Voodoo Dixie -- Downright Spellbinding!
By Nancy Molitor (Thistle 3798)
When Atlanta Yacht Club’s Fleet 48 predicted the Witch Doctor would be in charge over Memorial Day weekend, we were’t just whistling Dixie! Whether that was a good thing or a bad thing depends on what you came looking for -- if it was 60 boatloads of wacky water warriors from Thistle tribes near and far, rafting up for a weekend of party fun over the top of the volcano. . . Witch Doctor did good! But if you were hoping maybe for three solid races in a nice, steady breeze? Hmmm. . . not so much! All of which just goes to show that when the Witch Doctor is in charge better back off, ’cause shrunken heads will roll!
Voodoo Dixie got off the ground Friday night as boats rolled past our tiki totem and gate sign verifying that the Witch Doctor was IN. Hungry travelers were welcomed with an Aloha keg and lakeside spaghetti “on the hut,” and most lingered to do some practice partying before drifting off to tents and cabins. Thanks to relentless beating of the e-drum, by Saturday morning “Wailini” Tumlin, our High Ali’i of Registration, had conjured up 60 (woo-HOO!) boats from seven states, including fourteen Dixie neophytes, on whom a spell has been cast to return year after year.
The club grounds were already awash in tiki masks, grass skirts and junglemania, helping set the scene for a weekend of theme-saturated craziness. While we were gnawing away on this year’s traditional tribal brunch, four boats full of Thistle Juniors hit the race course for their own competition. In a light but pleasant enough breeze, Carolina Yacht Club’s Kaitlyn Norton (3725) won two of the three races to finish first overall, beating out Kevin Guebert, Andy Holben and Matthew Weber, all of AYC. Kaitlyn also stuck around for the main event, sailing her first Dixie with her dad John as crew, and finishing neck-and-neck with another Junior, Michael Reddaway of Lake Lanier Sailing Club. It is always exciting to see these young kids become skilled and confident enough to take the helm in a regatta this size.
By the time it was the adults’ turn, however, the mischievous gods of the sea must have thought it would be fun to mess with the wind-o-meter. As the kilt-wearer in this family put it that morning, “The forecast is for light and variable jet skis, with isolated cigarette boats, some intense in the afternoon.” With a small pond and a large number of boats, the Dixie almost always divides the competitors into four fleets sailing in two divisions, which simply allows our intrepid RC to pull out twice as much hair. Though they made the best of a wonky wind, giving us all they could to get at least one fair race in -- alas. . . ’twas not to be. Three horns sounded before the first division even got past the weather mark, and we were grateful to stop flailing about and sail in. Then, after a short R&R, the second race was eventually also canceled, giving everyone an afternoon off but (sigh. . .) nothing on the scoreboard.
But hey, no worries with this crowd -- we were just happy NOT to be on the water under the broiling sun, when we’d rather be on terra firma under the shade of the tiki bar. It was five o’clock somewhere -- so let the party begin! The Jungle Juice was soon flowing, along with an endless parade of forbidden fruit and native nibbles, arguably enough to spoil dinner. (And actually, some of the costumes parading in were enough to spoil dinner! It would have been a good time to buy stock in grass skirts and coconuts.)
Meanwhile, in Kamali’i World, a sub-tribe of very short people was heading out on a “Hunt for the Golden Tiki” -- which, when brought to light after many clues and adventures, turned out to be full of that universally sought-after treasure of the ancients: CANDY. It was a good year to be a Dixie Kid -- everybody got to paint a voodoo mask, throw a spear at the Evil Tiki God and be a witch doctor for a few parade laps.
Dinner was island-festive, pineapple pork and jerk chicken piled high, with hand-crafted voodoo masks in the center of the tables. It didn’t take long for the party to rev up, with music powered by Paul Abdullah, a.k.a. Paolo the Mighty and Magnificent, who true to Dixie tradition kept the natives restless long into the dark of night. Somewhere in the middle of all that was the witch doctor competition, in which local savage Buz Benzur made it a BIG POINT to claim Top Doc honors. (Trust me, a photo will not do this costume justice!) It sticks in my craw, however, to report that the Potted Thistle went out of state this year, to Carolina Yacht Club’s Vlasta Kunc. While it is disappointing to admit that the home tribe paled beside Vlasta, I do know for a fact that he put in countless hours honing his competitive party skills on Friday, no doubt assuring a well-deserved Saturday win.
Moving the start up an hour on Sunday morning yielded a pleasant surprise -- a light but steady breeze that gave us our much-needed Race One. (Whew!) The two firsts went to Florida Yacht Club’s Greg Griffin (3976) and Jack Finefrock (3945), seasoned Dixie pilgrim from Carlyle Yacht Club. The seconds were Western Carolina’s Scott Griffin (3997) and Birmingham’s Loy Vaughan (4007); the thirds, AYC’s Mike Didyk (4025) and Clint Hodges (3236); and the fourths AYC’s Bryce Dryden (596) and Lake Lanier’s David Reddaway (3883). Needless to say, the RC AND the scorers were really hoping to get at least one more in by the noon deadline. Unfortunately that sweet little wind didn’t stick around for the second race, as it got pretty wimpy by the last leg and produced a lot of DNFs, particularly for the second division. Nevertheless, even when we feel like we’re just bobbing about aimlessly, how is it that the good guys still manage to bob their way to the front of the fleet?? This time both Greg and Scott Griffin took the firsts! Bryce Dryden took one of the seconds, and AYC’s John Irvine (3988) the other; last year’s winner Brad Russell (3659) took a third along with Fleet 48’s captain Buddy “Big Kahuna” Wainwright (3807); and the fourths went to Nicole Shedden (1784) from Ohio and Andy Russell (3659) from Lake Norman Yacht Club in North Carolina.
Since there wasn’t enough wind or time for a third race, we bolted for lunch and the regatta ended with just two. Hard to argue with the winners (again!) -- the brothers Griffin, who almost tied for first, with two and three points respectively. Dryden’s six points placed him in third overall, and while Irvine and Vaughan each had a two and a six, Irvine’s second was in the second race, breaking the tie to place him in fourth overall and Vaughan in fifth. Tall praise to these guys, who prove they can be consistent in any conditions. As you can see from the results, for most of us, consistency was not the word of the day! Finishes were all over the jungle map, with the Witch Doctor laughing all the way from the bottom of Laguna Allatoona.
Kudos to regatta chair Bob “Kokohe” McCormack for spearheading another good one, and to all you vine-swinging fun-seekers who answered the call of the tiki drums to make the sacred pilgrimage to the land of Walla-Walla-Acworth. Remember, you fourteen newbies. . . never mind the wacky winds, you WILL return, you WILL return. . .
(And will that make it “Deja VuDu?”)