Isotope Class Trophy Winners
(left to right)
Alan Wolf - 1st
Gene Moore - 6th
Frank Meldau III - 2nd
Kevin Swiger - 4th
Dan Flanigan - 5th
J.P. Ayers - 3rd

25th Isotope Nationals
Lake Waccamaw, NC
Aug 25, 2001

Written by Alan Wolf, Isotope 007.
For one reason or another Dolores and I seem to spend an awful lot of time on Interstates 85, 95 and 40. This, plus the fact that the first gun of the 2001 Isotope Nationals was not to be fired until 4:00 o'clock Saturday afternoon, meant we had more time for leisurely traveling than was normally the case when going to a regatta. So on this trip we elected to jump off the main drag and try one of those little blue lines on the map.

Highway 701 turned out to be a wonderful two-lane blacktop stretching the 75 miles from Interstate 40 down to Highway 74. It was interrupted by no more than 4 stoplights and 3 stop signs the entire way, which is an amazing thing in this day and age. The road starts out in the Carolina piedmont with its dairy farms and peanut, tobacco, bean and blueberry fields. As it continues southeast the fields become interspersed with lowland sphagnum bogs, wooded swamps, and marshy lakes.

 
Lovely Lake Waccamaw

There is great debate concerning the origin of these lakes and particularly Lake Waccamaw. Some attempt to explain the almost perfectly roundish-oval shapes of the lakes in this area by saying that they must have been formed by several large meteors which hit and plowed into the earth. Others speculate that originally they were large sphagnum peat bogs which broke their banks and drained. The dried peat was struck by lightening and slowly glowed and burned over the years. The prevailing local winds gave these hollows their special shape and shallow depth. Springs, streams, rivers and rainfall refilled the burned out bogs to form the lakes.

Local Waccamaw Indian legend has it that Lake Waccamaw was once a magnificent garden tended by an enchanted Indian Princess. There was a great war and the garden was trampled and destroyed. After the invaders left, the Waccamaw Princess returned to the devastated garden and with her tears transformed it into a beautiful lake that could never be destroyed by anyone.
After WW II, in order to stabilize the lake perimeter, a lagoon was dredged. The trees were cut and sent down the winding Waccamaw River to the mills below but the roots were left behind to be plowed under. Some of these roots, particularly the non-cypress ones, have decomposed over the years causing the dips that you see in the road and also an occasional slow sink hole in a Waccamaw residents front yard. On the other side of the lagoon, in stark contrast to the finely groomed sunny lakeside homes, lies a dark and forbidding swamp. If one drives slowly along the lagoon road you can almost always spy a big ol' alligator who has slipped out to sun himself on the edge of the primordial darkness. Large snakes, turtles, eels and even garfish also inhabit the swamp.

 

The Isotope family.

After boat setup, as distant friendships were rekindled, and the skippers meeting concluded we headed out on the water. The winds were blowing mostly out of the north and ranging from 10 to 17 knots with 10 to 15 degree shifts and puffs. The starting gun of the Modified Olympic Course went off in about 12 knots of wind. As we tacked over onto port the wind increased to about 16 knots and the whole fleet took off like a flock of Mallards running for flight across the water. Halfway up the leg with water splashing on the amas who should jump onto my tarp but a 5-inch green frog with a bright golden stripe down its side. Could this be the Indian Prince of Lake Waccamaw waiting to be kissed and rejoined with his Indian Princess? I was somewhat taken aback by my visitor but decided that this just had to be a good omen! As I tacked onto the starboard layline the frog ducked under the hiking strap and peeked out with his big black eyes. We blasted around the turn and headed downwind. Halfway down the leg he disappeared. I guess he just went acourtin' far more important business than the Isotope Nationals. In the ensuing legs I was able to hold my own until reaching the final rounding of the leeward mark. As I headed up, I was hit by a severe header. I tacked on it only to be hit by another header back to the original direction. Like a fool, I attempted to tack back without proper headway and went into irons. Three boats passed as I had to back up for steerage and change of heading. I jumped into gear and finished in the 6 position. While waiting for the next race I decided that the big ol' frog may very well have been a good omen but realized I definitely had to do my part if I was going to win any of these races.

 

Rhoda Meldau Presents Bob Etheridge with the Consolidation Prize Tee Shirt

For the second and third races the winds dropped down to 10 to 15 knots with puffs and 10 to 20 degree shifts. I favored the left side where the puffs and shifts originated but on several occasions stayed right to cover. I was able to grab two closely contested firsts and take the lead position.

After Saturday's races we had our sailing social by the docks as the sun melted into the lake. As dusk arrived we moved from the dockside rocking chairs to the upstairs pavilion. This is a large post and beam open room with a wonderful view of the lake and accented by cool onshore breezes and the marina lights below. For our dinner the Lake Waccamaw Yacht club put out a fantastic spread of salads, drinks, baked potatoes plus fruit and ice cream for dessert. All we had to do was bring our favorite treat to cook on their outside charcoal grill.

Sunday's 8:30 am starting signal brought 5 to 10 knot winds with significant and erratic gusts and shifts. It was a chessman's paradise. By the second race the wind had increased to the 8 to 12 knot range. With the combination of reasonable starts, good timing on the shifts and no major mistakes I was able to pull off two more bullets and to my shock and surprise take my first Isotope National Championship. Second place was a tie between Frank Meldau II and J.P. Ayers and had to be determined by a tie breaking process with Frank coming out on top. Kevin Swiger came in fourth, Dan Flanigan fifth and Gene Moore took the last trophy coming in sixth.

 

Alan Wolf, 25th Isotope Champion

I have to say that winning this years Nationals was just an incredible thrill and honor for me considering the high level of competition, the difficulty of the racing and the number of times I've been the grooms butler but never the groom. Also, I'm kinda glad I didn't have to kiss that big ol' green frog to win it!!!
A great big thanks to the Waccamaw Yacht Club for being such exquisite hosts and to J.P. Ayers and Rhoda and Frank Meldau for putting together a fantastic championship regatta.

 

Name Sail No
Races
Total
   
1
2
3
4
5
 
Wolf 007
6
1
1
1
1
10
Meldau II 927
1
5
6
2
4
18
Ayers 186
4
2
5
5
2
18
Swiger 2050
3
4
7
3
5
22
Flanigan 182
2
7
3
8
11
31
Moore 1776
5
3
10
7
8
33
Riley 777
7
11
8
9
3
38
Rummage 1000
10
8
2
4
DSQ
41
Chobot 827
12
6
4
11
10
43
Rasmussen 199
DSQ
14
9
6
7
53
Wooster 1145
8
12
11
DNS
9
57
Nardelli 94
11
9
12
14
12
58
Setzer 1861
14
15
14
10
6
59
Brier 1214
DNS
13
13
12
14
69
Meldau 2001
9
10
DNS
DNS
DNS
70
Etheridge 5992
13
16
15
13
13
70
 

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e-mail address - isotope2001@juno.com