Challenge Cup '05

It was pretty obvious that my profoundly fat navigator had opted to loudly display his allegiances for Challenge Cup by showing up to the boat wearing a Cypremort Yacht Club T-shirt, on which he had dutifully and sloppily written “Challenge Cup Captain” onto the back of it. I immediately felt it necessary to burst his bubble a bit and he acted puzzled when I told him they were not to be represented in GYA’s premier regatta this year.

“Snooty bastards.” He said.

“Not the GYA’s fault. Cypremort just didn’t get a team together. Anyway, GYA held their opening regatta down there. Remember you said you didn’t want to tack between cypress stumps. Oh no, wait. That was Lake Arthur Yacht Club. ” I corrected myself.

He replied, “Same difference” and then added a single harrumph.

Even though Cash Bar did not receive a bid to participate in this year’s Cup series, nor for that matter, did any of her crew; I thought it gave us a good excuse to get to Gulfport a week before the Pensacola Race. We could booze, gamble and debauch this sleepy little south Mississippi town to our heart’s content. It also didn’t hurt that as a spectator boat, we could enjoy all the competition without sweating. Cash Bar, when not optimized for racing, has AC and a generator. We could also fly our dueling blender burgee. I’m proud of that one.

What I should have realized at the time though, was that Doc had no interest in spectating. As the premier race between 12 of the GYA’s yacht clubs, the potential is always there for things to get nasty, and here I was enabling a notorious reprobate by sailing him over to the action.

Proof of this came when I discovered a strange UK Sails sail bag down in the lazaret. After some prodding, Doc discharged the contents of the bag down into the cockpit. I didn’t even ask or know what to ask when a half dozen toilet plungers along with goggles and a snorkel rolled out onto the deck. He quietly and nonchalantly shrugged and said simply, “Gear.”

Even before we arrived, the rumors and smack was already swirling. NOYC.org’s message board, the mouthpiece for Gulf Coast racing, reminded me a bit of Al Jazeera or even Comical Ali, Saddam’s outrageous spinmeister, with the amount of down right crap and lies typed into that webpage. The yacht club’s teams were laying the disinformation on thick and rightly so. Challenge Cup bragging rights are pretty serious.

We docked up at Gulfport Yacht Club Thursday afternoon and I have to say that the renovations to the club look great. Apparently taking a cue from GYC, Southern Yacht Club is also moving their pool. Pretty swanky when you decide that you don’t like the feng shuei of your inground pool and simply decide to move it.

As the sun set behind some Dole banana trucks, Doc and I made our way into the bar after eating over at the Blowfly Inn, having decided to opt out of attending the skippers meeting at 7:00.

At the bar, Doc was his usual ebullient self and rehashed a story about a Challenge Cup where he and another older gentleman both got nailed in the head by the boom a few times, and the two younger crew onboard took to saying “Old guys down” instead of “main is over” during jibes.

After a few hours of dealing with GYC’s surly bartenders, Doc and I left and wandered the piers on what Doc classified as a surveillance mission, but somehow our boat surveillance led us over to The Grand Casino.

Doc, who was, shall we say “in the groove” at this point, was eventually asked to vacate the Texas Hold ‘Em tables and either play slots or leave after trying to declare wildcards a few too many times and trying to get the drink girls to sit in his lap. The casino brass had come to the conclusion that Doc should not be allowed to interact with people. Machines only.

Three hours later, I was crashed down in the v birth and awoke to Doc’s generous weight moving the boat around and then a splash as he went overboard. Fearing the worst, I clambered up on deck where I saw most of the boats in the marina rocking about and a walrus like creature swimming with difficulty across to the other pier. Basically floundering on top of the water, Doc is very buoyant, and paddling with one hand as his other arm was wrapped around a bunch of toilet plungers. He headed in several directions through the dark water before he found what he thought was his target, Fairhope Yacht Club’s A class boat, Fine Line, an Olsen 40. In fact, it was a smallish shrimp boat.

He dove several times around the shrimper's hull punctuating it with plungers on both sides, each time coming back up coughing like a fiend through his snorkel. I sat down and watched him, for the entire process took the good part of an hour. He then trawled around the marina for a bit, lost and disoriented until I left the boat to find him two piers over.

Climbing out, he broke one of the crossbeams, but was actually able to succeed in extricating himself from the water. Still wearing the goggles he went up for a high five… I obliged him.

“Got those chicken eating bastards. They’ll never know what hit ‘em.” He was pleased.

“Yeah, you got them alright.”

Conspiratorially he leaned over, “Some guys over at Pensacola Beach Yacht Club taught me that one.”

I never bothered to tell him that he’d failed to accomplish his goal; that he wasn’t even close.
In the end, he was a little perplexed that Fine Line still managed to pull out a third place finish in A class while sporting some bottom feelers. It didn’t really matter though. Southern pretty much owned that Cup.



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