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Or. . . Take a Liking to a Viking!

By Nancy Molitor (3798)

Oh. My. Thor.  What a Dixie!  True to Atlanta’s Fleet 48 tradition, the raging Sea of Allatoona came alive this Memorial Day weekend in a reenactment of the most infamous maritime skirmish in neo-medieval history, the Viking Dixie.  A flotilla of 66 longboats from nine states and twice as many fleets reconnoitered at Atlanta Yacht Club to wage both war and merriment with and against each other, with enough pillagers and plunderers collectively on board to totally raze the AYC fortress should they be feeling grouchy.  

Fortunately, they were not so inclined.  Seafaring warriors knew they had reached the right port on Friday night as they trailed through the Viking-guarded gate and along the rune-strewn road to the AYC equivalent of Valhalla, there to be welcomed with the obligatory keg o’ mead and endless spaghetti (that failsafe dish that must surely date back to when the world was flat).  After a genial evening of reacquaintance and camaraderie, all were whisked off into the dark to cabins, tents, berths and pallets, preparing for the battle ahead with one last attempt at a good night’s sleep.

Saturday morning brought fair skies, enlistment at the Warrior Recruiting Center, and Not-Your-Mother’s-Porridge Brunch at the Fortress galley, while an eager fleet of Viking-wannabes set out to sea for the Junior Dixie.  Spurred on by a spritely wind, nine Junior boats engaged in a rollicking three-race competition that ended with AYC’s Timo Kraus in first place with an impressive 1-1-3.  In a close contest, Jacksonville’s Johnny Fewell won the third race to take second overall in a tie-breaker with AYC’s Carly Irvine.  Kudos to all these up-and-coming seafarers, and many thanks to the adults who postponed breakfast to share their boats, time and crewing expertise to get these kids out on the water. 

Finally, let the battle begin!  Or. . . make that battles.  Following recent tradition, adult competitors were invited to enlist in the flotilla of their choice — Purple for knife-edge racing or Green for  keen competition with a bit less intensity.  With five races scheduled, the RC had their hands full with ten starts in a mischievous breeze -- an energetic 8-12 knots with occasional gusts pushing 15.  At the Dixie we are always so grateful for wind that we occasionally forget to be careful what we wish for;  as luck would have it, Ragnar the Norse wind god had a heyday giving us wind aplenty, but failed to delete the Delete Shifts key.  It was challenging sailing even for the best of us, and a close look at the scoreboard will reveal that finishes were all over the map, with scarcely a nod at consistency.  A mere mortal could get dizzy trying to figure it all out.

So in the Purple Fleet, AYC’s Bryce Dryden (596) and crew, Lauren Yapp and Timo Kraus, got off to a killer start with a 1-2 Saturdayafternoon.  Behind him after two races was St. Pete Superman Chris Klotz (4017) and crew Mays Dickey, adding a bullet to their first race ninth.  Also in the running by Saturday night were Berlin (Ohio) Dixie Diehard Jack Finefrock, Concord YC’s Brad Russell (3841) and Western Carolina’s Scott Griffin (3997), all three within one point of each other.  

In the Green Fleet, while Oconee’s Jack Mahaney (3818) and AYC’s Fred Bradshaw (28) each enjoyed the excitement of a first-place finish, their other scores added too many points to put them ahead of more consistent finishers.  To wit, AYC’s Brook Hamilton (3894) and Len Wert (3813) and Larry and Connie Wagner (4031) from Jacksonville’s Rudder Club scored a 2-2, 3-3 and 4-4 (imagine that!) respectively, placing them in the top three slots for the day.

A third race was planned for Saturday, but between war-weary crews and a good party cranking up on shore, the RC wisely chose to bring us in for mead-a-ritas and merriment instead.  Never let it be said that the Dixie revelers take our theme lightly!  There was fur; there were tunics and lace-up boots. There were AMAZING beards.  There were swords, shields, knives, battle-axes.  Stealing the show were a trio of Viking cheerleaders, transformed with the help of big hair, white boots and who knows what-all else.  But the dress code piece de résistance for everyone from two to seventy-two were those spiffy horned helmets, which totally ruled the appetizer table (never mind that the Vikings didn’t actually wear those arresting headpieces — we did, so that’s all that matters), and anyone who didn’t actually come costumed was still able to earn partial credit with a good scowl ’n growl.  After a rousing game of Kuub outside in the yard, we migrated into the banquet hall, made festive with huge, hand-painted banners worthy of Valhalla itself.  Passing up the opportunity to gnaw on turkey legs and wild boar for dinner, we opted instead for pork tenderloin and pulled chicken, topped off with key lime pie for dessert.  Music began early, with a long night of dancing propelled by the awesome DJ hand-picked by Paul Abdullah, who has stood in his shoes many times over the years.  It would have been a special weekend even without a theme to make us rowdy — for unless any Thistler on the circuit has been living on a different planet this past year you just might be aware that Paul and AYC’s home-grown Marie Thompson chose Dixie weekend for their long-awaited wedding.  So there was plenty to celebrate!

Back to the race course Sunday morning, we were greeted with more of the same feisty wind, enough of it to get the remaining three races in.  In the Purple Fleet, finishes as mixed-up as tossed salad decisively changed the standings with each race.  First to topple was Bryce Dryden, who lost his Saturday lead early with a 17th in the third race.  Likewise Jack Finefrock, with a 16th, and Chris Klotz, who in one race managed to double his Saturday score with a 10th.  Meanwhile Geoff Becker (3905) from Severn Sailing Association, sailing with Bill Wiggins and Josh Becker, overcame their poor first race with two seconds and an 8th, enough to vault them into second place overall.  Paul Abdullah, who with 44 points on Saturday wasn’t even in the running, must have had a good night’s pre-nup sleep, as he and crew Alex Krumdieck sailed for a bullet in the first race of the day on Sunday.  David Van Cleef (4034) from Concord YC, won the last race of the day with Sammy Hodges and Alison Van Cleef crewing — a nice way to end the regatta, but not nice enough to overcome the 49 points he already had accumulated.   It was Brad Russell who kept it all together, moving into the lead with a third in the third race and securing it with a 1-4 in the last two.  In fact, of fifty Purple Fleet boats, care to guess how many finished all five races without dipping into double digits?  Answer:  One Brad Russell! Very well done.

In the Green Fleet, Brook Hamilton and crew Diana St. Amand were looking like stars with only seven points after the third race, but just when Brook thought he could taste that first-place trophy he was hailed to shore to get his son’s head sewn up instead, so a DNF and DNS in Races 4 and 5 knocked him out of the running altogether.  Lovin’ that Green Fleet option, Jack Mahaney sailed to a second in Race 3 and hung on for a second place trophy; but with a ninth in the third race, Len Wert dropped back behind Mahaney into third overall and stayed there to the end.  Larry Wagner was only in third place on Saturday night, but he and Connie definitely got the hang of it on Sunday, winning handily with a 1-2-2.  Congratulations, Wagners, and welcome back to the Dixie.  And finally, special mention goes to 14-year-old AYC Junior Grace Hawkins (3742), skippering a Thistle for the first time and winning!!! the last race.  Just out of the traditional “silver,” Grace instead earned an even better trophy as the top-finishing Junior in the Green Fleet.

Awards this year were hand-thrown purple and green pottery mugs and bowls, something befitting a Viking’s porridge and beer.  In the end, the scoresheet tells all but the special awards, those that the late Kathleen Fricker used to call the “funnies.”  She has only been gone a year, but we knew she would be barking orders from Heaven if we failed to create a commemorative purple hat for Jackie Finefrock, who earned it merely by being the wife of TCA President Kyle.  Assorted Finefrocks also made the line-up with Jack, just out of the “real” awards in sixth place, winning his own mug full of gummies in case he wanted to go eat worms; and the collective Finefrock family with their three boats earning a mini Viking longboat, environmentally friendly and an alternative to petrol for cheaper travel to next year’s Dixie. The coveted Potted Thistle Award went to that stunning Viking cheerleader trio, Amy Roberts, Debbie Dryden and Judy Ross, who stole the party; but we also had to throw in an Anti-Potted Thistle for Dale Newnham, who fell asleep in the adult lounge at 7:30.  Johnny Fewell earned a mug as the top-finishing Junior in the Purple Fleet, and after Chris Klotz brought the Dixie Old Goat trophy back to be awarded to the fastest over sixty, guess what? — he got to take it back home again. 

Our new favorite bumper sticker, “It takes a Viking to raze a village!” has since been altered to read “It takes a Thistle fleet to raise a Viking Dixie.”  Many hands contribute to make the Dixie a memorable weekend, but the buck inevitably stops with our fleet captain, Len Wert.  And a huge thank-you to the many Norsemen who sailed their way south to do battle with us this year — it wouldn’t be any fun at all without you.  Did you ever think, “What if we threw a Dixie and nobody came?”  But hey. . . that is SO not gonna happen! 

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