Red River, Interrupted Page 2

Off the bow I could see Oklahoma. I looked over the stern, and yonder was Texas. Around me whitecaps were building on a special lake that splits the difference between two be-all, end-all rivals, and the name of that body of water says it all. Texoma. Mythology meets mixology.Surely you know the scripture: “Don’t mess with Texas.”Surely you know the Oklahoma
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Jim Tichenor, a director of US Sailing, has made the trip north from his Houston home every year since 2001 to act as Lakefest principal race officer. Working with Make-A-Wish, he says, the sailing club “can put their money directly into the community and return to what makes this thing special. I love seeing the excitement in kids who get to hand out a trophy or just shake somebody’s hand.”

Tichenor got involved when two delegates from Texoma Sailing Club traveled to Houston to attend one of his courses on advanced race management. He recalls, “They came to me on a break and said they didn’t know half this stuff and would I come up and help. That turned into a team-building exercise that’s been enjoyable all around. These people have their hearts in the right place, and they’ve moved the ball. At this point they’re prepared to run anybody’s Nationals or North Americans.” To the point: This year’s schedule includes a race-management seminar and a North U/Dave Dellenbaugh seminar on the new racing rules.

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I like to watch

I needed photos, so there we were. Trading my ride on Coyote for a ride with the race committee, I stepped into the kind of morning that makes you glad to be alive, with flights of birds loud overhead and the hum of bass boats setting out and radios crackling on channel 68. If you’ve never breathed the morning air from a speeding mark-set boat—if you’ve never done time on race committee—my friend, you’re missing something.

Johnny Stacy was in his seventh year of driving his big lake cruiser, Savannah Jane, as the signal boat, just to be part of things. He told me, “I had a Hobie in the 1980s, but really, I like to watch.” He also fires a mean shotgun. Sometimes sailors forget how much we owe to people like Johnny Stacy. But you know—I hope you know—that you can figure the importance of a sailboat race by how many motorboats it takes to run it.

Tichenor was in charge, but remember, this is teamwork. The ladies of the Texoma Sailing Club, people like Sandra Morton and Mary Nichols, who raise flags and keep the scoring, run their own show. You don’t tell these women what to do. Sandra explains, “I’m not a racer. When they get too close, I shut my eyes. Otherwise I like to watch.” I’m pleased to report that her dedication does not go unappreciated. Sandra and Mary were handling the morning check-in when Peter Pattullo sailed by on his Farrier F33R trimaran, Nelda Ray, and the crew chorused, “We lo-o-o-ve you!”

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It was, nonetheless, a day to try the soul. There were episodes when the breeze was shifting through 80 degrees and bending between the bottom and top of the course. We didn’t know how good we had it until the breeze shut down completely for a while. Picture motoring just to keep the bugs off. Tichenor observed that it was “hot as a June bride in a featherbed.”

And then, all too soon, it was over. We were down to the shouting, with another regatta in the bag and me with loose ends. So listen up, and I’ll try to clarify: (1) This Texas-Oklahoma rivalry runs deep, but at Lakefest all I saw was cooperation, with competitors and officials pulling together from both sides of the border to put on a good game. (2) Some sort of Texoma Wine Trail exists; more interesting is a thread from the early 1900s, when phylloxera was decimating the vineyards and threatening the very culture of France—until one T.V. Munson of Denison, Texas, identified a resistant rootstock and shipped cuttings that made him a Chevalier du Mrite Agricole. (3) Texoma is longhorn country, but the high plains of Texas it is not.

These are the rolling hills of Texas, and I left town in a parade of Melges 24s on trailers, up the spring-green hills and down, and it was fine, just fine (at the risk of repeating myself) to feel part of the one-design contingent of a PHRF hotbed. Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’, keep those doggies rollin’. And bring ’em back in ’09.

I hope that keeps the record straight. Far be it from me to mess with Texas.

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