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by Rick Landreville - Rosedale, British Columbia, Canada

After winning the 2010 PDR World Championships when they were held locally in Summerland B. C. Canada, I received several emails from Jackie Monies inviting me to Sail Oklahoma!/2011 PDR World Championship. I resisted for months, as it falls on the Columbus Day/Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend, and this year was also the same weekend as my youngest daughters 16th birthday. Also, I had never flown on an airplane before, had no passport, and had a myriad of other excuses as to why it wasn't going to work out.

Three weeks before the event, my daughter suggested I should go anyways. She had no plans to hang out with her parents that weekend anyways, and it may be a unique opportunity to meet some of the people I always seem to talk about from the various boating forums I belong to.

Reluctantly, I ventured down to the travel agent to see what was involved. If I flew from Seattle, I wouldn't require a passport, and the flight costs were quite reasonable. I booked the flight, the car rental and the hotel that same day. I was committed.

Looking down at Tulsa Oklahoma.
Kiwi Duck in the foreground and the boats are starting to arrive.

Jackie and Mike Monies were extremely happy when I gave them the news of my travel plans. I was extremely apprehensive.

Awake at 2:00am, driving three hours to Seattle Washington at 2:30am and a 7:30am flight to Houston. A 15 minute high speed train ride across the airport (that is a HUGE airport, but everything is bigger in Texas, so they say) and a connecting flight to Tulsa Oklahoma. By 8:00pm I had my car rented, and drove the 80 miles to Eufaula Lake to try and find the boat palace in the dark. It was a day of planes, trains and automobiles. When I arrived, it was almost surreal. It was nothing like I had imagined, and the pictures I had seen did not do it justice. There I was, in the boat palace. The birthplace of the Blue Laguna, the Scamp, the Welsford Kiwi PDR, Noble Plan, and all the other storied boats I read and dreamed about in magazines and on the net.

The red SCAMP, and a display of the diversity of all the boats.
For a lake that seldom sees a sailboat, there sure were a lot of masts!

Mike and Jackie were such gracious hosts. They went out of their way to make sure myself, and every other guest on the property was attended to, fed and happy. They have a gift for hospitality that makes everyone feel special. The list of people I seen over the weekend reads like the 'who's who' of the small boating community. John Welsford, Graham Byrnes, Jim Michalak, Tom Pamperin, Paul Helbert, John Goodman, Bob Wessel, Mike and Jackie Monies, John Owens, Kenny Giles, plus many, many more. All the people I speak to on forums and Facebook, read articles about in magazines, it was like being amongst small-boating royalty! Here they were, in the flesh, and speaking to me in person.

Friday morning came early, with my two hour time change, but I was too excited to sleep anyways and was at the beach by 8:00am local time. Mike had rebuilt one of the Oz Ducks for me, and rigged it up with a spare sail from the Scamp. At 100 square feet, it seemed huge on that little 8' hull. After a little playing around with the setup, I decided that I would pull in the first reef and try it at 80 square feet. I had butterflies in my stomach as I pulled up to the water. What if I capsized? What if I made a fool of myself? What if I couldn't even sail in this kind of wind? Canada seemed so far away, and I was definitely a small fish in a big pond.

More boats.
There was even a shunting proa, and a trimaran brought to the event.

The winds on Friday and Saturday were forecasted at 25mph gusting to 40mph. There were boats capsizing on the beach from the winds, not even touching water. Yet the lake was surprisingly smooth. 6-8" waves, no chop or spray, almost perfect conditions for some really fast sailing. I cautiously pulled off the beach to practice.

After about two hours of splashing around with some of the other boats, my fears were alleviated. I could control my boat, and was moving around pretty good considering the conditions.

John Owens, from J. O. Boatworks in Texas sought me out and asked if I could take out his Texas Duck so he could get some pictures for his website. I readily agreed, rigged up his boat and drifted off the beach. As soon as I pulled in the sheet and powered up the sail, I transferred my weight to the rail and 'snap', I almost immediately blew out the grommet at the back of the sprit sail and nearly capsized. The wind was blowing straight off the beach, stronger than I could row against it. After an hour of hard rowing, Scott Widmeier sailed up and tried to assist, but his PDR did not have the horsepower to tow me back to shore, so Gene Berry came in his bright yellow Goose with a electric trolling motor and dragged me back to shore, after I had almost holed his boat as he maneuvered into position.

Lake Eufalla, the 14th largest lake in the USA.
Everyone getting ready for the racing.

Back on shore, John was feeling pretty bad about his poor sail construction, I set to work to jury rig the sail back together. I wrapped the tattered end of the sail a few times around a short stick, then John drilled through the sail and the stick and installed a couple of bolts with big washers to hold it together. I then fashioned a 5/16" rope bridle around the stick to attach the outhaul of the sprit to, so it would find its own centre and tension the luff and the foot of the sail evenly. It was now a sprit/club sail.

We finished the repairs just in time for Graham Byrnes to come out and try out the boat. Graham was using the Texas Duck in the World Championship race, and wanted to set it up a bit and try it out. Graham is a very experienced racer, and the boat performed amazing under his control. He came in four times in about 90 minutes, each time having John and I make some small rigging change, or adjustment until it was just to his liking. He quite enjoyed having a 'pit crew' waiting for him on the beach.

Brad Hickman's Sabre in the foreground.
The red SCAMP.

Jim Michalak was also trying out the Catbox PDR of his own design. I sailed with him for a while, and he knows his way around a small sailboat. I was surprised and honored when he came to shore, and announced that racing was not his thing, and if I could take out his design for the World Championship. So I was going to race in a boat that had only been in the water for an hour, with no practice, with a lateen rig I had never sailed before. No problem.

Tom and Vaughan Mauer getting their boat read. What's with the squirt gun Vaughan?
 A view of "Canada Beach", all six feet of it.
Me, with John Welsford and his Kiwi Duck in the background.
Mike Monies built this OzRacer and put the 100 sq. foot SCAMP sail on it with one reef tied in.
A colourful display of sails.
The two Goat Island Skiff owners Bob Wessel and John Goodman handing off the official travelling burgee of that class.
John Owen at the front of his Michael Storer designed Eureka canoe. This was the first time that boat was in the wet.
Me, piloting the Jim Michalak Catbox. Check out the rooster tail off the stern if you don't believe that PDRacers are fast!

Friday night was smoked chicken night for dinner. The Monies had acquired a trailer mounted smoker that was the biggest barbecue I had ever seen. The food all weekend was phenomenal. There was an 'Ask the Designer' night, where the three designers sat up front with a microphone, and answered all the questions the crowd of 150-175 people could manage. It was interesting the depth of some of the questions. There was no doubt that this was a crowd that had a passion for small wooden boats.

One of my favorite moments was visiting one on one with John Welsford for about a half an hour, just talking about boat design. Later that evening, it was matched when myself, Kenny Giles, Paul Helbert and Jay Davenport visited with Graham Byrnes for over an hour. Here I was talking about a plywood 6' wide, biplane rigged PDRacer I designed with someone who designs 60' sport fishers. Amazing.

Mike and Jackie Monies OzRacer.
The captain's meeting.

Saturday morning was busy at the beach. The amount of boats doubled, and there was an electric feel in the air. The small talk and banter slowed, as everyone got on their game face in anticipation of the race. It was clear who were racers, and who were cruisers. The water was thick with boats as everyone was tuning and practicing. There were multiple dismastings and equipment failures because of the high winds. The boat palace was in full operation repairing boats and masts. By race time, several boats had retired, but the race went off without a hitch. Everyone except me.

Thinking that we would go between the committee boat and the first mark, then clockwise around the course, I set out picking my spot on the line. Alone. The start was the other direction. I had to sit and luff until all the boats had passed over the starting line, then sail over the line and back again the correct way. A perfect last place start. Picking my way through the field and chatting with boats as I went by, I managed a third place finish with Brad Hickman and Mitch Longtin coming in first and second.

Jay Davenport's PDRacer.
Mitch Longten's PDRacer.

The second race, I had the start figured out pretty well, but an unfortunate wind shift and a field of stumps on one side of the second mark made an upwind slog to the turn. Somehow, I managed to go to the third mark instead of the second mark. Looking in vain for the next yellow buoy, I realized I had to tack back upwind to get to the mark I missed. That meant 6 and a half legs to everyone else's 5 legs to finish the course. Brad Hickman and Scott Widmeier were having quite the race for first and second, and Brad got tangled up in some lap traffic right at the finish line, giving a photo finish win to Scott. John Welsford and Mitch Longtin came in next, then Tom Pamperin and myself.

Tom Mauer raced his PDR but was having difficulties in the winds, but amazed everyone with his persistence and finished the race, in last place, but still finishing almost an hour after the leaders. The race committee on shore was telling everyone that the next race was to be held at 4:00pm. The race committee on the water sounded the 10 minute horn at 3:30, just after Tom crossed the finish line.

 There is an immaculate Skiff America in the background.
A few boats tuning up.

In the confusion, there were a lot of skippers still on shore. I was having an engaging conversation with Graham Byrnes, who had retired with a rudder failure. Not thinking anything of the horn, perhaps it was the water crew signaling the beach crew, I kept conversing with Graham. The four minute horn blasted. My lifejacket was still in my car, so I excused myself and sprinted up to the parking lot, got my stuff and ran back down to my boat. I was over 6 minutes behind everyone before I got over the start line. I was surprised to find out I finished 5:30 behind the winner.

Scott Widmeier finished first again, with John Welsford finishing second, Brad Hickman third, Mitch Longtin fourth and myself, fifth. By the last race, there were only 16 PDR's competing. Had Scott not broken two masts in the first race (yes, he fixed one and went out again only to break the second) and DNF'd he would almost have certainly won.

Paul Helbert's skin-on-frame sailing canoe.
 Paul had no troubles maneouvering in the strong winds.

Based on points, Brad Hickman won the 2011 PDR World Championship, with John Welsford second, Mitch Longtin third and myself fourth. I was extremely satisfied with my result, seeing as how I was in last place at some point in all three heats. It was more enjoyable to sail through the fleet, than it would have been to have been near the front looking over my shoulder stressing about who was overtaking me.

The awards ceremony was quite the spectacle. The amount and quality of the prizes was incredible. There was an entire table of home made trophies, and Jackie had procured a host of other items for the top finishers and the ducker who finished last. (Polysail International gives a new sail to the last place finisher, to allow them to be more competitive next year).

One of Polysail International's sails. Dave Gray was a major sponsor.
Big winds and small waves equals fast sailing.

There was also a boat show, with some celebrity judges, and had a category for best paint, most popular, best multihull and others.

Dinner that night was steak and smoked pork, with a scrumptious desert of frozen peaches and ice cream. A feast fitting of the day we had. The evening also had the saltiest pirate award, and the best sea shanty song award. There was a small jam session with all kinds of stringed instruments and singing, a lot of conversation and sharing of stories about the racing of the day.

Me and John Owen talking to Graeme Byrnes from B&B Yacht Design in one of his nesting dingy designs.
The lateen sail is Jim Michalak's Catbox design I raced. Nice boat, free plans.

Sunday was a fun day. Mike Monies had arranged a pirate poker race, where everyone had a bleach bottle tied to 16' of line behind the boat. The object was to touch another bleach bottle, and that boat would have to relinquish a pair of cards. Cards could also be obtained by sailing to committee boats and they had two hundred pairs of cards to give out.

Well, that turned into a combination of bumper boats, navigation lessons, poker and water balloons with the odd squirt gun thrown in to repel invaders.

John Welsford won with a royal flush, which he obtained by having over 20 pairs of cards in his boat to choose from. There was mayhem and boat carnage, but nobody was injured, (except a knot on the Monies son in law's head when the halyard uncleated and the yard fell on his noggin) and much paint was swapped from one boat to the next.

Ken Giles taking Brad Hickman's Sabre for a spin. Notice the huge grin!
The weather was fantastic, mid 70's to low 80's and very windy.

The last event was a marshmallow scooping competition, where Tom and Vaughan Mauer cleaned up with Vaughan scooping frantically. Tom was happy he was sailing a slow boat, as it made it easier to collect all the gooey treats with a fishing net.

I was sad to leave at 4:00pm on Sunday. Mike and Jackie take the term 'Southern Hospitality' to heart, and did a fantastic job. I would encourage everyone to attend next years event, as it is not to be missed. There were people commenting that it was the best messabout they had ever attended. See you all next year!

In heavy winds, you have to sit way back to keep the bow from 'pig-rooting'".

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