27th Isotope Nationals
Kerr Lake, NC
Sept 20-21, 2003

Isotope Class Trophy Winners
(left to right; click name to view photo or see below)
Steve Renner - 1st | JP Ayers - 2nd | Eric Rasmussen - 3rd | Bob Etheridge - 4th | Kevin Swiger - 5th | Jim Howard - 6th

Article by J.P. Ayers.

As a sailor I often wonder if there are other men similar to me. Nobody at work has any appreciation of water or nature unless it has to do with horsepower or killing something. Even my own family, the same people that I have been born and raised with in the same environment , do not see the beauty in sailing they only feel sailing is " to much work" or the proverbial "to slow". This heavy instinct somehow sets me apart. Do other men think for hours at work about how to shape a sail? Do other men philosophize over victory or glory after a weekend of making a boat go around buoys? Do other men spend massive amounts of income for the justification of getting an edge on there competitors in boats that are built to be the same? The answer my friends is yes there are other men that think this way and support each other and though we are a rare species we are here together on this rock to do the one thing that makes us happy.

Last month one week after the Nationals my boss realized it would be cost effective for me to drive to Kansas instead of flying. So there I was sitting thirty feet away from a forty foot in diameter rotary cement kiln. The breeze blowing about 20 knots and about 30 degrees, the noise even with ear plugs in was giving me a headache from the hard hat vibration, and my trusted co-worker who didn't feel like driving during the day and couldn't see at night won the coin toss to get day shift. So at about 2am I decided to go to my happy place. I looked around to make sure the observation cameras were pointing in a different direction and proceeded to reach into my briefcase and pull out the February issue of SAIL magazine. Everyone knows which issue, the one with two topless females on the large cruising cat laying out in the sunshine somewhere in the Caribbean. It only took a few seconds to go to my happy place but it took a couple of hours of lost data to make it back.

The Isotope Nationals were to be held in September but due to a near hurricane was postponed to October. At first I was bummed out at the prospect but after thinking it through I calculated that heavier winds would help my chances. My lean and mean 230 lbs of race machine wasn't going to stand for light winds and a smaller person to take victory. The previous month at Lake Jordan and Lake Townsend I was hot so fate was within my grasp. Everything seemed to be going according to plan wake up early, drive to the lake, set up, socialize with all the buds, and stick to the age old fool proof strategy "get ahead and stay ahead." It was beautiful start with breeze at 13 knots and a 20 degree shift but it was in my favor as I tacked for the windward mark. It felt good to be the first around the mark but half way down the coarse the decision to go deep instead of close to Henderson Point put me in fourth place. On the way back to the windward mark the trusty shark boat and my staying hiked out the whole time kept my rig straight and was able to pass to be the first at the windward mark and have enough lead at the leeward mark. With a good 50 yard lead what could go wrong. Back in second place Steve Renner opted to go to the port side of the course. With only 150 yards left to the finish line I again said to myself, what could go wrong? Sure enough with less than three boat lengths to the line Steve went by me flying on port to take victory and give me glory.

Throughout the day the shifting winds was a major part of strategy. The Isotopes had two capsizes but no major damage. There was a pretty good collision between Alan Wolf and Steve Renner, classic case of both boats on starboard tack looking behind you and seeing nobody looking ahead and seeing nobody and tacking right into the boat five feet beside you. The next two races were nail biters with the whole pack changing leads and staying together, the thought of breaking to far from the pack was entirely too risky. To loss five or six points while sitting in a hole was not a good strategy. It was Very tight competition between Steve Renner, Alan Wolf, Eric Rasmasen, and a person that I wasn't used to seeing up front Bob Ethridge. That evening we had a class meeting lead by Joleen . It was openly discussed and voted upon to have a weight requirement for the 2-up handicap. It was discussed that sail measurements must be certified and attached to the foot of the sail. It was voted on that I was to be the fleet captain for next year; I will never leave a running meeting to go to the car to get a sweater again. After a good meal of catfish chowder and way too many drinks at The-Ol-Place I drove home one point ahead of Steve Renner and in the lead for the day looking forward to Sunday.

Sunday morning came but the breeze that had been my friend the previous day wasn't to be found. With a 3 to 6 knot breeze with a shifting range of 90 degrees things weren't looking to good for the race machine. The first race started with Steve and I pointing neck and neck and him pulling away. Something wasn't correct with my rigging so watching him pull away putting me in a situation of drastic measures and ridiculous strategies. After about a hour and forty-five minute slow race going from second to tenth and back to third at the finish line things were rough but if Steve finished four places behind me and hell froze over I could win. The last race was long and painful with my luck running out and desperate strategies showing desperation. I finished tenth.

Frank MeldauAfter racking and stacking the boats the awards were handed out. Steve Renner finished first and retaining the title. The first time in twenty eight years the national champ was able to defend his title two years in a row. I won second. Eric won third and a big surprise to everyone was Bob Eteridge's fourth place. As I look back on the weekend a smile comes to my face because a good time was had by all. I look forward to correcting the sail tune and going sailing again. In the end I am stuck with glory instead of victory but as long as there are men similar to me it means a lot.


See ya on the water.

Steve Renner - 1st

JP Ayers - 2nd

Eric Rasmussen - 3rd

Bob Etheridge - 4th

Kevin Swiger - 5th

Jim Howard - 6th

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