With snow still speckled along the lakeshore, excruciating cold temperatures and a brisk breeze greeted the seven boat crews who braved the climate to participate in Monday’s 18th annual Watauga Lake Sailing Club Frostbite Race.
Very dissimilar to last year’s mild 50-degree temperature, this year’s race saw a similar result as Skip Greene, his wife, Patty, and James Little blew by the competition to capture Greene’s fifth straight victory in the competition.
“It’s always fun to do. We race hard. Sometimes we win, sometimes we don’t, but we’ve been lucky here for the last several years,” Greene said.
Operating a Holder 20 sailboat owned by Little, Greene and his crew started dead last, nearly 12 minutes after the first boat left the dock, due to their boat being rated the fastest.
“The boats are different speeds so it’s almost like handicapping in golf. Everyone has a different handicap. So we had to start 12 minutes after the first boat because of the offset in the speed. Our boat was faster so they built that into the (start time),” Little said.
Just as they were leaving the starting line, Patty Greene recalled seeing some of the boats that started first already turning around the island.
“I thought, ‘We’ll never catch up to them.’ But we did,” she said.
The boat’s speed obviously paid off, but some strategy also contributed to their victory.
The race consists of each boat starting at the Lakeshore Marina dock, taking one lap around Clifford Island and coming back to the dock.
Nearly every single sailboat circled the island clockwise, beginning with the north end, but Greene and his crew opted to circle the island counter-clockwise, beginning on the south end.
“By going on the south side of the island, you can make a straight shot. On the north side of the island you have more room to tack (or maneuver the boat based on the wind),” said Greene, who finished the race in 53 minutes.
“Most of the boats, if you noticed, went around the north side. It’s real shallow there and real narrow so they can’t tack. We went on the south side where it’s just a straight shot and then we tacked on the north side.”
Sailing in a Catalina 27 boat, Billy Becker and his crew opted to circle the island clockwise and earned a second-place finish with a time of 55 minutes. His crew was also handicapped, leaving roughly eight minutes after the first boat.
Becker said the wind averaged around 8 knots for most of the race, but gusts reached approximately 15 knots at times.
Amid mostly clear skies, temperatures remained in the low teens for the majority of the race, as evidenced by the rolling steam atop the water’s surface.
Calling Monday’s conditions “fairly mild” for the middle of winter, Becker said he was happy to actually see frostbite temperatures on race day.
“For the last several races, I’ve been wanting it to be really cold to make (the race) more like its name, the Frostbite Race. It needs to be an uncomfortable race. That’s kind of the whole point of it. No matter what the conditions are, that day is when we race,” Becker said.
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