with only two pieces of luggage to check and a carry-on made for a much less stressful experience at the airport terminal.
Wednesday, February 13, 2002
My sister Loretta dropped Mike and I off at the airport. Loretta was fine until the security officer gave Mike the third degree, making him take off his jacket, his belt, and his shoes. After finally making it through security, we met Leon LeBeau in the executive suite. We decided to call Jan Gougeon to see if he had any last minute words of encouragement. His enthusiasm came through the phone as if he was right there with us. We had a good flight, and no problems with customs on either side.
Thursday, February 14, 2002
We landed in Frankfurt at 6:30 a.m., their time. Joerg Bohn picked us up from the airport and took us on a tour of the Lufthansa training facility where they instruct pilots with flight simulators and teach flight attendants how to serve, answer tourists’ questions and concerns, and deal with crash landings and evacuations. We picked up Wendell who had taken a different flight out of Chicago but had landed at about the same time as we did. We loaded everything into Joerg’s car and drove to Oldenburg. We stopped at McDonald’s on the way and were amazed to find that they had computer terminals available for business savvy, fast food connoisseurs to go online. After a “sumptuous” meal, I took over driving because Joerg was tired. Unfortunately, I stalled his BMW at a construction site right in the middle of the Autobahn! We arrived at Joerg’s new house and took a much-needed rest. Waking up refreshed and ready to go, we went to Stephan Schweneker’s house to unwrap masts, check runners and pack sails. Once our equipment was ready, we traveled back to Joerg’s house to pick up his wife, Magdalena and went to our favorite restaurant, which I affectionately call “the house of eel.”
The “house of eel” has become a traditional stop on all trips to and through Germany. We like to meet there with friends, talk over good times and eat eel… something you just can’t get in The States. This time we met with a photographer and had our picture taken for the local newspaper. If you’ve never had the pleasure, eating eel is quite an adventure. Each eel is about two feet long and two inches in diameter, it is smoked and served whole… skin, head, eyes, teeth… everything but the internal organs. You have to remove the head and then peel the skin off the meat. As I said… quite an adventure… and not for the squeamish. Mike only ate one bite and had to resort to the only option on the menu, ham and potatoes. I only ate one and a half eels this time. Last time, I downed three and a half. I understand that the record for eel eating stands at 18 for a man and 11 for a woman. Eel is, of course, best washed down with Schnapps, which is also used to cleanse the hands of oil after eating the eel. Eel and Schnapps… a symbiotic relationship! After dinner, we went to a small pub for another German tradition, Bullen Schluck, a type of schnapps, which is also used to soothe the sore muscles of farm animals. There is just so much culture to be discovered in Europe! We then went back to Joerg’s house, fully intending to get some rest, but instead I stayed up until 3:30 a.m. talking with Magdalena about life… and dreams!
Friday, February 15, 2002
Time to move! We got up, had breakfast, showered, packed our clothes and went to Stephan’s to pack up the trailer. Next, we went to Joerg’s mom and dad’s house to pack up the rest of our gear. Joerg’s mom served us a delicious lunch of ham and pea soup and fruit and we left at 2:30 p.m. in time to make the 6:30 ferry in Travamunda, which arrived in Trelleburg, Sweden at midnight.
Saturday, February, 16, 2002
From Trelleburg, it was a six-hour drive to Stockholm and yet another hour past that to Kapellskar for a nine-hour ferry ride to Tallen, the capitol of Estonia. From Tallen, we drove an hour and a half to Haapsalu. By the time we got to our hotel, they had given our rooms away. We went to the Congo, another nearby hotel, and were able get three rooms. After stowing our gear, we walked to the Athena for dancing, drinking and lots of fun. Cuba set the pace and was tough to keep up with.
Sunday, February 17, 2002
Sunday morning we went to the ice to set up our boats. While untying and removing things from the trailer, my hull fell, making a hole in the bottom and pushing the steering post through the top deck. I thought to myself… ‘Well, it’ll be fun to be a spectator this time!’ Fortunately, it looked much worse that it actually was. While I was figuring out how to get it back to the hotel room, Thomas Karlsson suggested I call Vaiko Vooremaa. I went looking for Endel, who I had seen earlier. I ran into Peter Burczynski who let me use his phone to call Vaiko, who has a shop in town. I made the call and Endel answered… he recognized my voice and invited me to come and work on my boat in their shop. An Estonian sail maker took me and my boat to Endel and Vaiko’s shop and together, we fixed my boat. While I was there, they gave me a tour of the shop where they make Optimist, Euro and 420 centerboards and rudders. The shop was a boat builders dream… full of every imaginable toy (I mean tool), including a small CNC machine, a sander/planer, jointer, lathe, bridgeport and a paint booth. After fixing the deck and patching the hole, I went back to the ice where we worked together to align Wendell Sherry’s, Mike Rehe’s, Pete Johns’ and Greg Smith’s boats. Both Mike and Greg took their boats out for a sail. Greg, knowing the frustration I was feeling at the problems with my boat, insisted that I take his boat for a sail to check conditions and help calm my nerves. Next, I took Mike’s boat out for a tune-up run.
Soon it was time for the flag raising and opening ceremonies. We were all very proud to see Mike Rehe representing the United States and raising her flag. The opening ceremonies were brief, allowing us time to register and head back to Vaiko’s shop to pick up my boat, which we then took back to the ice and set up. We also picked up Mike’s runners and sails. We went back to the hotel and, after a refreshing shower and some supper; we went to the Africa Pub.
Monday, February 18, 2002
We woke up on Monday to big wind and discovered that it had rained a great deal during the night. We began racing for the day with Aluminum, Bronze and then Silver mini-qualifiers. The first Gold fleet race, I started in position 40 with 12-15 knots of breeze. I was third to the weather mark with Michal Burczynski in first and Ake Luks in second. I passed Luks down wind and got a little closer to Burczynski on the second beat. On the second down wind leg, Burczynski understood and I hit the layline perfectly. He carried me to the race committee on starboard and then I almost passed him to leeward. He covered me closely on the beat and tacked on me. When I tacked, my mast inverted and I lost the mainsheet. Burczynski finished first, I was second, Karol Jablonski was third and Luks was fourth.
After the first Gold fleet race they ran a Silver fleet race and then another Gold fleet race. The left side of the course was paying off at the start. I believe I was first at the first mark and increased my lead throughout the race. I finished first, Thomas Karlsson was second, Burczynski was third and Jablonski was fourth.
Next was a Bronze fleet race followed by a third Gold fleet race. I was not quite ready and Stan was quick with the flag. At the start, my glove flew off as I climbed in the boat. I reached out and grabbed it in mid-air and stuffed it under my leg. Burczynski pinched and held us both slow. When I tacked, I decided to put my glove back on with the sail out a little and two boats passed me on the right. I was fifteenth at the first mark but was able to fight my way back to eighth. At the end of the day, the Gold fleet had three races in… Burczynski had eight points and was in first place, Jablonski was in second place with ten points and I was in third place with eleven points.
I felt pretty good, so far, and was working hard to stay focused. In times like this, it is difficult to get into a rhythm with repeatable constants. This is why I was so grateful to have my good friends, Tom and Rosemary Hamill by my side. Every time I have been to Europe they have been there… shooing away curious competitors, keeping spectators with dirty boots away from my runners, taking my extra clothes at the starting line, relaying information to and from the race committee, getting finish positions and scores… in short, they have been invaluable in keeping the pressure off and allowing me to focus on winning. Tom, Rosemary… I couldn’t have done it without you! After a very full day, we went back to the hotel. After relaxing in the sauna, we ordered dinner, stoned our runners and went to the Africa pub.
Tuesday, February 19, 2002
We awoke Tuesday morning to very high winds. After several postponements the race committee called off racing for the day. We went back to the hotel and with no runners to stone, had an entire free day. We met with Leon and the wife of an Estonian sailor who took us shopping in the old city of Haapsalu, Estonia.
The word was passed that we would be moving the race site so we went and packed up all the boats and loaded them on the trailer. We went back to the hotel and met for dinner with Greg Smith and many of the other sailors. After dinner we went to the hotel pub and had a couple of drinks with Leon.
Wednesday, February 20, 2002
At 9:00 a.m. we were supposed to get the final word on where we were going to move. Cracks had opened up on the piece of ice we had sailed. There were several options under consideration… Tallen, Sweden, or farther south on the same sea we were currently sailing. The current race course was also being reevaluated and it was decided that our best option was to sail a shorter course on the original site. The first race would not take place until 1:00 p.m. and the order of the fleets would be D, B, C, D, A; allowing each class to have three races. At the start of the Gold fleet race, the temperature was about 29°, it was sunny with 15 knot winds. I started in eighth position. Tomas Lindgren carried me way out to the left corner while the right side worked. I rounded the weather mark in about fourteenth place and climbed my way back to eighth place. When I finished the race, Mike Rehe said, “Nice Comeback!” I asked Mike who won and what he told me will change ice boating forever! Leon LeBeau had won his first ever Gold Cup race. I have written and rewritten this part of the story, but no words even come close to describing the elation on Leon’s face and seeing it first hand was a moment I will never forget! It was the most special moment of the entire trip. Leon didn’t just win… he won BIG using the boat I won with in 1998 with a standard fiberglass Whip mast.
Leon’s win was significant, not only for him, but it was a turning point for me as well. I was sure, after my last finish, that I needed to take off my ¼” runners and speed sail and go back to my 3/16” runners and F-01 sail. When I looked at Leon’s boat, he was using the same equipment that I was, which gave me new confidence. I knew that I didn’t need to change a thing… I just needed to sail better. The only noticeable difference between Leon’s boat and mine was that he was pulling back more on his boom. I also found some nicks in my front runner, which I was able to stone out right there on the ice.
The race committee ran races for the Silver, Bronze and Aluminum fleets and then it was time for the Gold fleet again. It felt as if the wind was trying to get lighter, but it really didn’t. The Swedes and Jablonski all changed sails at the last minute. I was happy to see this and happy to have my boat set up just as it was. I was using the hull and plank I built for the 2000 Worlds in Sweden. I was using the new Rocket mast I had just won the North American Championships with, my speed sail and a brand new set of ¼” x 36”, 440-C runners with aluminum stiffeners and 19” of .008 flat.
The starting line was looking tough on the left side. Lindgren was in the #2 position, Jablonski was in #4 Jacob Schneider was in #6, I was in #8 and Karlsson was in #10. I knew I needed a good start and I got one, but Thomas was squeezing me from the leeward side and Karol was going over me to weather. Karol drove hard over my bow and Thomas laid off to keep his air clear.
I couldn’t believe my eyes, I had a clean lane. I tacked and went towards the weather mark rounding in fourth. I decided to jibe early because the left side had worked well in the previous race. I got a nice puff and sailed straight toward the leeward mark. I was just a little short of laying the leeward mark so I jibed and crossed everyone easily, but when I looked back at the mark, I had gone too far and let Zeiger, Burczynski and Jablonski inside of me.
After a wide rounding, I had to play the low fast lane to keep my air clear. Burczynski tacked first… a little short, Jablonski went next… a little far. I tacked just a little thin and Zeiger hit it just perfect. As we got to the weather mark, Burczynski had to tack twice. Zeiger rounded first, I was second, Jablonski was third and Burczynski was fourth.
When I rounded the last leeward mark, I was able to play the high lane. I had the same speed but was able to point higher than Zeiger. As we got to the layline, I used my side runner as a gauge and tacked at what I thought was the layline and nailed it perfectly. Zeiger tacked just after me but it was too late. I beat him to the weather mark and the finish. I still don’t know how, but Luks passed Jablonski and Burczynski to take third. I worked hard and was happy to have taken first.
My finishes were now, 2-1-8-8-1. I was sure that I would be in the top three (with a throw out) and was very happy with that. It was not until the banquet that I found out I was in first place with twelve points, Burczynski was in second with 13 points and Jablonski was in third with 14 points. We had two races left.
The banquet was a lot of fun. It was great to get to sit down with all the sailors for a great meal and great conversation. After dinner, we went back to the Africa Pub to celebrate Torsten’s birthday. I found it very strange that he was at the bar ordering drinks on his birthday and explained to him that at home, when it is your birthday, everyone buys drinks for you. We all sang and laughed and had a great time!
Thursday, February 21, 2002
We woke up to a beautiful sunny day. There was good wind in the morning but it soon died. The order of races for the day was Bronze, then Aluminum and then Gold, so I knew I had time. I put my boat together but with the light wind I knew that I would need to have a good selection of runners from which to choose. I loaded up the boat with almost every runner in my arsenal. I tried my thin “Ts” and they worked well. I was faster than anyone except for Burczynski, who was sailing circles around everyone. Jablonski and Zeiger were using angles and I hadn’t even brought mine out with me. When my Uncle Wendell went in to get more of his equipment, he brought out my angles and I hadn’t even asked him… what a guy!!! I tried my angles and they didn’t feel any better than my minimum “Ts,” but at least I got to try them. Burczynski was still sailing on his ¼” 440-C runners with aluminum stiffeners. There was no one even close to his speed.
The wind shifted and they moved the starting line. The Bronze fleet went to the line and started, but they were not able to make the time limit. Meanwhile, I tried my max “Ts” and they felt the fastest. Then they moved the starting line back to its original position, so I put on my travel runners back on and moved everything again, but the wind never came up enough to race.
The weather forecasters were calling for a big storm to arrive Friday, they predicted that it would begin by about 12 or 1 in the afternoon. We took down our masts in case it came in early and went back to the hotel. I worked on each set of runners I had sailed to prepare them for sailing on Friday. We went to the hotel where Leon and Rudy were staying and had dinner.
After dinner, we went to the Africa Pub and then to the Athena for dancing. It is amazing how much more tired we all were after a long day of waiting to sail than we were after a day of heavy air racing. What a sport!!! We went back to the room and crashed.
Friday, February 22, 2002
We had to get to the ice early because Stephan Schweneker was scheduled to sail in the first race. When I went to put up my mast, I noticed that my sheave box was loose. I borrowed some screws and a drill from Heiner Forstmann and used Superglue and Zip Kick to repair the sheave box. I checked my alignment, which needed adjusting on both sides. Luckily, I had time to get everything done and keeping busy seemed to chase away the morning butterflies. I realigned the new ¼” runners and put my travel runners back on with my speed sail because it was blowing hard. I took my 3/16 runners and my spare mast and headed out to the starting line.
They ran the Silver fleet, then the Bronze fleet and then put the Gold fleet on the line. I wish that I had gone for a sail before the start. If I had, I would have tightened my side stays a little more because it was blowing steadily over 20 with puffs into the 30s. When I got to the starting line, the Hamills were there, as usual. As I stood there, on the line, I visualized the race in my head… the start, tacking, mark roundings.
When Stan dropped the flag, I got a good start. The only one who was in front of me from our side, was Lindgren who was going like a Boeing. My mast was bending too much so I sailed with my feet on the #4 bulkhead and tried to stay as faired in as possible so that I would not break the mast at the weather mark. Lindgren was first, I was second and Karlsson was third. I thought to myself, ‘I can finish this way… no problem.’ I was having problems with my steering post and head joint. The roll pin had squashed and there was a lot of play. This made the heavy air, leeward mark roundings a real adventure. I sailed a little too far on starboard and got into the rough ice, which allowed Karlsson to pass me. The second lap positions stayed the same but it was blowing really hard. On the third lap, I saw Jablonski and Burczynski on starboard tack layline. Jablonski passed me to leeward and Burczynski started to pass me to weather and I thought “Boy, this is it.’ I slid down as far as I could, faired in my hands and elbows and looked to the heavens and asked my mom and Don Nylund for help. Suddenly, I had enough speed to hold off and pass Burczynski and Jablonski had to pinch just a little to make the weather mark. I came in hot and pushed Jablonski down after the mark. He jibed; I went a little farther and jibed. I sailed straight toward the finish and crossed the line overlapped with Karlsson, but still in third. Lindgren was first, Karlsson was second, I was third, Jablonski was fourth, and Burczynski was fifth.
This put Jablonski and Burczynski in a tie, three points behind. I got back to the pits… thrilled, but still shaking from the speed and adrenaline. I went right to work on my boat. I checked my runners and tightened my side stays. I showed Tom Hamill the problem I was having with my steering. I did not know it, but he borrowed a Kick Skate and ran back to shore, got his roll pin and ran back out… two miles each way! We put the new roll pin in and it worked great. Tom just stood there panting with his suit open, trying to cool down from the exertion. What an awesome friend!!! Because of him, I was sure I was ready for the next race.
In the meantime, the wind kept building and they ran a Silver fleet race. During the race there was some carnage, Pete Johns tipped over and injured his arm. After cleaning this up, they took a good look at the wind. One of the Estonian sailors suggested that we take our sails down because several of the boats were blowing off their parking brakes. It seemed as if the wind was settling down a bit so they started a Bronze fleet race. The first two laps were ok, but the last lap finished in about 35 knots of breeze. They were taking readings of 18 meters per second in the puffs.
One boat from Holland came across the finish line in control. After crossing, a big puff hit him. He went into a small hike and the wind got under the boat and lifted the entire boat, flat, three feet in the air. The boat started spinning around… once, twice, three times! After the third time around, the boat started to tip, the side runner caught the ice and the boat tipped over and spun around one and a half more times. The skipper was jammed up in the front of the cockpit, under the tiller… not touching the ice and not moving. After about fifteen seconds, he climbed out uninjured except for one broken runner. I met him at the awards and he used the same word we were all thinking… tornado… WOW! I have never seen anything like that before and I hope I never do again.
Shortly after, Rene Kuulmann told me the regatta was over and I said… “NO WAY!” Stan called everyone to a meeting and declared the regatta complete. I could not believe it… it was like a dream come true! We went back to shore to pack up our boats in the, now hurricane-like weather.
Once we got everything packed up, the awards ceremony was held in the parking lot. I thanked my wife and kids, Stan and the race committee, Tom and Rosemary Hamill, my Uncle Wendell, my Nephew, Mike Rehe, and Leon LeBeau. I thanked Endel and Vaiko Vooremaa for helping me repair my boat and the Boston family for great sails.
Mostly, I want to thank Joerg Bohn and Stephan Schweneker who made the trip to Europe so stress-free. Joerg and Stephan have both been with me at all three Worlds that I have won. I hope Karol does not pay them off for next year… ha ha.
Joerg and Stephan, who speak many languages, took care of all the travel details including the ferries, border crossings, customs, etc. Because of the language barrier, these things would have been very difficult without them.
One of the best things about my years in iceboating is the friendships I have developed throughout the world. It is wonderful to be able to travel almost anywhere in the world to go iceboating and find so many friends that are willing to go the extra mile to make your trip a good one… even to the point of storing equipment for you… and, of course, it is a lot of fun to return the favor when they come to sail in your country.
The trip home was great, except for the ferry ride across the Baltic Sea. It was blowing over 90 knots and there were 25-meter waves… that’s over 75 feet! I could not believe that we even left the dock in such a storm, but there we were… an 800 foot ferry being tossed about on the waves like a toy.
In addition to the waves, the channel was very narrow and went through a very rocky area. I have no idea how they kept us off the rocks. We took our Bonine and went to our rooms to try and sleep through the storm but it was very difficult to stay in our bunks. There were tables and chairs tipped over throughout the ship. You could feel the bow go up and then come crashing down, causing the entire ship to shudder.
I decided that if I heard Celine Dion start to sing, I would grab my life jacket and head for the lifeboats. I remember hitting one really big wave where, after we hit the bottom, the engines shut down… it was REALLY SCAREY!!! I heard the engines fire up again and we went on our way. As we got closer to Sweden, the waves calmed down. I was never so happy to be on dry land.
We got back to Oldenburg and had a nice breakfast at the Zwischenahn Segelklub (yacht club). After breakfast a club member let me drive his Porsche Carrera on the Autobahn. He drove 286 KPH but I chickened out at 254 KPH or 152 MPH. He showed me how good the brakes were in a very sudden fashion and then dropped me off at Joerg’s parents’ home.
We unloaded the trailer and dried everything out and then went to dinner at a nice Mexican restaurant in Oldenburg. During dinner, we designed a simple rack to keep the boats in storage until the next World Championship in Europe. Later, we went to the little pub for more Bullen Schluck, where we watched the US vs. Canada men’s Olympic hockey final. After the game, we headed back to Joerg’s house for some well-earned and much needed sleep.
The next day, we went to the German version of Home Depot and bought the supplies we needed to build the rack we had designed. Then we went to Joerg’s mom and dad’s house to build it. The boats are now stored, high and dry, organized and labeled for the next trip. We went to the airport in Bremmen to ship our runners and sails home. We also rented a car so Joerg could drive us 4.5 hours to the airport in Frankfurt the next morning. Joerg then had to fly back to Bremmen for a 12:30 p.m. meeting… definitely above and beyond the call of duty… what a guy!!!
After getting the rental car, we went to a Turkish restaurant. Everyone was there. We had a great meal, drank some Sambuca and said our farewells. We got up the next morning at 4 o’clock, drove to the airport in Frankfurt and flew home. What an incredible experience!
I could write a book about each of my seven trips to Europe for the Gold Cup World Championships. I highly recommend you try it for yourself and write your own book.
I LOVE THIS SPORT!!!!!!